Hot Water - How it works

How does a solar hot water system work?

Solar collectors mounted on a roof are connected to pipes containing a heating fluid mixture of water and antifreeze.

When the sun heats up the solar collectors, the hot fluid is pumped through the pipes to a heat exchange coil in your new twin coil hot water cylinder. Here the captured solar energy is transferred from the hot fluid in the coil to the household's hot water supply. The hot water in the cylinder is connected to the taps, shower, washing machine, etc in the usual way.

In order for the solar water heating system to run safely and efficiently, a range of valves are installed in the heating fluid circuit. A series of temperature sensors are connected to a digital solar controller to switch the system on or off according to the solar energy available. On days of limited sunlight, solar energy alone may not be sufficient to heat the household's water to a usable temperature.

In this case your conventional boiler or your immersion heater (if fitted) can be used to further boost the temperature of the solar heated water.

The diagram shows how a typical Active Solar Heating system layout works. An electronic controller constantly compares the temperature of the solar collectors with the temperature of the water in the cylinder.

Whenever the collectors are hotter than the cylinder, the controller switches on the system's circulating pump. A mixture of antifreeze and water is then circulated through the collectors and the cylinder's heat exchanger, heating the cylinder in just the same way as a central heating boiler.

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