The heated water is stored in an insulated tank or vessel, allowing for use of the heat when required, not only when the sun is shining. Tank capacity and insulation levels must be designed to provide an adequate storage-to-production ratio so that heat is available when required.
A careful design process must be used to determine how much heat can be reliably delivered via a solar hydronic system. This will be the “solar fraction, ” which can range from 100% in some climates to as low as 25% in others. The cost-effectiveness of the system must be compared to the solar fraction and the cost of backup or complimentary heating.
Solar hydronic heating systems will overproduce heat during the summer months. If there is no adequate “dump” for this heat, the system will need to be drained and/or shuttered in the warmer months.
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Solar radiation is collected in glazed or unglazed collectors, in which air is heated in a plenum (chamber for heating air), often employing a circuitous or perforated pathway, and ducted into the building. Some systems use simple convection principles, and others use a fan and ductwork to move air to a desired location in the building.
The air being heated in the panels can be fresh air from outdoors, or it can be recirculated indoor air. It is possible to create a system where the air source can be selected on demand. Heated outdoor air is likely to enter the building at lower temperatures than recirculated air, but can provide much-needed fresh air in a tightly closed home in the winter without adding much strain to the heating system.
Horizontal Ground Loop The collection loop for the heat pump is placed in trenches that are dug to a depth that is below the frost line. Horizontal loops can also be submerged in bodies of water below the expected ice depth.