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Solar Water Heaters


December14,20149:52am
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Solarpanelsheatwaterthatisdeliveredtoastoragetank.|PhotocourtesyofDavidSpringer,NationalRenewable
EnergyLaboratory

Solarwaterheatersalsocalledsolardomestichotwatersystemscanbeacosteffectivewaytogeneratehot
waterforyourhome.Theycanbeusedinanyclimate,andthefueltheyusesunshineisfree.

HOW THEY WORK


Solarwaterheatingsystemsincludestoragetanksandsolarcollectors.Therearetwotypesofsolarwaterheating
systems:active,whichhavecirculatingpumpsandcontrols,andpassive,whichdon't.
ACTIVE SOLAR WATER HEATING SYSTEMS

Therearetwotypesofactivesolarwaterheatingsystems:
Directcirculationsystems
Pumpscirculatehouseholdwaterthroughthecollectorsandintothehome.Theyworkwellinclimateswhereit
rarelyfreezes.
Indirectcirculationsystems
Pumpscirculateanonfreezing,heattransferfluidthroughthecollectorsandaheatexchanger.Thisheatsthe
waterthatthenflowsintothehome.Theyarepopularinclimatespronetofreezingtemperatures.

PASSIVE SOLAR WATER HEATING SYSTEMS


Passivesolarwaterheatingsystemsaretypicallylessexpensivethanactivesystems,butthey'reusuallynotas
efficient.However,passivesystemscanbemorereliableandmaylastlonger.Therearetwobasictypesofpassive
systems:
Integralcollectorstoragepassivesystems
Theseworkbestinareaswheretemperaturesrarelyfallbelowfreezing.Theyalsoworkwellinhouseholdswith
significantdaytimeandeveninghotwaterneeds.
Thermosyphonsystems
Waterflowsthroughthesystemwhenwarmwaterrisesascoolerwatersinks.Thecollectormustbeinstalled
belowthestoragetanksothatwarmwaterwillriseintothetank.Thesesystemsarereliable,butcontractorsmust
paycarefulattentiontotheroofdesignbecauseoftheheavystoragetank.Theyareusuallymoreexpensivethan
integralcollectorstoragepassivesystems.

STORAGE TANKS AND SOLAR COLLECTORS


Mostsolarwaterheatersrequireawellinsulatedstoragetank.Solarstoragetankshaveanadditionaloutletandinlet
connectedtoandfromthecollector.Intwotanksystems,thesolarwaterheaterpreheatswaterbeforeitentersthe
conventionalwaterheater.Inonetanksystems,thebackupheateriscombinedwiththesolarstorageinonetank.
Threetypesofsolarcollectorsareusedforresidentialapplications:
Flatplatecollector
Glazedflatplatecollectorsareinsulated,weatherproofedboxesthatcontainadarkabsorberplateunderoneor
moreglassorplastic(polymer)covers.Unglazedflatplatecollectorstypicallyusedforsolarpoolheating
haveadarkabsorberplate,madeofmetalorpolymer,withoutacoverorenclosure.
Integralcollectorstoragesystems
AlsoknownasICSorbatchsystems,theyfeatureoneormoreblacktanksortubesinaninsulated,glazedbox.
Coldwaterfirstpassesthroughthesolarcollector,whichpreheatsthewater.Thewaterthencontinuesontothe
conventionalbackupwaterheater,providingareliablesourceofhotwater.Theyshouldbeinstalledonlyinmild
freezeclimatesbecausetheoutdoorpipescouldfreezeinsevere,coldweather.
Evacuatedtubesolarcollectors
Theyfeatureparallelrowsoftransparentglasstubes.Eachtubecontainsaglassoutertubeandmetalabsorber
tubeattachedtoafin.Thefin'scoatingabsorbssolarenergybutinhibitsradiativeheatloss.Thesecollectorsare
usedmorefrequentlyforU.S.commercialapplications.
Solarwaterheatingsystemsalmostalwaysrequireabackupsystemforcloudydaysandtimesofincreased
demand.Conventionalstoragewaterheatersusuallyprovidebackupandmayalreadybepartofthesolarsystem
package.Abackupsystemmayalsobepartofthesolarcollector,suchasrooftoptankswiththermosyphon
systems.Sinceanintegralcollectorstoragesystemalreadystoreshotwaterinadditiontocollectingsolarheat,it
maybepackagedwithatanklessordemandtypewaterheaterforbackup.

