Solar water heating has been around for some time, it was practised and accepted around the world in countries such as China, Australia, Greece, Turkey, Israel and Japan. It has until recently been too expensive for the average South African consumer – but not anymore.
More and more South African families are switching over to solar water heating as a viable alternative to the traditional warm water cylinder. Solar water heaters are cost and energy effective, and will deliver an optimum amount of hot water throughout most of the year.
Although solar water heating has been successfully introduced into South Africa, it is still not being optimally utilised. When you say “solar water heating”, most people think hot water for shower and bathing – but what else can we use this for? Heating your swimming pool for one! Solar pool heating is easier than you think and a great application for solar power.
The systems available are simple and very user friendly – they are also relatively inexpensive. Most pools use simple, low cost, un-glazed plastic solar collectors. Un-glazed, meaning not covered in a glass casing or other glazed product. Your pool itself becomes the thermal storage for your system, you actually utilize the same pump you use to filter your pool water to circulate water through your solar collectors.
The solar collectors works on very simple principles and come in a variety of shapes, sizes and materials. It mainly consists of most of the following :
- The Solar Collector
- The Filter
- The Pump
- The Flow Control Valve
Each component has it specific task, The Solar Collector does exactly what its name suggests – it is a devise through which the pool water is circulated to be heated by the sun. The Filter – like in your pool – removes debris from the water before it is pumped through the collectors. The Pump circulates the water in the pool and through the filter and then trough the collectors, and finally back into the pool to start the whole process over again. The Flow Control Valve is an essential component to the collector as it is responsible for the flow of water through the solar collector, the flow control valve, is either a manual or automatic device – depending on what system you have.
So to sum up, the water is pumped through the filter, and then through the solar collector(s), where it is heated and returned back to the pool. A little known fact is that in hotter climates your solar collector can be used to cool your pool water. It does that by circulating the water through the Solar Collectors at night.
Solar pool collectors are made of a variety of materials. The type you need will be determined by the climate where you live and how you intend to use your Solar Pool Collector. If you plan to use your pool in temperatures above freezing – then you most likely only need an un-glazed collector system. Un-glazed collectors are, generally made out of heavy duty rubber or UV treated plastic. The plastic is treated with this UV resistant coating to help prolong the life of the heating panels in the collector. Un-glazed Collectors are usually inexpensive due to their simple design and cost effective parts. Un-glazed systems may even be more cost effective than glazed collector systems. The reason being that the Glazed collectors are generally made with copper tubing or aluminium plate. These metal components are then placed in a tempered glass covering – and this is where the real cost come in. Glazed Collectors, do however capture solar heat better in colder climates. They can basically be used all year round, in any climate.
You can quite easily build a solar pool heater yourself. Many South Africans are doing this because it is so cheap and easy to do. If you feel like building your own pool heater read this guide on how to build a home-made solar pool heater.
Installing a solar pool heater pays for itself within its first year to year and a half. They do typically last longer than gas and heated pump pool heaters. If installed properly by a professional, and with regular maintenance, your Solar Pool Heating System should run smoothly and effortlessly for the next 10 – 20 years.
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