All about Solar Thermal Heating Systems
Solar thermal heating systems or solar heating systems use sunlight to heat solar collectors or panels. The heat from the heating elements then heats water in a cylinder, giving you warm water. Regular solar thermal servicing can extend the life of solar water heating system, saving you time and money.
How is Heat Generated in Solar Thermal Heating Systems?
Solar heating systems absorb heat from the sun by using solar panels or collectors. The heat is then transferred by highly insulated piping to water in a cylinder in your home. Cold water in the water cylinder is pumped through the panels and returned back to the cylinder hot.
Two types of solar thermal panels are available in the market: flat plate collectors and evacuated tubes. Flat plate collectors are composed of flat, glazed panels with heat-absorbing surfaces. Evacuated tubes are comprised of a number of vacuum tubes in parallel, connected end to end. There are two common tube types: glass-glass and glass-metal. Evacuated tubes appear to have higher efficiency than flat plate collectors, specifically when the outside temperature is higher than 25 degrees C.
Heating supplied by the sun is free, and once the initial cost of a solar water heating system has been paid, your gas, oil and electricity bill will be reduced. Solar water heating systems are renewable energy systems and they can also help you protect the environment by lowering your carbon footprint.
Servicing your Solar Thermal System
Solar thermal technology is a well understood technology and for the most part, components such as panels, controllers, etc. are robust and operate to a very high standard. A properly installed and well serviced solar thermal system could last for a minimum of twenty years, and sometimes even longer. Poor solar thermal servicing can however cost you time and money in the long run.
Servicing requirements for solar collectors are usually low. Your installer should advise you in writing of any maintenance checks you need to perform to ensure your solar installation is functioning well. Here are several guidelines for servicing your solar heating system:
1. The antifreeze should be checked if it is finished or leaking. Over the years the
amount of antifreeze may fall and may need to be replaced. If you notice this, contact
your installer. Anti-freeze protects your system when the ambient temperature is very
2. Heating elements are exposed to the weather and must remain unobstructed, free of dirt
and grime. They can be easily cleaned, although most of the time the rain washes away
3. The insulated solar piping is cold. Assuming the pump is working, the cause of cold
piping is a blockage. Contact your installer to fix the problem.
4. The sun is shining brightly but the hot water cylinder is lukewarm or cold. The pump
or electronic controller box could be faulty but this is highly unlikely. Your
installer is equipped to find the fault.
When installed properly by qualified technicians, solar water heating systems can provide you with a third of your heating needs, slashing your electricity bill.