Recent advancements in solar water heating technology, and its rising popularity, means that prices for solar water heating systems have become much cheaper. There are a couple of different systems that are available, and purchasers should do their homework before choosing.
Flat plate collectors, developed in the 1950s, are the most common, and are comprised of a dark flat plate (hence the name), with a transparent cover to reduce heat loss, a fluid or gas to transport the heat, and an insulated backing. Once heat is absorbed in the absorber, it is transferred to an area with water pipes where the heat is transferred to the water. From there, the hot water usually goes to an insulated holding tank until it is ready to use.
Flat plate collector systems are sized at approximately a half to a full square foot of panel per gallon used per day. The absorbers are traditionally made of metal, with copper being the most conductive, but new polymers are being tried in Europe. Polymers are more flexible and also are freeze-tolerant.
Evacuated tube collector panels are made up of a series of vacuum packed glass tubes with an absorber plate inside that is connected to a heat pipe. The heat from the heat pipe is transferred to the water in a manifold, which is insulated and has a protective cover on it.
The evacuated tube system is better in colder climates, as the vacuum tubes transfer heat more efficiently, without heat loss due to convection and conduction. This type of system requires less area than a flat plate collector system of the same capacity, though the tube system costs more. Both systems have a long life span – 25 to 30 years.
In order to ensure proper installation and operation, it is recommended that professionals install all home solar water heating systems. Installation costs continue to go down as time and technology advance, especially since it’s easier than ever to find cheap solar thermal panel installers. In the UK, homeowners can expect to pay £3,000-6,000 for installation, depending on the size and type of system used. Sites such as SolarPanels.Cheap can help homeowners find inexpensive, reputable installers.
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