Bosna i Hercegovina

Are solar panels for water heating a good investment?


The sun is an excellent source of energy not only for humans. It is also a source of heat for our homes and offices. To be able to use it, we need the right tools – solar collectors, which are designed to capture the sun’s rays from the environment. We can use solar collectors to heat water or to support a basic heating system.

What are solar collectors and how do they work?

Solar collectors are devices with a structure of metal and glass plates („mirrors”) or tubes, which are mounted on the roof of a building. They absorb the energy of solar radiation and convert it into heat. This process is carried out using a heat carrier (solar-heated working medium) – water, glycol, air – which flows through the solar system. The heated working medium is led through a suitable channel to a storage tank in the boiler room, from where, after cooling, it returns to the collectors and the process repeats itself.

The resulting heat goes to domestic installations. We use solar collectors to heat domestic water (most often), to prepare a garden jacuzzi as well as to support central heating. We will point out other advantages of solar collectors in a moment, but first of all it is important to remember that they are a renewable source of thermal energy for a building (RES). They provide support for its energy balance. They simply pay for themselves.

Construction and types of solar collectors for water heating

Each solar collector consists of:

  • copper or aluminum absorber, which captures heat
  • piping that receives heat from the absorber
  • weatherproof housing that prevents heat loss
  • solar glazing made of tempered glass – ensures the penetration of the sun’s rays

We can choose between flat-plate and tube collectors. Collectors with a flat design (flat absorber) are most popular. This is due to the good value for money. Here the absorber, which is a plate made of copper or aluminum, is covered with a dark layer that absorbs radiation (tempered glass). There are pipes attached to the top of the absorber, through which the heating medium flows. It distributes the generated heat to the solar tank. On the other hand, solar water heating collectors of tubular construction are built of parallel glass tubes, in which the absorber surrounded by vacuum is mounted (vacuum reduces heat loss). Vacuum collectors are more expensive, but, unlike flat collectors, they work efficiently even at lower temperatures.

The advantage of solar collectors is their longevity – they should be operational for at least a dozen years. For this reason, it is worth investing in a solar set made of really solid materials.

Learn about the advantages of solar collectors

Why should you opt for solar collectors for heating water? Let’s list the most important benefits of their purchase:

  1. Environmentally friendly acquisition of heat needed to prepare DHW and to support heating of the building. Collectors do not produce exhaust fumes, do not poison the environment with harmful gases. We get environmentally clean heat.

2. Energy efficiency: a well-chosen solar set covers from 70 to even 100% of the demand for heat energy needed to heat domestic water (summer season). This gives real savings, as the consumption of heating fuel and energy decreases significantly on an annual basis.

3. Independence: thermal energy is renewable and free. It allows you to become independent of suppliers of traditional – non-ecological and expensive – energy sources (coal, gas). We incur the expenses only once – during installation.

4. Convenience of use: the solar system is maintenance-free, you do not need to look after it.

5. Reliability: the solar system does not actually break down – it should serve for years.

6. Versatility: solar collectors can be mounted on the roof of any building – single-family, multi-family, but also on apartment blocks.

7. Higher value of the property: a building equipped with modern collectors is worth much more on the real estate market.

Solar collectors vs. photovoltaic panels

When considering the installation of energy-efficient solutions for your house, you may ask yourself if it is better to invest in solar collectors for heating water or in photovoltaic panels? It is also often the case that these two installations are confused with each other. Wrongly, because the way the two technologies work is different. First of all, we get a different end product. As we already know, solar panels convert the energy of the sun’s rays into heat, which they transfer to home heating systems. Meanwhile, photovoltaic cells from the sun’s rays produce electricity (current), which we can ultimately use in many ways: to heat DHW, to heat the house (e.g. by powering an electric boiler, heat pump) or to run electrical appliances (this will save on electricity bills). Panels, unlike collectors, do not need to be mounted on the roof.

The constantly changing regulations regarding accounting for generated electricity remain a separate issue. It is difficult to predict the final development of events in this topic. But let’s remember that forecasts for energy prices are increasingly pessimistic. Therefore, photovoltaics are profitable in almost every scenario. Solar collectors as well. Before making a choice, you just need to do an energy audit and think about the actual demand of your building.

What do you need to watch out for?

The basic rule is that in order to enjoy the benefits of solar collectors we need high sun exposure. If there is no sun the installation will not generate heat. For this reason, when installing, the collectors should face south. They will then absorb most radiation. Unfortunately, in our latitude, insolation can be a problem, because during the winter the solar panels do not have the best conditions for operation. The sun shines briefly, weakly and, in addition, not every day. Unreliable year-round efficiency raises doubts about whether to invest in solar collectors for heating domestic water. Consider, however, that recently summers have been hot and long. There are even tropical temperatures. Winters have mellowed. We are seeing more and more warm months, it can be cheerful from spring to late autumn. All this time we have the chance to use DHW heated by free solar energy. It may not always be hot water, but it will certainly be pleasantly warm and thus sufficient for daily needs.

Some of us are also afraid of overheating the system, that is, generating excess heat during hot, holiday trips. To avoid this, it will be crucial to match the solar set to the building and to choose the right controllers (with alarm, function to turn off the solar pump when the maximum temperature of the tank is reached, heat dump function). Controllers also increase the efficiency of the solar system – they distribute the heat from the solar collectors to get most energy from them.

Solar water heating collectors are a way to save money at home

At a time when we’re looking for ways to keep money in our wallets, it is worth considering investing in a solar kit tailored to our needs. It is precisely one such way – an effective, proven one. If we can afford the one-time expense of buying and installing solar panels, rest assured that the cost will pay for itself. The sun produces energy inexhaustibly, free of charge, without any burden on nature. Each month of its use provides an environmental and economic return. Even if the efficiency of solar collectors decreases in winter, it will more than increase in spring and summer. The savings throughout the year will be evident.

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