If you're thinking about purchasing a solar hot water heating system to heat the water in your home, you should do as much research as possible to make sure you understand your choices. This article will give you a basic understanding of how solar hot water heating systems work and how you can find the best one for you needs. You will also learn some installation tips that will save you money in the long run.
How Do Solar Hot Water Heating Systems Work?
All solar hot water heating systems follow the same basic design. There are a few differences to keep in mind when you are looking for the best solar hot water heating system for your home.
A solar collector converts solar energy into heat. Water flowing through is heated by this energy. Typically the water being heated will then be diverted back into the main water tank, raising the temperature and allowing you to take that nice hot shower you crave.
Gravity Fed Solar Hot Water Heating Systems
A gravity fed solar hot water heating system features a main hot water tank that sits slightly above the solar collector.
The top of the water tank connects to an outlet at the top of the solar collector. The bottom of the water tank connects to an inlet at the bottom of the solar collector. As you know, heat always rises, whether it's hot air or hot water.
So as the solar collector converts solar energy to heat, the hot water rises and collects at the top of the water tank. This process forces the cooler water at the bottom of the tank to flow into the solar collector, to be heated in turn. This process simply continues until all the water in the tank has reached the desired temperature.
Benefit of Gravity Fed Solar Hot Water Heating Systems
This kind of solar hot water heating system boasts an extremely simple and elegant design. You do not need electricity to operate it, so you can get a hot shower even when the power is off.
Disadvantage of Gravity Fed Solar Hot Water Heating Systems
With these systems, the placement of the water tank and solar collector must be precise. This limits your choice in terms of where to install the necessary items.
Pump Driven Solar Hot Water Heating Systems
A pump driven solar hot water heating system is slightly different. Here, your hot water tank is situated underneath the solar collector rather than slightly above. Cold water is pumped into the solar collector through a controlling circuit.
Benefit of Pump Driven Solar Hot Water Heating Systems
With these it doesn't matter where the water tank and solar collector go because you're using a pump. This gives you more flexibility as far as placement of your solar heating system.
Disadvantage of Pump Driven Solar Hot Water Heating Systems
If your water tank is too far away from your solar collector, the pipes will lose heat continually. This means your pipes must be well insulated and you have to maintain this insulation.
Understanding the Different Types of Solar Collector
There are two main types of solar collector.
1. Direct Heat Solar Collector
Direct heat solar collectors are very simple to use and operate. As the name implies, they heat the water directly inside the unit itself. However, they tend to be slow. This means they're not so great if you want to quickly heat up the water. But they work well for heating large amounts of water. They are more common in swimming pools and other large areas of water, as opposed to being used to heat water in residences.
2. Indirect Heat Solar Collector
Indirect heat solar collectors have one crucial difference from the direct heat solar collectors. Instead of heating the water itself, they focus the solar energy on a material of some kind in order to heat it up, such as copper. Then, the heated material is used to heat water.
This approach means that the material can cover a large volume of water, which makes the whole process much faster. Systems that use indirect heat solar collectors are sometimes known as evacuated tube solar hot water systems.
Systems that use indirect heat solar collectors are more common in homes. They are quite efficient. They also have the benefit of being more attractive than the other types. However, they can be expensive, especially when it comes to the initial costs. If you are shopping for the best solar hot water heating systems, be sure to compare prices as they can vary quite widely.
How to Save Money On Your Solar Hot Water Heating System
- Most people will install a back-up system for heating hot water. Typically people use an electrical element inside their water tank to heat water on overcast days or whenever needed. Now, if you do this, it's a good idea to also install an on/off switch that indicates when the back-up system is needed. This will save you a ton of money because you can be sure that you are not wasting electricity when you don't need to.
- Heat can often escape through your tank's external fixtures and fittings. To save money, be sure to insulate your hot water tank and connected pipes well. This is especially important with pump driven systems.
- If you have a split system, install a one way valve in the circuit to avoid the circuit running in reverse on cold days and letting heat escape through your roof element.
Where Should You Install Your Solar Hot Water Heating System?
Look for a place with good sunlight all year round. Avoid places where there are tall trees or buildings that block the sun. Before choosing a company, ask them to inspect your home and offer suggestions on where to install your system.
You have many options when it comes to solar hot water heating systems. Before choosing a system, do your research and compare prices. You may even wish to read a comprehensive book about solar systems. With good judgment and an informed decision, you will find the best solar hot water heating system for your needs.