Solar Heating

Solar radiation may be used to provide space heating, cooling, and domestic hot water, but the economics of the application should be carefully investigated. Returns on the initial investment from savings on fuel costs may permit a payback for solar domestic hot-water systems in about 6 to 10 years. Heating and cooling systems will take much longer. The advantage of solar heat is that it is renewable, nonpolluting, and free. Therefore, use of solar heat will overcome the continuing high cost of energy from other sources and conserve those fuels that are in limited supply. However, the materials used to collect and transfer solar energy (copper, glass, and aluminum) are energy intensive to manufacture and will continue to escalate with rising energy cost.

There are various disadvantages in using solar radiation. For one thing, it is available only when the sun is shining and there are hourly variations in intensity, daily and with the weather. Also, the energy received per square foot of radiated surface is small, generally under 400 Btu/ (hr)(ft2). This is a very low energy flux.
It necessitates large areas of solar collectors to obtain sufficient energy for practical applications and also provide a reasonable payback on the investment.
Solar heating or cooling is advantageous only when the cost of the solar energy produced is less than the cost of energy produced by the more conventional methods.
In general, the cost of solar systems may be reduced by obtaining minimum initial costs, favorable amortization rates for the equipment required, and governmental investment tax credits. Also, continuous heat loads and an efficient heatingsystem design will keep costs low. Bear in mind that the efficiency of solar-system designs for heating or cooling depends on the efficiency of solar collectors, the efficiency of the conversion of the solar radiation to a more useful form of energy, and the efficiency of storage of that energy from the time of conversion until the time of use.
The simplest method of collecting solar energy is by use of a flat-plate-type collector (Fig. 13.28b). The collector is mounted in a manner that allows its flat surface to be held normal, or nearly so, to the suns rays, thereby, in effect, trapping the solar radiation within the collector. Flat-plate-type collectors are used only in low-temperature systems (70 to 180F). Evacuated-tube focusing/concentrating collectors generate much higher temperatures by minimizing heat losses and concentrating sunlight on a reduced absorber surface. Evacuated-tube type collectors operate in a range of 185 to 250F, while the concentrating-type collectors operate in an even higher range of 250 to 500F, or more.
Precautions should be taken in design and installation of solar collectors on lowsloped roofs to prevent excessive roof deflections or overloads. Also, care should be taken to avoid damaging the roofing or creating conditions that would cause premature roofing failures or lead to higher roofing repair, maintenance, or replacement costs. In particular:
1. Solar collectors should not be installed where ponding of rainwater may occur or in a manner that will obstruct drainage of the roof.
2. Solar collector supports and the roof should be designed for snow loads as well as for wind loads on the collectors, including uplift.
3. The installation should not decrease the fire rating of the roof.
4. The roofing should be protected by boards or other means during erection of the collector. If the roofing membrane must be penetrated for the supports or piping, a roofer should install pipe sleeves, flashing, and other materials necessary to keep out water. If bitumen is used, it should not be permitted to splatter on the collector cover plates.
5. At least 24-in clearance should be provided between the bottom of the collector frames and the roof, to permit inspection, maintenance, repair, and replacement of the roof. Similarly, clearance should be provided at the ends of the frames.
6. At least 14-in clearance should be provided between thermal pipes and the roof surface for the preceding reason. The pipes should be supported on the collector frames, to the extent possible, rather than on the roof.
A typical solar heating and cooling system consists of several major system components: collectors, heat storage, supplemental heat source, and auxiliary equipment.

Many liquid solutions are used for heat transmission in solar systems. A typical solution may be a mixture of water and 10% propylene-glycol antifreeze solution.
It is pumped through the collector tubes in a closed-loop circuit to a heat exchanger, where the solution transfers its energy to a water-heating circuit (Fig. 13.28a). The cold glycol solution is then pumped back to the collectors.
The heated water travels in its own closed circuit to a hot-water storage tank and back to the exchanger. Hot water from the storage tank is withdrawn, as required, to satisfy building heating requirements.
The hot water may be pumped from the storage tank to another heat exchanger to produce hot water for domestic use. Hot water from the storage tank may also be pumped through another closed-loop circuit to a heating coil mounted in a central heating blower unit for space heating. In both cases, the cooled water is returned to the storage tank or to the heat exchanger served by the glycol solution.
For use when insufficient solar heat is available, an auxiliary water heater should be added to the system. Providing hot water for heating and domestic purposes, the auxiliary heater may be electrically operated or gas, oil, or coal fired.
When solar heat is to be used for cooling, the hot-water loop must be modified.
A three-way valve is placed in the hot-water line to direct the hot water to an absorption-type water chiller. The chilled water discharge is then pumped to a cooling coil in the main air-handling unit.
Passive solar systems and attention to solar exposure have had a significant impact on HVAC design and architecture of buildings. Proper exposures, shading, and daylighting techniques have gained widespread use.
The methods for establishing accurate heat losses for heating are also applicable for heat gains and air conditioning. It is mandatory that such procedures be used in order that the necessary cooling equipment can be sized and selected with the lowest first cost that will provide reliable and satisfactory service. (See Arts. 13.7 and 13.8.)

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