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Solar Water Heater Collectors

If you want to heat your water or space using solar power, having a solar collector is essential. There are three types of collectors to choose from: flat plate, integral collector storage, and evacuated tube.

Flat plate collectors are the most common of the three. Usually located on residential roofs, flat plate collectors consist of insulated metal boxes. An absorber plate used to heat water or air is located within the box, which can be glazed or unglazed. To be heated, cold water passes through pipes or tubes connected to the absorber plate. Space heaters move air through the absorber either by natural convection or the force of a fan.

The flat plate collectors usually heat common household water, which flows back to the house. They are also used to heat swimming pools.

Solar evacuated tube collectors reach the highest temperatures and cost more. A direct flow evacuated tube consists of flat, metal absorbers housed within parallel glass tubes. The metal absorbers, also called fins, are attached to a header pipe. As the fins absorb heat, a heat transfer fluid flows through the tubes to collect that heat.

There are three different configurations for a direct flow evacuated tube system. The most common consists of dual piping for an inlet/outlet flow system. Air is removed from the vacuum between the two glass tubes to prevent heat loss. The other types consist of two glass tubes fused together at one end and a concentric inlet and outlet fluid.

Finally, passive solar heating via integral collector storage (ICS) systems garner energy from the sun without the use of mechanical or electrical devices. With an ICS unit, water itself is the collector. It is placed in a tank, which is painted black and mounted in an insulated box with glazing on one side. As the sun shines through the glaze on one side and hits the black tank on the other sides, water within the tank becomes hot. It is typically drawn from the top.

ICS units are the most affordable of the three and can even be made at home by handy do-it-yourselfers. Otherwise, a certified solar contractor is always available to install your solar heating system.

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