Solar power systems have been on the market for about quarter of a century! During this time methods have been developed to convert energy from the sun into either hot water for your home or living space heat. There are many solar power systems and combinations of systems to choose from.
Below are some of the more popular:
ACTIVE SOLAR POWER HOT WATER SYSTEM
This has a number of moving parts to make sure it keeps running under all conditions. This is important for homes that don’t get a lot of sun during some times of the year or that have freezing winters. Without an active system you may lose hot water completely or damage the mechanisms.
The active solar system comes in 2 forms:
This circulatory form simply heats the water in a collector and moves it through your home using a series of pumps.
This circulatory system uses a special coolant that can be transported between the solar collector and a heat exchanger. The heat exchanger will transport the heat to the water for later use.
If you get freezing winters the indirect system using the coolant liquid is essential to avoid the pipes freezing in the collector.
The second type of solar power system is the:
PASSIVE SOLAR POWER HOT WATER SYSTEM
This is a very much simpler system than the active system as it uses conventional plumbing and gravity to move the hot water between the solar collector and the hot water taps (faucets). This is a great system for warm climates.
THERMOSYPHON SOLAR POWER SYSTEM
The thermosyphon system can be a good option where freezing temperatures are occasionally experienced. This is the way it works: Cold water rises naturally in the tank as it heats up. It then rises into the collector and runs into a higher pipe that goes to the hot water heater or storage tank. It can be a bit pricey due to the need for new plumbing and installation by a professional.
PHOTOVOLTAIC SOLAR POWER SYSTEM (PV)
The photovoltaics are also known as solar cells. They use the power of the sun to generate electricity for use throughout your home. A solar panel is a package of PV cells. The electricity produced by each panel varies from 100 to 320 Watts. This is by far the most expensive solar system as the number of PV cells needed for average household use can be many, not to mention the extras needed like inverters, regulators, cables and connectors and, most of the time, professional installation.
Very simple systems exist which use simple ‘greenhouse’ technology. Everything depends on how much heat you want to generate.
Very simple and inexpensive as it takes advantage of south-facing windows, insulation and sun spaces to gather and retain heat during the day. There are 2 common forms:
DIRECT GAIN SETUP
This stores the heat from the sunlight through the windows and releases it slowly even after sunset. The disadvantage is that there is no real way to regulate the heat.
INDIRECT GAIN SETUP
This utilizes special building materials to insulate your home and hold the heat in. The building materials create a barrier to reduce direct heat in the living space but still maintaining a slow release.
You need to determine how much electricity you use and how much your chosen system will produce. Get averages of yearly sunshine from the national weather agency in your country. Also good to check is whether your local government electricity provider has a setup in place where you could stay on the grid in winter months while in sunny months, when you are using solar energy, you could sell your electricity back to the electricity or gas provider for credit.