HomeSolar BasicsTypes of Solar Collector

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There are basically three types of thermal solar collectors: flat-plate, evacuated-tube and concentrating.

Flat-Plate collectors comprise of an insulated, weatherproof box containing a dark absorber plate under one or more transparent or translucent covers. Water or heat conducting fluid passes through pipes located below the absorber plate. As the fluid flows through the pipes it is heated. This style of collector, although inferior in many ways to evacuated tube collectors, is still the most common type of collector in many countries.

Evacuated Tube solar water heaters are made up of rows of parallel, glass tubes. There are several types of evacuated tubes (sometimes also referred to as Solar Tubes).

Type 1 (Glass-Glass) tubes consists of two glass tubes which are fused together at one end. The inner tube is coated with a selective surface that absorbs solar energy well but inhibits radiative heat loss. The air is withdrawn ("evacuated") from the space between the two glass tubes to form a vacuum, which eliminates conductive and convective heat loss. These tubes perform very well in overcast conditions as well as low temperatures. Because the tube is 100% glass, the problem with loss of vacuum due to a broken seal is greatly minimized. Glass-glass solar tubes may be used in a number of different ways, including direct flow, heat pipe, or U pipe configuration. Apricus uses a high efficiency heat pipe and heat transfer fin design to conduct the heat from within the evacuated tube up to the header. For more information about heat pipes

Type 2 (Glass-Metal) tubes consist of a single glass tube. Inside the tube is a flat or curved aluminium plate which is attached to a copper heat pipe or water flow pipe. The aluminium plate is generally coated with Tinox, or similar selective coating. These type of tubes are very efficient but can have problems relating to loss of vacuum. This is primarily due to the fact that their seal is glass to metal. The heat expansion rates of these two materials. Glass-glass tubes although not quite as efficient glass-metal tubes are generally more reliable and much cheaper.

Type 3 (Glass-glass - water flow path) tubes incorporate a water flow path into the tube itself. The problem with these tubes is that if a tube is ever damaged water will pour from the collector onto the roof and the collector must be "shut-down" until the tube is replaced.

Concentrating collectors for are usually parabolic troughs that use mirrored surfaces to concentrate the sun's energy on an absorber tube (called a receiver) containing a heat-transfer fluid, or the water itself. This type of solar collector is generally only used for commercial power production applications, because very high temperatures can be achieved. It is however reliant on direct sunlight and therefore does not perform well in overcast conditions.