How Does Solar Hot Water Work?
One of the most costly systems in your home right now is probably your hot water heater. Electric hot water heaters are constantly draining energy as they work to maintain a regular supply of heated water to your home. To do so they have to maintain the heat of a mass of water inside an insulated tank via electric coils like those on your oven, but even the best insulated tank steadily loses heat throughout the day. What this means is that you’re heating water you’re not using, which means you’re wasting electricity throughout the day. Understanding ‘How does solar hot water work?’ can help you find a better way to get hot showers throughout the day without breaking the bank.
While there are at least two answers to the question ‘How does solar hot water work?’, both answers rely on one simple concept. If you’ve ever had a pool of your own, or even left a glass of water in the sun for any length of time, you know that being under the sun all day will warm even large masses of water given enough time. The reason behind this is a simple matter of how sunlight behaves when it hits an object.
Sunlight is composed of photons, generated and emitted from deep within the massive nuclear reactor that is our sun. These photons shoot through space, travelling the 8 minutes it takes to cover the distance to filter down through our atmosphere and ultimately impact our surface. When coming into contact with an object, a photon is absorbed and generates heat in most circumstances. (Solar Power Arrays demonstrate an exception to this, where photons hitting special substances like silicon actually produce electrons, but that’s another conversation). This heat generation is the foundation of the answer to the question ‘How does solar hot water work?’
While this works with any substance, and in fact any body of water, solar hot water generators utilize special equipment and systems to make this whole process more efficient. There are two types of solar hot water heating systems, direct and indirect, and the basis of how the first system works is inherent in its name. Direct systems expose the water directly to the sun, typically in a small tank made with special materials to make them quite efficient at collecting solar energy. This hot water then rises naturally into a suspended tank, and cooler water descends into the solar heaters.
The other answer to ‘How does solar hot water work?‘ involves an indirect heating system. Indirect systems typically use pumps to move around a carrier fluid that passes through the solar collector in lieu of the water. Both the collector and the liquid used to carry the heat are extremely efficient at collecting solar energy and carrying heat. This now heated fluid is pumped through a system into a cistern where water is kept, and the heat is then transferred into the water through natural processes before the fluid is pumped back out to the collector again.
These are the two basic answers to ‘How does solar hot water work?’, and a short search on the internet will provide you with more detailed answers that cover the function of each of these systems and the different sub-types available for each, as well as more information about different types of solar energy. One thing remains certain whichever type you choose, solar hot water systems can be much more efficient than either electric or gas systems. And who can’t use extra money in their pocket at the end of the month? That’s how solar works!