By Kevin Vogel
Solar power is a great way to use an alternative, renewable energy source to provide electricity for a home. It is cheap and plentiful, and offers a long term energy solution for the home where the consumer does not have to rely on the utility company to provide their power. Even with tax incentives and rebates, the initial cost to the consumer can be expensive, and this added cost may scare the consumer away from adopting solar power. One way in which the consumer can manage the cost is through a piecemeal adoption of solar power units to target individual appliances in the home. A hot water heating system is often great place to start with solar power because it is a standalone unit and can be modified more easily for a solar hot water heating system.
A solar heating system consists of two main parts. There is the storage tank which holds the water and the solar collectors themselves. Depending on the system they adopt, the consumer may not need to replace their existing water heater with a system that will work with solar power, but this is still much more affordable than installing an entire solar system for the household. Essentially, there are two kinds of solar water heating systems. There is an active system which consists of circulating pumps and controls. There is also a passive system which has none of this added equipment. The storage tank in these systems operates in a very simple way. It can be a standalone solar system that preheats the water before it enters a conventional water heater. Some storage systems are combined into one system, but both require good insulation and additional inlets and outlets from the solar collectors.
The operation of an active solar powered water heating system is relatively easy to understand, and this in turn comes in two types. There is a direct circulation system that uses pumps to circulate household water through the solar collectors. The collectors themselves are what provide the heating element for the water. This kind of system works great in climates that are not prone freezing since the collectors themselves will be outside. The other kind of active system is called an indirect system. In this system pumps circulate a nonfreezing heat transfer fluid through the solar collectors and a heat exchanger. The heat exchanger then heats the water that flows into the home. A passive system is useful for climates that are prone to freezing.
For the passive solar powered water heating system, these systems are typically less expensive and less efficient than active systems, but they do last longer. In passive systems, the solar collector is separate from the system, and the hot water and cold water are kept separate and the storage tank is used as a backup. Because the collector tank must be kept elevated, there are some structural concerns that the consumer must keep in mind for installation.
Solar power can be a great way to providing hot water heating for a home. It can replace gas and electric hot water tanks, and provide an entry point for the consumer in adopting solar power.
Kevin Vogel writes for ecofriendly design sites. Check out http://www.exclusiv-home.de/#solarkollektor for solar power ideas for your home.