SELECTING A SOLAR WATER HEATER


Beforeyoupurchaseandinstallasolarwaterheatingsystem,youwanttodothefollowing:
Estimatethecostandenergyefficiencyofasolarwaterheatingsystem
Evaluateyoursite'ssolarresource
Determinethecorrectsystemsize
Investigatelocalcodes,covenants,andregulations.
Alsounderstandthevariouscomponentsneededforsolarwaterheatingsystems,includingthefollowing:
HeatExchangersforSolarWaterHeatingSystems
HeatTransferFluidsforSolarWaterHeatingSystems

INSTALLING AND MAINTAINING THE SYSTEM


Theproperinstallationofsolarwaterheatersdependsonmanyfactors.Thesefactorsincludesolarresource,climate,
localbuildingcoderequirements,andsafetyissuestherefore,it'sbesttohaveaqualifiedsolarthermalsystems
contractorinstallyoursystem.
Afterinstallation,properlymaintainingyoursystemwillkeepitrunningsmoothly.Passivesystemsdon'trequiremuch
maintenance.Foractivesystems,discussthemaintenancerequirementswithyoursystemprovider,andconsultthe
system'sowner'smanual.Plumbingandotherconventionalwaterheatingcomponentsrequirethesamemaintenance
asconventionalsystems.Glazingmayneedtobecleanedindryclimateswhererainwaterdoesn'tprovideanatural
rinse.
Regularmaintenanceonsimplesystemscanbeasinfrequentasevery35years,preferablybyasolarcontractor.
Systemswithelectricalcomponentsusuallyrequireareplacementpartortwoafter10years.Learnmoreaboutsolar
waterheatingsystemmaintenanceandrepair.
Whenscreeningpotentialcontractorsforinstallationand/ormaintenance,askthefollowingquestions:
Doesyourcompanyhaveexperienceinstallingandmaintainingsolarwaterheatingsystems?
Chooseacompanythathasexperienceinstallingthetypeofsystemyouwantandservicingtheapplicationsyou
select.
Howmanyyearsofexperiencedoesyourcompanyhavewithsolarheatinginstallationandmaintenance?
Themoreexperiencethebetter.Requestalistofpastcustomerswhocanprovidereferences.
Isyourcompanylicensedorcertified?
Havingavalidplumber'sand/orsolarcontractor'slicenseisrequiredinsomestates.Contactyourcityandcounty
formoreinformation.Confirmlicensingwithyourstate'scontractorlicensingboard.Thelicensingboardcanalso
tellyouaboutanycomplaintsagainststatelicensedcontractors.

IMPROVING ENERGY EFFICIENCY


Afteryourwaterheaterisproperlyinstalledandmaintained,trysomeadditionalenergysavingstrategiestohelp

loweryourwaterheatingbills,especiallyifyourequireabackupsystem.Someenergysavingdevicesandsystems
aremorecosteffectivetoinstallwiththewaterheater.

OTHER WATER HEATER OPTIONS


Conventionalstoragewaterheaters
Demandwaterheaters
Heatpumpwaterheaters
Tanklesscoilandindirectwaterheaters

EXTERNAL RESOURCES
FindENERGYSTARSolarWaterHeaters
SolarRatingandCertificationCorporation
SolarEnergyIndustriesAssociation
SolarHotWaterFloridaSolarEnergyCenter

REFERENCES
HeatYourWaterwiththeSun(PDF).U.S.DepartmentofEnergy.
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