Flat Plate Solar Collector – Cheapest Way To Heat Your Water

Flat plate solar collectors are the most cost-effective and commonly used type of solar thermal collector, which are used to generate lots of free hot water for the home as their construction and operation is simplicity itself. These flat plate collectors have the advantage of absorbing not only the energy coming directly from the sun, but also the diffused solar energy that has been reflected around the panel itself.

Flat plate solar hot water systems can be used in virtually any type of location or climate as the fuel they use to heat the water comes directly from the sun, which is absolutely free. Solar hot water panels use the suns rays to heat either water or some form of heat transfer fluid inside the collector with the heated water held in the storage tank in a similar fashion to a conventional electrically heated hot water tank ready for use when needed.

In most domestic households, heating water is the single biggest energy use, more than cooking, with up to one third of a homes electricity and gas consumption being used just to heat water on a daily basis. This amount of energy consumption can be significantly, and in most cases, totally reduced by utilising solar energy. Unlike traditional forms of water heating, solar hot water panels are inexpensive, which means that you will get your return on investment much more quickly with solar water heating.

There are many types of solar heating systems to choose from. They are categorised depending on panel technology, panel location and heating fluid transfer method. Depending on the collector (panel) type they can be either closed-loop or open-loop, passive or active with each system having its own advantages and disadvantages. Which one to choose will depend on your own needs, your budget and your location.

So How Do These Solar Collectors Work?

A “solar flat plate collector” typically consists of a large flat heat absorbing plate, usually a large sheet of copper or aluminium as they are both good conductors of heat, and which are painted or chemically etched black to absorb as much solar radiation as possible for maximum efficiency. This blackened heat absorbing surface has several parallel copper pipes or tubes called risers, running length ways across the plate which contains the heat transfer fluid, typically water. These copper pipes are bonded, soldered or brazed directly to the absorber plate to ensure maximum surface contact and heat transfer. Sunlight heats the absorbing surface which increases in temperature. As the plate gets hotter this heat is conducted through the risers and absorbed by the fluid flowing inside the copper pipes which is then used by the household.

The pipes and absorber plate are enclosed in a lightweight insulated metallic or wooden box with a sheet of glazing material, either glass or plastic on the front to protect the enclosed absorber plate and create an insulating air space. This glazing material does not absorb the suns thermal energy to any significant extent and therefore most of the incoming radiation is received by the blackened absorber. The air gap between the plate and glazing material traps this heat preventing it from escaping back into the atmosphere. As the absorber plate warms up, it transfers heat to the fluid within the collector but it also loses heat to its surroundings.

There are several different ways to heat water for use in the home. Solar water heating systems that use flat plate solar collectors to capture the suns energy can be classed as either direct or indirect systems by the way in which they transfer the heat around the system. In order to heat your water successfully and use it during both the day and the night, you will need to have both a solar collector to capture the heat and transfer it to the water and also a hot water tank to store this hot water for use as needed. The solar thermal collector is usually connected to a water storage tank either on the roof directly above the panel or in an attic space below. With flat plate solar hot water panels, the hot water can flow back and forth, in and out of the tank, which continuously heats the water.

Sizing Your Flat Plate Solar Collector

Sizing a Solar Flat Plate Collector for use in a solar hot water or heating system depends upon the hot water demand throughout the day. If your homes hot water consumption or maximum water temperature is reduced, your hot water demand may be supplied by a smaller solar array that is easy to install on the roof. Also, smaller systems are cheaper to install and will pay for themselves sooner through energy savings. System sizing of course depends on your hot water temperature and consumption but general rules of thumb can be used to help give an idea of a system size.

A single thermal panel of 20 to 30 square feet can heat about 60 gallons (300 litres) of water a day which is about the size of a standard hot water storage tank. In general, you will need about 10 to 16 square feet of flat plate solar collector area per person giving about 1.5 to 2.0 gallons of hot water storage per square foot of collector area. So for a family of four persons this translates into 40 to 60 square feet of collector plate area and 60 to 120 gallons of hot water storage. Then a solar hot water heating system for a typical family of four would need at least two standard solar flat plate collectors of about 32 square feet (4 x 8 ft) each.

Flat-plate thermal collectors seldom track the sun’s daily path across the sky as they are usually fitted to a fixed roof. However, their fixed mounting usually allows the panel to be tilted towards the south (in the northern hemisphere) to minimize the angle between the sun’s rays and the panels surface at noon time. Tilting flat-plat collectors toward the south provides a higher rate of energy at noon time and more total energy over the entire day. Correct orientation of the solar thermal collector allows for a smaller panel to be installed or higher temperatures to be reached, as well as reducing their payback period.

Selecting the right solar collector for a solar hot water heating system for your home is very important and doing a bit of research and your homework in advance will ensure that your flat plate solar hot water panels will meet the needs of the particular solar heating design required for your home.

Charged Off Debts and Debts in Collections – What Can Collectors Do To Me?

You are behind on a credit card or other unsecured loan (a loan that does not have any collateral like a car, boat or house). And the first call from a debt collector has come into you. What is their next step? Can they put you in jail? Can they sue you? Can they threaten to call your boss and have you fired?

Since I had 12 credit cards and one personal loan in delinquent status back in 1998 and 1999, I know what you are going through. The fear of the unknown is probably very large for you right now. Get some peace of mind! I will explain what can and cannot happen to you.

1. You will not go to jail for not paying your loan.

The police will not show up at your door with handcuffs. We do not have debtor prison in the USA. In fact it is a violation of the FDCPA (Fair Debt Collection Practices Act) for anyone to threaten you with arrest!

