Solar heating systems can help lower energy bills while saving the environment, but like all heating systems they require expert installation and good, routine maintenance to operate at peak performance.
Solar hot water systems typically take the form of flat collectors that are exposed to direct sunlight, such as glazed flat-plate collectors or evacuated tubes (www.youtube.com/TradeSecrets). If this cannot be accomplished, thermosiphon systems are sometimes employed; these require pumps which move liquid between collectors. In frost-prone regions you’ll require frost-tolerant panels.
Once your solar hot water system is up and running, your installer will go over each component to plug any holes or seal gaps between components to ensure nothing is leaking – an important step, since any energy lost from piping or storage tanks represents wasted savings. In addition, they may install a new electricity meter with an insulated switch attached so your new system only consumes power when sunlight shines brightly.
Install a storage tank of any size depending on your household’s usage, with its size determined by installers who will connect it via pump and antifreeze transfer fluid line to collectors. Operation will be monitored by timers that operate the pump only during sunny weather, switching off when overcast clouds or poor conditions arise allowing stratification to take place as the sun warms the top layer while stored energy warms the bottom of the tank.
Insulating and installing an electric or gas back-up for when solar energy is unavailable will also be essential steps, like with installing air-conditioners; this project should take only a weekend to complete provided you possess at least basic plumbing knowledge.
Solar water heating systems need periodic inspection and routine maintenance in order to operate at optimal levels and minimize risks such as scaling, corrosion, freezing or complete failure of components. While certain tasks can be completed by homeowners themselves, others require professional solar hot water service technicians.
A typical system consists of a collector, solar storage tank, pump and controller. The controller monitors temperature in both components to control when to start and stop the pump; once temperature in either exceeds an acceptable limit (usually 180F, but often set lower to prevent scalding), the controller will immediately stop pumping heat transfer fluid to its drain back tank thereby protecting it from degradation while prolonging its useful lifespan.
Based on your solar water heating system type and use case, the antifreeze solution (propylene or ethylene glycol) in liquid-based systems may need to be periodically replenished – an involved process best left to an experienced technician.
Panels must remain clean to maximize sunlight absorption. Dirt, leaves and bird droppings can interfere with performance and impact energy production negatively; although nature often takes care of this for you. Therefore, periodically have them professionally cleaned.
An average maintenance visit includes inspecting fuses, safety valves, temperature sensors and controller, pressure relief valve and the condition of insulation. It may also involve performing either a short flush or full flush to flush away buildup of calcites from the solar storage tank before performing a thorough system inspection.
These machines may sound complicated and even futuristic. However, solar hot water systems don’t contain many moving parts, making maintenance simple. But like any hot water system, repairs or replacements may still be required at some point; their costs depend on both the problem at hand and any required components.
One of the main issues associated with solar hot water systems is mineral build-up in its system. Hard water minerals can form scale or blockages that must be flushed regularly out – usually by calling in a technician to climb onto your roof, inspect collectors and clean connections – this service typically ranges between $300-500 depending on labor and parts needed for repair.
Power systems that use water as their heat transfer fluid are more vulnerable to frost damage, so regular inspection and maintenance is important for keeping them working as intended. To do so, ensure all heat transfer fluid has been drained off, and that isolation valves remain open.
Certain solar water heaters need additional boost power when there is not enough sunshine or when demand exceeds capacity. A booster-assisted system will typically run on either gas or electric power depending on your preferences and energy needs.
Children or animals could accidentally switch on boost switches; to protect your investment make sure the boost switch is turned off when not using your system to avoid accidental switching back onto non-solar power sources and potentially damaging it. Boost installations can be an affordable addition to a solar hot water system.
Solar hot water systems use the sun’s energy to heat your water. There are various configurations available that are tailored specifically to each climate and latitude, and combined with solar photovoltaic (which you can learn about here) panels they are an efficient way to lower power costs and carbon emissions.
Although these systems typically require minimal upkeep, regular inspection and cleaning is still recommended to ensure optimal functioning of all components such as the anode or pressure valve. Annual checks of your system to check for leaks or malfunctioning parts is also advised to ensure no unexpected expenses arise due to leaks or nonfunctioning parts.
Collectors should always be installed in a northerly-facing position on the roof and should always face south. Pipes between collectors and storage tanks must be bi-metallic type to minimize galvanic corrosion risks – an electrolytic process where dissimilar metals come in contact and cause corrosion of one or both metals in contact.
If your solar system does not produce enough hot water for your needs, a gas or electric backup will kick in to make up the difference. The cost of such backup depends on your energy rates and local fuel costs.
Solar water heating can dramatically cut your energy costs and add value to your home when selling, as buyers increasingly look for homes that are energy efficient and environmentally-friendly. Before installing one in your home, be sure to consult your local council’s building regulations as there may be noise restrictions which would preclude use of a heat pump system.