All about Solar Water Heaters

June 4, 2009 by  
Filed under Solar Energy

When people hear the term ‘solar power’, the first thing that comes to mind is huge dark blue solar panels that can generate electricity for businesses or homes. This is indeed a very well-known application. However, there are other ways to get solar power, such as solar heating. Solar heating dates way further back compared to photovoltaic solar panels.

Using solar power for solar heating has been done for thousands of years now, beginning with the use of crude lenses and mirrors back in ancient Greece for solar water heaters. During the 1920s, several municipalities came with usable solar systems that could use solar water heaters to supply homes.

Nowadays, these applications have made use of advanced technology.

One well-known form is the use of collector solar panels that can be placed on rooftops. Unlike photovoltaic modules, however, these arrays do not make use of layered wafers of silicon to produce solar power. Instead, they are more similar to big, thin, double-paned windows which come with water that is oftentimes mixed with various kinds of salt. Sunlight then sends solar heat for solar heating through the greenhouse effect and water then moves through various channels, pipes and tunes to make their way into businesses and homes.

The majority of people have heard about the greenhouse effect through its connections with global warming. This happens when solar power shines into a see-through medium and part of it is stored within it. This happens with glass to a higher level since the material lets particular wavelengths enter the spectrum of light with more efficiency, like infrared. Although some solar energy is released again, the majority of solar power is retained inside.

Solar water heaters obviously have more direct uses. Solar heat can be used for washing dishes or showering and all that needs to be done is create water that can be used and is readily available. This is typically done by storing solar heat in solar water heaters the way they are stored in normal water heaters.

With regular hot water systems, water heater storage units can also heat water. With solar water heaters, there is simply no need to do so because the water that finds itself into the tank is already around 95F-150F (35C-66C). The storage tank is there to act like a huge thermos bottle. It is double-lined and made of well-insulated material, in order to prevent heat from dissipating outside of the tank walls.

The temperatures in which these systems range are perfect for cleaning clothes and showering. The only problems that may occur is that not enough solar energy is produced to produce adequate solar heat and there may not be enough solar heat lost through pipes and panels.

Also, expenses can go all the way up to $50,000. Plus, the conditions in the local climate may lessen the system’s usefulness. However, with the cost of gas and electricity skyrocketing, business or home solar water heaters will definitely pay off within the next decade.