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Home Solar Power – The Installation Overview
For the purposes of this overview, I’m going to hit on the two options you have for installing solar power in your home – collectors and panels. Remember, however, that you can also take advantage of passive heating systems to draw electricity into your home through special insulation or plain glass windows – both details we’ll cover in the final section.
For a solar heating installation, you will need different parts, depending on what your heating system will be used for.
A solar collector is either a flat panel attached to your main tank or a network of tubes through which the water is heated. Most solar collectors are about 4-8 feet in actual size, although some can be as large as 12 feet if you have a particularly large tank.
If you have very cold or rainy weather, you may want to consider evacuated tubes for your collector as they reduce the effects of outside temperature – a major factor in winter. Only the sun’s energy will affect the temperature of the water or coolant in your collector in this way.
The solar storage tank acts as a transitional device between the collectors and your water heater. If you are using a closed loop system, the water in the storage tank will be heated through a series of coiled pipes coming from your collector. If you use an open loop system, the water will be pumped directly to the solar collectors for heating and then returned to the hot water tank for later use.
This is not necessary in an open loop system that is completely disconnected from the grid, but it is highly recommended because you never know when the sun will go out or you will need some extra hot water. A backup hot water heater will remain in service, producing hot water only when your solar tank is empty or the thermostat is set too low on the current supply. You can connect them so that the hot water from your solar collector goes directly into the hot water heater and then into your home supply.
If you opt for an active system that requires transferring the coolant or water from your solar collector to a separate tank and then to the hot water heater, you will only need a water pump. You only need to worry about your pump once because they last 10-20 years and can be powered by any power source in your home – solar or grid-based.
If you have a closed loop system, you will need a heat exchanger to transfer the heat from the solar collector to your cold water supply. This is usually done by running the coolant through a series of pipes and running it to a solar tank or hot water heater. Another option is to wrap one pipe around another pipe, transferring heat to your fresh water as it is transferred to a faucet or bathroom.
Controls and valves
Different types of installations require multiple controls and valves. Using a thermostat in your hot water tank will help “control” where the water is pumped and when the hot water is collected. Isolation valves are used to cut off and isolate your solar tank in the event of a problem such as leakage, contamination, or improper heating. This way, you can cut off the solar heated water if needed, maintaining a direct line to your hot water tank.
Another valve you may want to use is the tempering valve if you have an open loop system where you are not using pumps or controls. This allows you to directly affect how hot the water is coming off your face. If your water is getting too hot, adjust and adjust the tempering valve to add more cold water to the mix.
Installation of heating system
For the simplest heating system – in which you connect some pipes and install a solar collector and tank on your roof, you can do it yourself without any help. However, more advanced closed loop systems require extensive modifications to your plumbing and may even require special permits, so it’s a good idea to discuss your solar heating plans with a contractor before starting any new project.
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