Solar Powered Heater Systems
Say solar energy, and most people will picture photovoltaic solar panels. However that's not all there is to solar power. While photovoltaic technology is the popular one, the venerable solar heater has been around much, much longer. While solar PV converts sunlight directly into electricity, a solar heater uses it to heat water, which can then be used for a variety of different purposes.
A short history of the solar heater
We have been using heat from the sun to power our lives for a long time. While the high-tech solar thermal plants we see in deserts today are the most recent version of this technology, the earliest iteration dates back several millennia.
Around 6,000 BC, Neolithic Chinese villagers built their homes with just one opening facing south, in order to let the low winter sun keep them warm. In ancient Greece, both Socrates and Aristotle were ardent advocates of taking the sun into account while building structures.
About 3,000 years ago, the Chinese discovered that concave mirrors could reflect sun rays to light up fires. This discovery was again made by the Greeks independently around the 5th century BC. The Archimedes heat ray is probably the most famous example of this.
The Greek inventor is said to have used parabolic reflectors placed around the coast of Syracuse to reflect light from the brilliant Mediterranean sun to burn the sails of attacking Roman ships, setting them on fire in 212 BC.
In 1776, solar technology advanced several notches as the first solar collector was invented by the Swiss inventor Horace Benedict de Saussure. His collector was a box with three layers of glass for insulation. The de Saussure solar powered heater could reach temperatures exceeding 230 degrees Fahrenheit.
The next advance in solar heater technology came in 1909 after William Bailey created the first Thermosyphon system which placed a tank of cold water on the roof with a solar collector underneath it. Cold water from the tank was pulled into the solar collector via gravity, which then heated up and expanded. As the heavier, colder water from the tank overhead continuously flows down, it pushed the lighter hot water out.
Israeli scientists working to perfect solar thermal technology in the 1950s created more efficient solar panels with the aid of "selective black surfaces." These new surfaces were far more efficient in collecting and storing heat which made them perfect for the solar heater.
Solar heating systems enjoyed wide public interest again during the 1970s when the price of oil began to increase. Serious investments were made into perfecting solar heating. The first antifreeze based solar heaters thus came out which could harness the power of the sun in milder climates as well.
Today, a variety of different solar powered heaters are available for all budget types, however the basic principle behind them remains the same. Energy from the sun is used to heat up a liquid such as antifreeze or molten salts, which then "exchanges" its thermal energy with water through a heat exchanger. Simpler solar heating systems continue to use water directly; however, they are ill-suited for colder climate as the constant expansion and contraction of water can damage the pipes in the collector.
Solar heaters are just one of the many options you have to go solar. The cost of solar technology has fallen considerably over the past few years. In fact, the time has never been better to go solar. You can easily get a solar power system for yourself without investing anything upfront.
Interested in finding out more? At Verengo® Solar, we have helped thousands of home owners find the perfect solar power system for their use, and we will be glad to help you too. Get a free solar quote from us and find out how much solar power can save you.
What Can You Save With Solar?
With no end in sight for soaring electricity rates, your switch to solar will secure affordable power for your home & family for years to come.