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Direct Solar Energy

Chapter 3

for cooling (see below) or industrial applications. Most vacuum tube collectors use heat pipes for their core instead of passing liquid directly through them. Evacuated heat-pipe tubes are composed of multiple evacuated glass tubes, each containing an absorber plate fused to a heat pipe. The heat from the hot end of the heat pipes is transferred to the transfer fluid of a domestic hot water or hydronic space-heating system.

Solar water-heating systems used to produce hot water can be classified as passive or active solar water heaters (Duffie and Beckman, 2006). Also of interest are active solar cooling systems, which transform the hot water produced by solar energy into cold water.

Passive solar water heaters are of two types (Figure 3.4). Integral col- lector-storage (ICS) or ‘batch’ systems include black tanks or tubes in an insulated glazed box. Cold water is preheated as it passes through the solar collector, with the heated water flowing to a standard backup water heater. The heated water is stored inside the collector itself. In thermosyphon (TS) systems, a separate storage tank is directly above the collector. In direct (open-loop) TS systems, the heated water rises from the collector to the tank and cool water from the tank sinks back into the collector. In indirect (closed-loop) TS systems (Figure 3.4, left), heated fluid (usually a glycol-water mixture) rises from the collector to an outer tank that surrounds the water storage tank and acts as a heat exchanger (double-wall heat exchangers) for separation from potable water. In cli- mates where freezing temperatures are unlikely, many collectors include an integrated storage tank at the top of the collector. This design has many cost and user-friendly advantages compared to a system that uses a separate standalone heat-exchanger tank. It is also appropriate in

households with significant daytime and evening hot water needs; but it does not work well in households with predominantly morning draws because sometimes the tanks can lose most of the collected energy overnight.

Active solar water heaters rely on electric pumps and controllers to cir- culate the carrier fluid through the collectors. Three types of active solar water-heating systems are available. Direct circulation systems use pumps to circulate pressurized potable water directly through the collectors. These systems are appropriate in areas that do not freeze for long periods and do not have hard or acidic water. Antifreeze indirect-circulation sys- tems pump heat-transfer fluid, which is usually a glycol-water mixture, through collectors. Heat exchangers transfer the heat from the fluid to the water for use (Figure 3.4, right). Drainback indirect-circulation systems use pumps to circulate water through the collectors. The water in the collector and the piping system drains into a reservoir tank when the pumps stop, eliminating the risk of freezing in cold climates. This sys- tem should be carefully designed and installed to ensure that the piping always slopes downward to the reservoir tank.Also, stratification should be carefully considered in the design of the water tank (Hadorn, 2005).

A solar combisystem provides both solar space heating and cooling as well as hot water from a common array of solar thermal collectors, usu- ally backed up by an auxiliary non-solar heat source (Weiss, 2003). Solar combisystems may range in size from those installed in individual prop- erties to those serving several in a block heating scheme.A large number of different types of solar combisystems are produced. The systems on the market in a particular country may be more restricted, however, because different systems have tended to evolve in different countries.

A Close-Coupled Solar Water Heater

Solar Collector

Solar Energy

Solar Energy

To Taps




Arrows Show Direction of Water Flow Through Copper Pipes When the Sun Heats the Collector Panels.

Cold Water Feed


Figure 3.4 | Generic schematics of thermal solar systems. Left: Passive (thermosyphon). Right: Active system.


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