Anatomy of a Commercial Solar Hot Water System

Our systems use  locally manufactured Thermo Dynamics solar thermal panels. These panels have been custom designed to meet the demands of commercial hot water heating, and are ideally suited to preheating large volumes of domestic hot water or keeping swimming pools warm.

The suns' rays pass through the glass surface of the thermal panel, and get absorbed by the black composite fins found inside. Each fin has a copper tube embedded within it. The glycol flows through the copper tube, thus absorbing heat from the thermal panel to be carried back to the heat exchangers.

Commercial solar panel arrays are typically roof mounted, but can accomodate several different alternatives such as ground mount or wall mount installations.

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Inside each thermal panel you will find a series of black Sunstrip absorber fins. These fins directly absorb the sun's radiant heat energy, and also absorb some of the heat of the air inside the thermal panel through convection.

The Sunstrip absorber consists of two layers of aluminum sheet metal that sandwich a copper tube between them, forming a metallurgical bond at the molecular level. This molecular bond ensures that the absorber transfers the maximum amount of heat to the glycol flowing through the copper tube. That's why the Sunstrip fins are used in more than 20 different countries, and are the most widely distributed solar absorber material in the world.

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Every solar hot water system needs a place to store the heat energy that is collected from the sun. That's where the solar hot water storage tank comes into play!  Commercial hot water storage tanks feature a robust and efficient glass-lined architecture that ensures longevity and minimizes heat losses through the tank wall.  A typical commercial installation will have multiple storage tanks, with the exact number determined by system size and hot water consumption.

The solar storage tank gets plumbed into the existing hot water system in your building, and provides pre-heated water to your existing hot water heating system. This saves tons of energy because now instead of your hot water boiler having to heat up cold city or well water from 5°C, it only has to heat up the preheated water from your solar storage tanks, which can be as high as 70°C, depending on the weather and time of year.

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The shell and tube heat exchanger is the part of the system that exchanges heat energy from the hot glycol to the water in the solar storage tanks.

Once the glycol has been pumped through the panels and back down to the heat exchanger, it travels through several parallel copper tubes.  These tubes are surrounded by a shell which has water pumped through it, causing heat transfer from the copper glycol tubes to the water flowing through the shell.

Once the water has been heated up, it travels back to the solar storage tank array, where it cycles from the hottest tank back to the coldest before repeating the process.

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The line run is the part of the system that carries glycol from the heat exchangers to the solar panels, and back again.  It also carries sensor wiring from the monitoring and control systems to sesors integrated into the thermal array.

The piping used in a commercial line run is typically rigid type L copper . The copper piping is insulated with commercial outdoor rated insulation that is protected from ultra-violet degradation either by design or by virtue of a protective membrane or encasement.

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We're the solar experts

We've been installing solar panels in Nova Scotia for decades, so we know a thing or two about how to get the job done. As the primary installation company under the Halifax Solar City program, we have been installing literally hundreds of solar systems each year. We are fully certified through the Nova Scotia Construction Safety Association, and take pride in providing a full solar system solution to homeowners; from permitting and design, to installation and maintenance.

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Monitor your system in real time

With Doctor Solar's Web Energy Logging System, you can see exactly how well your solar hot water system is performing in real time. Just log in to your monitoring system web page to check up on all the aspects of your solar system, including how much money you've saved and how well the system is performing. Best of all, when you equip your commercial system with monitoring capabilities, detecting problems within the system becomes a simple task. In fact, your system can email Doctor Solar if there's a problem.