Features Of Solar Water Heating Systems

We are blessed with Solar Energy in abundance at no cost. The solar radiation incident on the surface of the earth can be conveniently utilized for the benefit of human society. One of the popular devices that harness the solar energy is solar hot water system (SHWS).

A solar water heater consists of a collector to collect solar energy and an insulated storage tank to store hot water. The solar energy incident on the absorber panel coated with selected coating transfers the heat to the riser pipes underneath the absorber panel. The water passing through the risers get heated up and is delivered the storage tank. The re-circulation of the same water through absorber panel in the collector raises the temperature to 80 C (Maximum) in a good sunny day. The total system with solar collector, storage tank and pipelines is called solar hot water system.

Broadly, the solar water heating systems are of two categories. They are : closed loop system and open loop system. In the first one, heat exchangers are installed to protect the system from hard water obtained from borewells or from freezing temperatures in the cold regions. In the other type, either thermosyphon or forced circulation system, the water in the system is open to the atmosphere at one point or other. The thermosyphon systems are simple and relatively inexpensive. They are suitable for domestic and small institutional systems, provided the water is treated and potable in quality. The forced circulation systems employ electrical pumps to circulate the water through collectors and storage tanks.

The choice of system depends on heat requirement, weather conditions, heat transfer fluid quality, space availability, annual solar radiation, etc. The SHW systems are economical, pollution free and easy for operation in warm countries like ours.

Based on the collector system, solar water heaters can be of two types.

Flat Plate Collectors (FPC) based Solar Water Heaters

The solar radiation is absorbed by Flat Plate Collectors which consist of an insulated outer metallic box covered on the top with glass sheet. Inside there are blackened metallic absorber (selectively coated) sheets with built in channels or riser tubes to carry water. The absorber absorbs the solar radiation and transfers the heat to the flowing water.

Evacuated Tube Collectors (ETC) based Solar Water Heaters

Evacuated Tube Collector is made of double layer borosilicate glass tubes evacuated for providing insulation. The outer wall of the inner tube is coated with selective absorbing material. This helps absorption of solar radiation and transfers the heat to the water which flows through the inner tube.

Solar water heating is now a mature technology. Wide spread utilization of solar water heaters can reduce a significant portion of the conventional energy being used for heating water in homes, factories and other commercial and institutional establishments. Internationally the market for solar water heaters has expanded significantly during the last decade.

Salient Features of Solar Water Heating System

Life : 15-20 years

Approximate cost : Rs.15000-20,000 for a 100 litres capacity system and Rs.110-150 per installed litre for higher capacity systems

Payback period : 3-4 years when electricity is replaced

                              4-5 years when furnace oilis replaced

                              5-6 years when coal isreplaced

Though the initial investment for a solar water heater is high compared to available convention alalternatives, the return on investment has become increasingly attractive with the increase in prices of conventional energy. The pay back period depends on the site of installation, utilization pattern and fuel replaced.