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Solar Energy Heating

Solar water heating systems use solar panels; these are called collectors, fitted to your roof. These solar units collect heat from the sun and use the natural solar energy to warm your water, which is then stored in a hot water cylinder.

There are two types of solar water heating panels; they are evacuated tubes and flat plate collectors. Flat plate collectors can be fixed on the roof tiles or integrated into the roof.

A boiler or immersion heater can be used as a back up to heat the water further to reach the temperature set by the cylinders thermostat when the solar water heating system does not reach that temperature. (The cylinder thermostat should be set at 60 degrees centigrade.)

Evacuated Tubes

The advantage of using evacuated tubes is that they will work even during the coldest winter months unlike old style Flat Plate Solar Collectors.

The vacuum prevents the heat tube from being cooled much by the ambient temperature which can be well below freezing, and so winter sun can easily heat water to 50+ degrees even in the depths of the coldest season.

Even if it is very cloudy and very cold, enough sunlight gets through to keep the tubes well above freezing and so they will still be pre-heating the water which can then be heated further by a standard immersion heater or gas boiler reducing the costs of heating the water.

Flat Plate Collectors

A typical flat-plate collector is a metal box with a glass or plastic cover (called glazing) on top and a dark-coloured absorber plate on the bottom. The sides and bottom of the collector are usually insulated to minimize heat loss.

Sunlight passes through the glazing and strikes the absorber plate, which heats up, changing solar energy into heat energy.

The heat is transferred to liquid passing through pipes attached to the absorber plate. Absorber plates are commonly painted with "selective coatings," which absorb and retain heat better than ordinary black paint.

Absorber plates are usually made of metal—typically copper or aluminium—because the metal is a good heat conductor. Copper is more expensive, but is a better conductor and less prone to corrosion than aluminium.

In locations with average available solar energy, flat plate collectors are sized approximately one half to one square foot per gallon of one-day's hot water use.

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