Solar Water Heating Options- By: Andy Groves
Life is full of choices and making the right decision on solar water heating options is just another choice that a person needs to make when making the switch to solar power. In recent years, as education and awareness has improved, more and more people are beginning to think about their impact on the environment. Coupled with the skyrocketing price of fuel and energy these days, "green" alternatives like solar power have emerged from the fringe and are now at the forefront of environmental control options.
Solar water heating represents one of the most popular ways that the average homeowner can tap into solar energy since it is relatively easy and cost effective to implement, even in existing homes. When installing these energy efficient and environmentally responsible heating elements, there are two choices available: flat plate or evacuated tube collectors. Is one better than the other? Not necessarily. It depends on the situation.
Flat plate collectors have been around for a long time. In simple terms, flat plate collectors are boxes that have copper tubing running through them. The boxes are topped off with a glass casing that creates a greenhouse effect. The glass allows the heat and light of the sun to pass through but not escape, raising the temperature inside of the flat plate collector.
On the other hand, evacuated tube collectors are a bit more complex. These systems consist of copper tubing that is filled with some sort of heat transfer medium, usually a liquid or a gas. The tube is then placed in a vacuum, which acts as an insulator. As the rays of the sun hit the tube, it heats up and the vacuum traps the heat. The heat that is absorbed causes the liquid inside of the tube to turn to steam, which is then drawn up a heat pipe to a device called a heat exchanger. The heat exchanger takes the heat and disperses it throughout the house. As the heat is removed from the liquid, it condenses back into steam and the process repeats over again.
As far as which solar water heating option is better, it really depends on where the home is located and the climate of the region. Flat panels are better suited for areas that get a lot of sunlight and have a relatively warm climate. Evacuated tubes are better for places that are overcast and are cooler throughout the year. Evacuated tube panels are also easier to install since flat plate panels are large and bulky. Because they are smaller than flat plate panels, evacuated tube collectors are also more aesthetically pleasing and can fit into smaller areas, making them good options for homes with limited roof space.
Solar water heating is the way of the future. As more and more people realize the potential energy savings and environmental benefits of solar water heating, the demand is sure to rise even higher in the near future, bringing prices down.
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