1. What is the difference between photovoltaic solar panels (PV) and solar water heating systems (SWH) ?
Photovoltaic is the name of a method of converting solar energy into direct current electricity using semiconducting materials that exhibit the Photovoltaic effect: converting energy from the sun into a flow of electrons. Photovoltaic collectors (or ‘solar panels’ as they are often called) produce a direct current that can then be used in a household. Solar water heating (SWH) systems are something else entirely; While they also utilize solar energy, here the similarities end. SWH collectors absorb solar energy to heat up copper heat exchanging pipes within, then store the hot water in an insulated tank, available upon demand. SWH systems achieve higher efficiency because there is no lost energy in converting electricity to heat.
2. How do SWH systems work?
Solar energy heats the water flowing in the copper tubing inside the collector. By natural convection, hot water rises and flows into the storage tank, while cold water is taking its place to be heated. The insulated tank can retain the hot water for a long time with minimal loss of heat. This is called a Thermosiphon system. In this type of systems, the tank must be above the collector, to allow for the natural flow. When it is not possible to have the tank above the collector, from constructional or aesthetic reasons, a forced circulation setup is used. Forced circulation systems have a small, energy efficient pump that circulates the water between the tank and the collector.
3. Why are solar water heating systems more efficient for heating water?
When converting solar energy to electricity, much energy is lost in the process as heat is generated. Using then the electricity to heat water, much energy is again needed as electric water heaters require a high current resulting in the draw of high amperage. SWH systems use the heat created by the sun directly, thus heating water quickly and economically.
4. Where can a Chromagen SWH system be installed?
SWH systems can be installed anywhere where there is enough exposure to sun (a few hours per day). In Belize, the ideal angle to the sun would be 25 degrees, facing south or south-east. SWH systems can be installed on almost any kind of roof structure or stand alone on the ground.
5. Can I install a Chromagen SWH system if I already use an electric or gas heater?
Absolutely. If an existing water heating system already exists, a Chromagen SWH system can be compatible with it. In most cases, we install an Independent SWH system sized according to the hot water demand; from the SWH unit the water flows to the gas or electric heaters already hot, eliminating or minimizing their need to further heat the water. As the life span of Chromagen SWH systems are much longer than those of gas or electrical heaters, overtime the SWH system can replace them entirely, further saving on long term costs. Chromagen SWH heaters are modular; as your demand increase, the units can be added to or scaled up, growing with your need.
6. How do I calculate how much I can save on energy costs using SWH systems?
Heating up a 40-gallon tank consumes approx. 6.6 kWh (see calculation HERE). To determine your energy cost per year, the following simple calculation can be used:
6.6 kWh / day needed x 0.5 $ / kWh = $3.3 BZ per day, or $1204 per year.
Our systems Return On Investment are between 2-3 years. Lasting well over 10 years even in harsh environments, Chromagen SWH systems are the most economical and efficient systems in the market. Considering they utilise renewable and clean energy, they simply are the best possible choice for heating water.
7. what happens if there is no sun?
Though there is seldom not enough sun to heat up water in the collectors, our systems come standard with an electric back up heating element for those days that there is not sufficient sun energy to heat up water. The electric back up can be turned on by a simple switch on demand, or set on a timer.
8. How much maintenance do Chromagen SWH systems require?
Our systems require no regular maintainace; in areas where there is scale in the water (‘hard water’) we recommend a scale filter installed prior to entering the system. Inside all our systems are Magnesium sacrificial anodes, that will absorb corrosion before it can cause damage to the tank. These anodes can be replaced every few years, depending on the quality of water.
9. Should I install a Chromagen SWH system in my home or business?
If you require hot water and have even limited access to the sun, Chromagen SWH systems will save you up to 70% on your water heating costs, providing you with clean, renewable energy without hassle or maintenance.
We will be happy to give you a free assessment on your savings. Call us or email us to save money and utilize the suns clean energy.