Close up of solar hot water system

How Does A Solar Hot Water System Work?

August 16, 2021

In many parts of Australia, when the temperature drops, it really drops. You’ll want a reliable hot water system to get you through those chilly nights.

If you’d like to save money on electricity costs—and do your part for the environment—investing in a solar hot water system in Coffs Harbour is an excellent choice.

But before you dive in and make a purchase, it’s important to know how these systems work so that you make the right decision for your home.

Read on for more information on specific types of solar hot water systems that can help you make a more informed choice for your home or business.

Types of solar collectors for hot water systems

There are two main types of solar collectors used to power up hot water systems. These are:

  • Evacuated tubes
  • Flat plate collectors

The type you choose will depend on your house (or business premises) and the specific environment around you. If you live in a frost-prone area, for example, evacuated tubes are the more efficient choice. If you need to mount your tank on the roof, a flat plate collector may be your best option.

Evacuated tubes

Unlike solar electricity panels that convert sunlight to ELECTRICITY (maximum 20% efficiency). Evacuated solar collectors work by converting the sun’s rays into heat energy (up to 80%+ efficiency).

The tubes comprise two glass layers, between which is a vacuum that prevents heat loss (much like a thermos flask). Inside each tube also sits a conductive copper pipe, promoting high working temperature and thermal efficiency.

The generated by the evacuated tube travels via these copper vacuum pipes to an insulated box with a copper heat exchanger inside known as a manifold. The manifold is then connected to a water storage tank.

The water in the tank will heat up throughout the day, ready for use at night or the following day.

Flat plate collectors

Flat plate collectors are a very commonly used used type of solar water heating system in Australian homes.

These collectors look like rectangular, shallow boxes with aluminium bodies and glass lids. Under the glass, you’ll find copper pipes intended to carry water through the flat plate collector and absorb heat from the sun.

To maximise efficiency, manufacturers weld special horizontal fins between each pipe and place insulation at the bottom of the aluminium box. Often, they’ll also paint the copper pipes to encourage optimum heat absorption.

Flat plates vs. evacuated tubes: what’s better?

Let’s weigh up the benefits and drawbacks of flat plate and evacuated tube systems, helping you decide which option will suit you.

Evacuated tube systems can:

  • Capture more sunlight thanks to their higher surface area
  • Transmit heat more efficiently
  • Work even in sub-zero temperatures or overcast conditions
  • Be easily repaired if a tube breaks

Evacuated tube collectors also require a smaller roof area due to their higher efficiency. Many years ago, evacuated tube solar hot water systems were much more expensive than flat plate collectors however the price of solar hot water systems in 2021 show evacuated tube solar system costs to be on par with flat-plate if not cheaper!

As we mentioned above, flat-plate connectors are a great choice if you need to save space by mounting your water tank on the roof.

Start saving on energy

Solar hot water systems are a more environmentally friendly and affordable alternative to electric heaters. You can draw energy from the sun through a flat plate or evacuated tube solar collectors to keep your water running hot.

To find out more about our solar hot water systems in Coffs Harbour and if they are right for you, get in touch with the expert team at North Coast Power & Water to discuss your needs and to organise a consultation.

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