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HEATING THAT DOESN'T COST THE EARTH...
FAQ's

1. Is solar water heating a viable alternative to gas or electricity?

2. How long will it take to recoup my investment?

3. Can solar collectors be used in cold conditions?

4. What happens if one of the tubes is broken?

5. Will water be heated on a cloudy day?

6. Can I use a solar collector with my existing hot water system?

7. Are the solar collectors noticeable on the roof?

8. Can solar collector be mounted on a flat surface?

9. How do I protect my solar system during subzero temperatures?

10. Will the solar collector be a fire hazard during hot, dry weather?

11. What maintenance of the solar collectors is required?

12. Can solar collectors be used for a large scale hot water production?

13. Can I heat my swimming pool using an solar collector?

14. Are solar tube collectors more efficient than flat plate collectors?


1. Is solar water heating a viable alternative to gas or electricity?

Solar should not be seen as a alternative to gas or electricity, but rather a supplement. Solar cannot totally replace the need for gas or electric heating as there are sometimes days when there is little sunlight. When averaged over a year, a correctly sized solar system can provide 60-70% of a household's hot water needs.

2. How long will it take to recoup my investment?

As soon as it's installed, you start saving on your monthly energy bills. Our solar collectors are much more affordable than many other solar hot water heaters. Depending on you location (solar levels) and current hot water usage the annual electricity or gas saving will differ. However in a normal household that spends 25% of its electricity bill on hot water heating, the full cost of the purchase may be recouped as quickly as 4-5 years in reduced bills. You will definitely make considerable savings during the life of the solar hot water heater. This time shortens with each increase in fuel charges.

3. Can solar collectors be used in cold conditions?

Yes. Our collectors can be used in temperatures as low as -30C, although performance is reduced in such extreme conditions. Good heat output is still achieved in mild sub-zero conditions.

4. What happens if one of the solar tubes is broken?

Firstly, tubes are very strong and not easily broken, but if the worst should happen, solar tubes can be replaced very easily. They are inexpensive and available though Solar Solutions. Our solar collectors can operate with several broken tubes, but the efficiency will be reduced, so it is recommended that broken tubes be replaced immediately. Each installation is supplied with one spare tube.

5. Will water be heated on a cloudy day?

Yes. Although the heat output of the solar collector is reduced on overcast days it will still be able to provide heating. If it is a heavily clouded day or raining, then more gas or electric boosting will be required to maintain water at the required temperature.

6. Can I use a solar collector with my existing hot water system?

Providing your existing cylinder is in good condition, and not old with calcium deposits, it can be used with a Willis Solar Syphon, which supplies its solar heated water to the existing cylinder. If you have a combi boiler, a preheat thermal store cylinder is required. The solar heated water from the thermal store passes through a blender valve, which mixes the heated water with mains water, before entering the combi boiler. If the water temperature reaches the set temperature, it is fed directly to the outlets (taps etc).

7. Are the solar collectors noticeable on the roof?

It should blend into the roof design quite well. Our solar collectors are slim and can blend well when mounted on a roof. From a distance they look somewhat like a skylight. You may have to check with your local council regarding building restrictions when installing your solar collector.

8. Can solar collectors be mounted on a flat surface?

Yes they may be mounted on a flat roof, or on the ground by using a stainless steel Flat Roof Frame. The collector should be installed at a minimum of 20o angle to ensure optimal heat pipe operation.

9. How do I protect my solar system during subzero temperatures?

The installation is a closed circuit filled with anti-freeze. It is freeze protected to -20C

10. Will the solar collector be a fire hazard during hot, dry weather?

No. The solar collector's components are all high temperature rated and non-flammable so even during strong sunlight with the circulation pump turned off (stagnation), the system will not catch alight or give off any sparks. The majority of the solar collector's components are stainless steel, aluminum, glass or glass wool.

11. What maintenance of the solar collector is required?

Under normal circumstances no maintenance of the system is required. Due to the shape of the tubes regular rainfall and wind should keep the tubes clean. Should a tube be broken it should be replaced. This is an inexpensive and easy job. Our solar collectors can operate with several broken tubes, however the efficiency will be reduced.

12. Can solar collectors be used for a large scale hot water production?

Yes. Our solar collectors can be connected in series or parallel to provide large scale hot water production for a commercial settings such as a school, hotel or office building. There is really no limit to the size of the system, however collectors must be installed in banks of no more than 120 tubes (in series).

13. Can I heat my swimming pool or spa using a solar collector?

Solar collectors are often used to heat swimming pools effectively. They can keep the pool between 28-30C from May through to October. A three way valve can be used to divert the solar heating to the house hot water system which will give an enormous boost to the hot water available, even in winter.

14. Are solar tube collectors more efficient than flat plate collectors?

When comparing peak efficiency levels it may seem that there is little difference between flat plate and evacuated tubes, but this is during minimal heat loss conditions (ie summer). When averaged over a year evacuated tube collectors have a clear advantage. The key points are:

Due to the cylindrical shape of the evacuated tube, the solar tubes are able to passively track the sun throughout the day. Flat plate collector only provide peak energy output at midday when the sun is perpendicular to the collector's surface.

Air is evacuated from the solar tube to form a vacuum. This greatly reduces conductive and convective heat loss from the interior of the tube. As a result wind and cold temperatures have less effect on the efficiency of the evacuated tube collector.

Solar collectors can often be used in subzero temperatures without the system sustaining damage.

Evacuated tubes are strong, long lasting, and should one be broken, inexpensive and easy to replace. If a flat plate collector panel is damaged the whole panel must be replaced.

Due to the high efficiency absorption of solar radiation even during overcast conditions, combined with excellent insulative properties of the solar tube, collectors can heat water all year round (backup from gas and electricity is still required).

Due to the various advantages of evacuated tube collector over flat plate collectors, a smaller collector can be used to provide the same heating performance. For example, a standard household of 4-5 people would usually require a 140-210L water storage tank. Depending on your location, only 30 evacuated tubes would be required to provide all summer hot water needs and a large percentage in other seasons.

Flat plate solar collectors can produce similar heat output to evacuated tube collectors, but generally only during warm, still, sunny conditions. When averaged over an entire year, evacuated tube collector heat output per net m2 of absorber area, is between 25% to 40% greater that a flat plate collector.

 

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