10 Considerations for Smart Solar-Heating System Design: Page 4 of 4

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Solar heating systems can be an efficient, economical method of space heating.
Solar heating systems can be an efficient, economical method of space heating. With attention to careful design and sizing for your household’s needs, they can provide decades of productive service.
Solar heating systems can be an efficient, economical method of domestic water heating.
Solar heating systems can be an efficient, economical method of domestic water heating. With attention to careful design and sizing for your household’s needs, they can provide decades of productive service.
Solar heating systems can be an efficient, economical method of pool heating.
Solar heating systems can be an efficient, economical method of pool heating. With attention to careful design and sizing for your household’s needs, they can provide decades of productive service.
A natural gas or propane-fired furnace and water heater take care of DHW and space heating in the absence of sun.
A natural gas or propane-fired furnace and water heater take care of DHW and space heating in the absence of sun.
Heat pumps can heat water for both DHW or space heating, as well as provide stand-alone space heating.
Heat pumps can heat water for both DHW or space heating, as well as provide stand-alone space heating.
Gas or electric on-demand water heaters can act as backup for DHW and space-heating applications.
Gas or electric on-demand water heaters can act as backup for DHW and space-heating applications.
Closed-loop systems using an antifreeze heat-transfer fluid are best for cold climes.
Closed-loop systems using an antifreeze heat-transfer fluid are best for cold climes, but require more maintenance than other system types.
PV-powered DC pumps are a perfect match for SHW circulation, since they run when the sun shines.
PV-powered DC pumps are a perfect match for SHW circulation, since they run when the sun shines.
An open-loop system sends potable water through the collectors.
An open-loop system sends potable water through the collectors. Simple and inexpensive, these systems are best in nonfreezing climates.
Drainback systems allow the collectors to drain to prevent freezing or overheating.
Drainback systems allow the collectors to drain to prevent freezing or overheating.
Roof mounting is common for solar heating systems.
Roof mounting is common for solar heating systems. Collectors can be angled for optimum exposure or set flush for streamlined aesthetics with only a minor decrease in efficiency.
Wall-mounted collectors can be vertical for winter-specific exposure or awning-mounted for year-round exposure and shading beneath.
Wall-mounted collectors can be vertical for winter-specific exposure or awning-mounted for year-round exposure and shading beneath.
A ground mount can get your collectors in the sun when orientation, space restrictions, or shading prevents roof-mounting.
A ground mount can get your collectors in the sun when orientation, space restrictions, or shading prevents roof-mounting.
Shading isn’t always a bad thing: Here, winter sun cuts through deciduous branches, while summer foliage will help prevent overheating.
Shading isn’t always a bad thing: Here, winter sun cuts through deciduous branches, while summer foliage will help prevent overheating.
A simple one-tank system may meet your family’s needs at a reasonable price.
A simple one-tank system may meet your family’s needs at a reasonable price. In most climates, solar hot water systems have a quick payback.
Storage tank volume choice is a factor of climate and collector area.
Storage tank volume choice is a factor of climate and collector area: too much storage and water will never come up to temperature; too little storage and overheating becomes a problem.
SHW can help offset a little or a lot of your DHW and space-heating needs.
SHW can help offset a little or a lot of your DHW and space-heating needs. But beware that oversizing systems can result in wasted money and summertime overheating.
Because swimming pools require lower temperatures, less expensive, unglazed pool-specific collectors can be used.
Because swimming pools require lower temperatures, less expensive, unglazed pool-specific collectors can be used.
Flat-plate collectors are the most common type.
Flat-plate collectors are the most common type, and are available in styles for open- and closed-loop systems, and in horizontal and vertical orientations.
Evacuated tubes are more expensive, but can perform better in situations that require higher temperatures.
Evacuated tubes are more expensive, but can perform better in situations that require higher temperatures.
Good system design is critical to optimize performance.
Whether a system is installed to provide winter space heating or summer water heating affects collector area and tilt angle, and storage tank size. Good system design is critical to optimize performance and meet needs without undue cost or excess heat production.
System components can take up a lot of space, especially in large combisystems.
System components can take up a lot of space, especially in large combisystems.
Solar heating systems can be an efficient, economical method of space heating.
Solar heating systems can be an efficient, economical method of domestic water heating.
Solar heating systems can be an efficient, economical method of pool heating.
A natural gas or propane-fired furnace and water heater take care of DHW and space heating in the absence of sun.
Heat pumps can heat water for both DHW or space heating, as well as provide stand-alone space heating.
Gas or electric on-demand water heaters can act as backup for DHW and space-heating applications.
Closed-loop systems using an antifreeze heat-transfer fluid are best for cold climes.
PV-powered DC pumps are a perfect match for SHW circulation, since they run when the sun shines.
An open-loop system sends potable water through the collectors.
Drainback systems allow the collectors to drain to prevent freezing or overheating.
Roof mounting is common for solar heating systems.
Wall-mounted collectors can be vertical for winter-specific exposure or awning-mounted for year-round exposure and shading beneath.
A ground mount can get your collectors in the sun when orientation, space restrictions, or shading prevents roof-mounting.
Shading isn’t always a bad thing: Here, winter sun cuts through deciduous branches, while summer foliage will help prevent overheating.
A simple one-tank system may meet your family’s needs at a reasonable price.
Storage tank volume choice is a factor of climate and collector area.
SHW can help offset a little or a lot of your DHW and space-heating needs.
Because swimming pools require lower temperatures, less expensive, unglazed pool-specific collectors can be used.
Flat-plate collectors are the most common type.
Evacuated tubes are more expensive, but can perform better in situations that require higher temperatures.
Good system design is critical to optimize performance.
System components can take up a lot of space, especially in large combisystems.

9. Frequency of Use

Determine frequency of use—when will your system be used and how often? This is often overlooked when designing a system. Frequency will determine the type of collectors used, solar loop type, and storage tank size. If you want year-round domestic water heating, then this will not be a concern. If you want to heat water for a summer camp, then you know the load will be pretty constant throughout the day for showers and food service—components for warm weather and minimal storage are called for. If you want space heating, maximize your system’s winter performance and incorporate summer heat-dumping capability.

10. Mechanical Room

Measure the space available for mechanical equipment. Solar thermal systems require tanks, pumps, controllers, and heat exchangers. In most cases, the building’s mechanical room can house the solar equipment. If that space is already full, you will have to be creative. Is there a closet or corner of another room that can be used? If you live in the deep South, what about the attic or crawl space? Can an outdoor shed be insulated and made into a remote mechanical room? Other options are to use a one-tank system with an integrated backup electric element or a single storage tank with a tankless backup heater that can be wall-mounted.

For solar water-heating systems, you will need room for the existing water heater and the new solar tank. If you plan on replacing an old tank-type water heater with a solar tank with an integrated heat source, then no extra space will be needed.

For space-heating systems, the floor space needed for equipment depends on how the solar heat will be stored. The size of storage tank will determine the space needed. If the slab of a radiant floor system is the storage medium, no space needs to be set aside.

Pool systems do not have separate storage, as the pool serves as the storage. All of these systems will need pumps, controls, and, possibly, small drainback or expansion tanks. These components are usually mounted on a wall (even above the solar tank), so they normally don’t take up much space. Always leave enough room for future servicing.

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Kurt Koegel has more than 25 years of experience in the plumbing and heating industry, and holds a master plumber’s license in multiple states. He is one of the first 10 professionals in the nation to be certified through the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) as a certified solar heating installer.

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