Generating Solar Hot Water


Solar hot water is not a new concept. The sun has been heating water for all the eons that water has existed on the Earth. If you notice, in weather reports near coastal cities the water temperature of the ocean is report. As the summer approaches and the sun's rays are strongest, that water temperature goes up. That's solar water heating in its simplest form.

To heat water for the home, the concept is almost as simple. By concentrating the sun's ray by using a solar collector and passing water through the system into a storage tank, the water is heated only by the sun.

The most common type of solar collector is the flat plate collector. A thin, rectangular box placed on the roof at an angle that will collect the sun's rays, usually pointed toward the south. The box's flat, transparent cover concentrates the sun's heat. Inside the thin box are small tubes which carry the liquid to be heated. The tubes are attached to an absorption plate which is painted black to absorb as much of the sun's heat as possible. As heat build up inside this rectangular box, the liquid is heated and then moved into a storage tank. Another flow of cool water is then allowed to enter the solar heater and the cycle is repeated.

The storage tank for this type of solar water heating system can be a simple hot water heater that has been modified. The heating coils are no longer required and the insulation for the tank has been upgraded. Keeping the hot water hot once it is in the storage tank until it is used by the household is accomplished by making the storage tank extremely well insulated. Otherwise, the heat gathered by the sun would be lost over time.

There are basically two types of solar water heating systems to choose from: active and passive. By far, the active hot water system is more common and most effective. The active system uses a small pump to actively pumps most the water into the solar collector and into the hot water storage tank. Passive hot water solar systems rely on the force of gravity and water's natural tendency to flow to move the water. The active system is by far the most efficient system.

The initial investment in a solar hot water system is easily offset by the savings in electricity or natural gas over only a few years. In fact, if you choose to build the components of a solar hot water heating system yourself, you can recoup the costs in an even shorter period. The process for building an active solar water heating system is not very difficult and anyone with basic tools and equipment and a good knowledge of how to read design plans, correctly measure materials, and effectively and safely use tools can build a basic system for their home hot water heating system or for a heating system to maintain their swimming pool at comfortable temperatures long before the sun has heated the pool to comfortable temperatures.

Plans for basic hot water heating systems can be obtained from the U.S. Government or over the Internet. Most libraries also have books on solar hot water heating systems that include basic plans.

In some parts of the country, solar hot water is used to supplement and reduce the cost of water heating. In warm climates, the solar hot water can provide all the hot water a normal family requires. The exact specifications you select for your solar water heating system will depend in large part on whether you want to generate all your household's hot water or simply supplement and save heating costs for your family's needs. Many households that use a solar hot water system keep a small, traditional hot water heater so that hot water can be ensured during extremely cold periods or during periods that clouds cause the sun's rays to be less effective in heating water.

About the Author: Anita van Wyk strives to make make more people aware of the benefits of using solar energy through her website

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