2. The debt generally does not get sold to a collection agency until you have been late for six months.

Your creditor is hoping to get payment from you. But after 180 days, he has to clean up his books. So he will transfer or sell your debt to a collection agency. This is called a charge off. This does not mean that your debt has been wiped out! It is an accounting term; your debt still remains.

3. You can control the collector’s phone calls to you.

Collectors can only contact you during reasonable hours, which generally is 8am-9pm your time. If you do not want to be called anymore, either at work, at home, or both, you must get the mailing address of the collection agency and send a notice to stop calling, IN WRITING. Some collection employees are good about putting notes in your file to stop calling but many are not good about this. I recommend that you send this Certified with Proof of Mailing in case they continue to call you. That way you have proof to threaten them with legal action for violating the FDCPA.

4. You can control the collector’s mailings to you.

Same as the phone calls. If you send them written notice to not contact you by mail, they must stop. Though they legally can send you two more notifications. One, they received your notice and will stop contact with you. Two, they are taking an action against you, such as a lawsuit. Everything else will stop.

5. They will contact your relatives, employer and possibly friends.

Generally only if they cannot find you. This is called skip tracing. Legally the collector can only discuss the debt with you, so he will use phrases like “It is very important that I speak with ____” or “Please have ____ call me as soon as possible.” They will try to get your phone number or address.

Your relatives and friends can tell the collector to stop calling them.

If your employer does not want you getting phone interruptions while on duty, the collector is supposed to stop calling. Which makes sense because the collector has zero chance of getting any money from you if you get fired!

6. The collector cannot threaten to sue you.

The key word here is “threaten”. If the collector has started the legal paperwork to take you to court, then he can tell you that because it is a fact, not a threat. So if you receive this call or letter, take it very seriously.

7. If the collector wins in court, he will get a judgment against you.

The judgment is what allows a collector to legally garnish your wages, garnish your bank account, put a lien on your house, and even sell your car to collect the debt. He cannot garnish social security payments, retirement accounts, disability payments, etc.

A collector usually will not spend the money to take you to court if you have no assets that he can get to. This is called being judgment-proof. So if you are unemployed and have few assets, the judgment is all bark and no bite.

Hopefully this relieves the fear of the unknown for you. So if a collector calls, do you want him to stop? Do you want to negotiate the debt with him? Do you see yourself as judgment-proof so the debt will never be collected? You now know what can and cannot happen to you if you do not settle or pay off your debt. Sleep peacefully tonight!

Home Solar Power – The Installation Overview

For the purposes of this overview, I’m going to hit on two options you have for installing solar power in your home – collectors and panels. Keep in mind, however, that you can also take advantage of passive heating systems to draw power into your house through special insulation or simple glass windows – both details we’ll cover in the final section.

Heating Installations

For a solar heating installation, you’ll need a variety of parts, depending on what your heating system will be used for.

Solar Collectors

The solar collector will either be a flat panel attached to your main tank or a network of tubes that will run water through to be heated. The actual size of most solar collectors is around 4-8 feet, though some can be as large as 12 feet if you have a particularly large tank.

If you have a lot of cold or rainy weather, you may want to consider evacuated tubes for your collector as they cut down on outside temperature influences – a major factor in the winter. Only the sun’s energy will impact the temperature of the water or coolant in your collector this way.

Storage Tanks

A solar storage tank acts as the transitional device between the collectors and your water heater. If you use a closed loop system, the water will be heated in the storage tank by a series of coiled pipes that come from your collector. If you use an open loop system, the water will be pumped directly to the solar collectors for heating and then returned to the hot water tank to be used.

Water Heater

This isn’t necessary in an open loop system that is completely disconnected from the grid, but it is highly recommended because you never know when you’ll lose the sun or need some extra hot water. A backup hot water heater will remain in service, only producing hot water when your solar tank runs empty or the thermostat drops too low on the current supply. You can link them up so that hot water from you solar collector goes directly to the hot water heater and then back to your household supply.

Water Pumps

You’ll only need a water pump if you opt for an active system that requires the transfer of coolant or water from your solar collector to a separate tank and then to the hot water heater. You’ll likely only worry about your pump once as they last for 10-20 years and can be powered by any power source in your home – solar or grid-based.

Heat Exchanger

If you have a closed loop system, you’ll need a heat exchanger to transfer heat from the solar collector to your cold water supply. This is usually done by running coolant through a series of pipes and back to a solar tank or the hot water heater. Another alternative is to have a pipe wrapped around another pipe, transferring heat to your fresh water as it is transferred to the facet or bathroom.

Controls and Valves

A number of controls and valves are needed for different types of installations. The “controls” will help to determine where the water is pumped and when the hot water is collected using a thermostat in your hot water tank. The isolation valve is used to cut off and isolate your solar tank if there is ever problem, such as a leak, contamination, or improper heating. This way, you can cut off the solar heated water while maintaining a direct line to your hot water tank if needed.

Another valve you may want to use if you have an open loop system that doesn’t use pumps or controls is a tempering valve. This will allow you to directly impact how hot the water coming out of your facet is. If your water gets too hot, adjust the tempering valve to add more cold water to the mix and get it right.

Installing the Heating System

For the simplest heating systems – the ones where you add a few pipes and install a solar collector and tank on your roof, you can likely do it on your own without any help. However, the more advanced closed loop systems require a great deal of alternation to your plumbing and may even require special permits, so it is a good idea to discuss your solar heating plans with a contractor before starting any new project.