How Solar Thermal Works
Solar heating systems use solar panels, called collectors, fitted to your roof. These collect heat from the sun and use it to heat up water which is stored in a hot water cylinder. A boiler or immersion heater can be used as a back up to heat the water further to reach the temperature you want.
There are two types of solar water heating panels:
Flat Plate Collectors
Flat plate collectors are made up of a well-insulated metal frame with a glass top, beneath which is a copper or aluminium absorber plate. This absorber is covered in a special dark coating purpose-made to absorb as much of the sun’s energy as possible. Attached to the absorber plate is the tube containing the heat transfer fluid. As sunlight passes through the glass and heats the collector, the sunlight’s thermal energy is absorbed by the absorber plate and transferred to the fluid via thermal conductivity. The heated fluid is then pumped round the system and eventually deposits its heat energy through the coil heat exchanger inside your hot water cylinder.
Evacuated Tube Collectors
Evacuated tube collectors consist of a number of long glass tubes, each containing an individual absorber plate, which are connected to a heat pipe. Evacuated tube collectors harness solar energy in much the same way as a flat plate. The absorber is heated and transfers its heat energy to the tube containing the heat transfer fluid via thermal conductivity. However, evacuated tubes use the sunlight to generate heat energy whereas flat plates use the sun’s thermal qualities. This means evacuated tubes would generate more heat energy than a flat collector. The absorber plate and heat pipe are insulated from the cold outside air by a vacuum within the tube. This protects against convective and conductive heat loss.
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