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Flexibility key for solar power

A revolution in solar heating system design is about to change the way systems are supplied

26 August 2010

A REVOLUTION in solar heating system design is about to change the way systems are supplied and specified worldwide.

Using the widely-known evacuated tube method of solar panels, the new system contains all the working components within the solar tube itself which makes it completely modular - different from the present system where fixed sizes of panels.

Now homeowners will be able to expand their systems tube by tube instead of in large two metre by two metre panels, for example.

To understand the solar revolution we need to recap previous articles which introduced the idea of solar power.

Solar thermal systems are principally used to heat domestic hot water and swimming pools and there are two main types - flat plate collectors or evacuated tube systems.

Flat plate collectors are generally two pieces of Perspex with pipe sandwiched in between - they need heat to work kind of like leaving a hosepipe in the garden on a warm sunny day.

Evacuated tube systems consist of vacuum-sealed Pyrex tubes which need only light not heat to function.

Vacuum tube systems are generally 30% more efficient than flat plate collectors.

The technologies are well established although there are also some very dubious Far Eastern offerings on the market - so choose wisely before spending your hard earned euros.

So far so good but how are systems sized?

Many companies size their systems by the number/area of solar tubes or the size of the flat plate collector - the bigger the solar panel the more heat energy it provides.

This sounds fine but the limitation is that panels tend to be made in only a couple of sizes, for example a typical panel would be two metres wide by two metres high.

If you decide later that you want to expand your system then you could only buy another two metre square solar panel. The system cannot be sized to suit your needs, so choice is limited.

If your family grows and you want more free solar hot water then it is possible, but only by fitting, say, another 20 tube solar collector.

This might in fact be too much for the system and can lead to potential problems elsewhere.

The same applies for a solar pool system - perhaps you want to extend your pool season further so just want to add what you need.

Now to the revolution - it is a modular evacuated tube solar system where you can have as few or as many solar tubes as you need.

You can have just one solar tube or 101 and have complete flexibility to add to your system as required and it can be sized exactly to meet your needs and budget.

More to the point, you can start small and grow your system when funds are available.

With fewer materials involved it is also more environmentally friendly.

This new development is set to change the way you put together your solar system and how you use it - for customers and suppliers the infinite flexibility will make life a whole lot easier.

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