With the world suffering from the effects of global warming and the melting of the polar icecaps, renewable energy is now something for everybody. Before, it was just for people who had a particular love for the environment, but now it is for anyone who wants to save money and save the world. Solar energy is perhaps the most well known of the various renewable energy sources available, and it is why there have been so many different types of solar heating.
Flat Plate Collectors
The main method of solar heating is something known as a flat plate collector. It is the simplest type of collector as it is just a weatherproof box with a special collector plate in the bottom. Manufacturers place several pieces of translucent material over the collector plate to complete the box.
Look under the box and a pipe carries a heat-conducting liquid into the home; most of the time the chosen liquid is water for economic purposes, although some more expensive models choose more conductive liquids.
The steps taken to convert solar power to energy are described thus:
– The sun shines and the electromagnetic energy coming from the sun hits the box.
– The special plate absorbs this heat.
– The heat-conducting liquid underneath the box accepts the heat and it travels downwards.
– A heat exchanger within the home takes the heated liquid to a heat exchange that converts it into steam. The steam powers a turbine that converts kinetic energy into electrical energy, and therefore powering the home.
The evacuated tubes or evacuated tube solar collectors, utilizes a simple design where two glass tubes fuse together in the middle. Manufacturers coat the inner tube in a material that absorbs solar energy efficiently without allowing it to escape. There is also a heat-conducting liquid within that transports any solar energy to a special heat exchanger. In some environments, manufacturers create evacuated tubes from metal.
The above collectors are mainly geared towards the residential market. Commercial facilities generating power prefer to use large concentrating collectors. Typically shaped like parabolas, the sunlight hits the bowls where it reflects it into the bottom. At the bottom of the parabolas, a liquid that absorbs heat transfers the heat to a special heat exchanger where it is converted into electricity.
These are extremely expensive and require a significant amount of sunlight to make it a worthwhile investment. Most of the time, these concentrating collectors appear in desert areas where the sun is out for the majority of the day. It is also up to the operator to chart the course of the sun and rotate these devices according to the data it receives back.
Which Type is best?
In essence, there is no best type of solar collector. There are, however, superior collectors for certain environments. The biggest contrast is between the two residential collectors and the concentrating collector. Solar heating panels obviously would not provide the right amount of energy for a major commercial entity, whereas collectors would provide too much for a residential facility.
The model is what is truly important. Using an older model makes the whole operation less efficient and generates less power. Obviously, this reduces the amount of money the user makes because the latest models create more electricity.
As for maintenance, the beauty of solar collectors is they require a minimal amount of maintenance. Commercial collectors require 24-hour monitoring, but paneling only requires the occasional clean. For the most part, users can completely ignore their panels until dangerous weather conditions like snow draws in; in which case it is just a matter of shifting it away from the paneling.