Flat plate solar collector
Posted by Solar energy guru | Filed under Solar panels & photovoltaic cells
When most people think about collecting solar energy, they think about the traditional solar panel. This is one way to collect solar power, and certainly has become the most popular. The function of a solar panel is to turn sunlight into electricity we can use. We have known for thousands of years that sunlight can create energy in the form of heat, and that is what a flat-plate solar collector does. You won’t see many big power companies developing new technologies for flat-plate solar collectors, but they do have a great amount of potential to be used effectively for the average homeowner.
A flat-plate solar collector is considered a solar thermal system, which means that it is geared towards converting solar energy into heat, as opposed to electric. These can be extremely useful for homeowners looking to save money on their energy bills. The main purpose of a flat-plate solar collector in most places it to provide hot water. If placed correctly a flat-plate collector can provide a lot of heat in a short amount of time, and as part of an entire water heating system, it is able to provide free hot water while avoiding many of the negatives typical of solar power.
One of those negatives is the inability to generate power when the sun isn’t out. A solar thermal system isn’t immune to that, but if your water heating system is set up correctly, it won’t much of a problem. There are two ways to get around this. First, the flat-plate collector can be relegated to simply being the first option to power the water heating system, and using your normal power supply to heat water when it isn’t sunny outside. The more popular and effective option is to set up a system in the heating supply that stores the heat collected in the day, which is usually fluid-based.
Flat plate solar collectors are the most used solar heating systems. They are efficient, proven, and relatively inexpensive to install. The solar collector is placed in the space that gets the most sunlight, and has water or fluid pipes attached directly to it. The collector heats the fluid in these pipes, which generally lead to a fluid container and/or heat exchanger. The hot fluid is kept there until needed, at which time if flows through the water heating system. This isn’t usually the water that is actually being used; it runs through a metal heat exchanger that transmits the heat into the water you’ll receive.
A flat-plate solar collector will usually pay for itself in about four years, sometimes more, depending on how sunny the area is. It can save up to 80% of a water heating bill, even if used in tandem with another heating source. That may not be a lot of money by itself, but over time, it adds up to thousands of dollars in saved money, as all the money it saves after it pays for itself is pure profit. Solar collectors are usually fairly durable as well, especially the new models, so it’s probable that they won’t need to be replaced.
Whether a flat-plate solar collector is worth it for you depends on your situation. After all, if you won’t be living in the same house for at least four years, it won’t be worth the hassle it presents if you might not even break even. Also, if you live in a place that doesn’t get a lot of sun, its impact will be very limited. If one is already installed, it will save money, it will only be worth installing if you live in a sunny area and are sure of keeping your house for a few years.