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Solar Hot Water Basics

When looking for ways to green your home, solar energy offers a great solution to most people as its essentially "free" for use.  The trick is working out how to make the most of that energy for your situation.  For some that is Solar electricity and Photovoltaic panels (PV) systems, while for others its solar hot water. 

When it comes to efficiency, solar hot water will "harvest" more energy than PV systems as they are more efficient in extracting the heat energy.  When you combine that with cost of installation the benefits are more as they pay back faster.  The downside is - no electrical power.

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A well designed solar hot water system(SHW) is typically abel to provide either all or up to 70% of your home hot water needs.  Much will depend on your geographic location, but even in snowy climates, SHW will work just fine.  When you calculate the savings on energy bills to provide hot water, you can really make a difference to your running costs.
Solar Hot water systems typically fall into 5 main methods of operation.  All are well tested over many years.  There are two main types, "Open", where the water that is heated is used, and "Closed" where there is a heat transfer liquid which in turnm heats a water storage unit.

  • Batch (Good choice for homes in moderate climates with low chances of freezing )
  • Thermosyphon (Used in nonfreezing climates only)
  • Open-loop direct  (For hot climates where freezing never occurs)
  • Pressurized glycol  (The only choice in very cold climates)
  • Closed-loop drainback (Very reliable in all areas, pump & antifreeze considerations)

Either way, the systems are very efficient, the choice may depend somewhat on your requirements and climatic type.  They are reliable, long lasting and usually require little maintainance.  While some use active or mechanical parts for pums and valves, others are totally passive and rely on heat trasfer and thermal circulation to operate.

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