A solar water heater could easily save you a significant amount of money on your water heating cost. Building your own solar thermal panel for heating water is simple. In this blog, we will show you how to build your own solar water heater.
Making your own solar water heater is cheap and easy. Depending on what size and what your purpose is, you could easily heat up to 70 gallons of water for showers or dish-washing or even larger volumes of water for swimming pools or commercial use, using nothing but solar power.
There are simple designs for solar heaters that will allow you to collect heat from the sun and store water as needed. A solar heater could also be used to preheat your water in the winter before your conventional water heater starts heating it, saving you energy and money.
If you have ever burned paper or matchsticks with a magnifying glass as a kid, you surely know the power of the sun for heating objects. The sun’s rays can be concentrated to increase heat. Objects exposed for a long time in direct sunlight also get hot. The sun’s rays can be used to heat water in any season if you get enough sunlight during the day.
The solar heating systems use heat from the sun focused on collector and storage tanks that store hot water with minimum heat loss. The concept is to run supply water through pipes that are heated with solar heat collectors and reflectors to focus heat. The pipes are heated through collectors and reflectors to heat the water which is then stored in the storage tank. Storage tanks have to be well insulated to minimize heat loss.
You can use a small pump to circulate water through the system for an active system. If you don’t use a pump, you will have a passive system, but both the systems work. Below, we are going to discuss different types of solar powered water heaters.
Types of solar water heater
Let’s look at some of the different types of solar water heaters available and also look at their advantages and disadvantages.
1. Unglazed flat solar heat collector
You may find this type of solar heating system being used for heating swimming pool water in the summer, where just a little rise in the temperature is needed. This system consists of large black colored rubber tubes, through which pool water is circulated. This system gives you a slight increase in water temperature during summer and it does not use any collector box or glass cover. The pipes are coiled across a large area so a large volume of water can be heated.
This system is suitable only for heating swimming pool water during the summer when there is plenty of sunlight available. These collectors are called “unglazed” because they don’t have a glass cover like flat plate collectors do. They also don’t use a collector tank or insulation.
2. Concentrating collector
The concentrating heat collector system works in a similar way as a magnifying glass does. It concentrates heat on to the pipes using mirrors and magnifying lenses to concentrate the sun’s rays, producing a higher amount of heat. This system works well when you don’t receive enough sun during the day.
These panels are usually made to follow the sun’s rays at the optimal angle and require axis tracking which can be quite complex. Because of its complexity and size, it is usually used for large scale commercial projects.
3. Flat plate solar collector
This is the most common type of solar water heating panel used. The design of this system is very simple. You need to build an insulated box, use a glass cover and copper or rubber pipes for circulating water, and a reflector for increasing heat. An absorber sheet welded to copper pipe for heat transfer is most commonly used in these systems. There can be slight differences in the way they are built to increase efficiency, but the basic idea is quite simple.
These systems perform well in areas where constant sunlight is available. The performance drops in cold areas and where higher temperature is needed.
4. Evacuated Tube Collectors
These systems are made with an array of double layer glass tubes, with a vacuum in between them that provides an excellent insulation against heat loss. The design is very similar to a hot water flask, designed to keep water hot for a long time. The twin glass tubes have an absorber coating in the inner tubes and the space between the two tubes form a vacuum to reduce heat loss.
DIY flat panel solar water heater
You could easily make your own water heater with step by step instructions given here. The easiest one for you to build would be the flat panel one with copper pipes, aluminum foil heat collectors and a glass cover made in a wooden box. Watch the video below to make your own water heater.
Video Credit: Raphael DIY
To reduce your cost, look for recycled materials, such as recycled pipes and reflectors from your local dump, or try searching where to get cheap materials for all your DIY projects on the internet. Several sites online, like the Freecycle, have many products that can be rebuilt and reused for DIY projects. Enjoy your hot water for free!
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