3 Types of Heat Collectors for Solar Hot Water 3 Types of Heat Collectors for Solar Hot Water

The use of a solar hot water heater in your home is an excellent way to not only save money on electricity each month but to potentially gain tax credits by making your home greener. If you decide to install a solar hot water heater, there are some choices you have to make. These are based primarily on personal preference but not entirely. The shape of your home’s roof and the climate in which you live could have a say in which type of solar hot water heater you install.

Basic Components of a Solar Hot Water Heater

All solar hot water heaters basically combine two components: a solar heat collector and a well-insulated storage tank. In addition, there are two basic types of solar hot water heaters. These are active systems and passive systems. Active solar water heaters use electric pumps and controls to get cold water into the heat collector and back into the storage tank, while passive systems rely on gravity, water pressure and the fact that hot water rises in cold water.

3 Types of Heat Collectors

Another set of differences between solar hot water heaters is the type of heat collector is uses. There are three basic types of solar heat collectors, each employing a slightly different way to heat water with energy from the sun and store it in your water tank.

  • Evacuated Tube Solar Collectors: Used primarily for commercial applications, this type of solar collector is comprised of a series of glass tubes that run parallel to each other. Inside each glass tube is a metal absorber with a fin attached that collects solar energy. Once collected, it is absorbed by the inner metal piece and then used to heat the water. The special coating on each fin allows it to absorb the sunlight without losing any heat.
  • Flat Plate Collector: This type of solar collector looks much like its name describes. It consists of a flat, dark absorber plate situated beneath a glass or plastic polymer cover, all contained in a weatherproof box. That is the glazed flat plate variety. The unglazed flat plate collector is the same, except the absorber is made of either metal or a polymer, and it is uncovered and uncontained.
  • Integral Collector Storage: ICS or “batch” systems as they are known, because they have exposed pipes as part of their design, only work well in climates that do not experience below-freezing temperatures very often. They are comprised of a glazed, insulated box containing one or several black tanks or tubes known as the batch collector. Cold water passes through the solar collector, heating up as it does. From there, it travels to the insulated storage tank for use a home hot water. In freezing temperatures the exposed pipes are vulnerable, so this system is incompatible with cold climate regions.

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