Solar Heating Systems: Active & Passive Solar Energy

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Solar Heating Systems

Solar energy reaches earth in the form of heat and light. Solar heating systems utilize this energy to provide heating and cooling in a large number of applications. Some of the common examples of this phenomenon are heating for homes and pools, solar lights, evaporation, desalination and many more.

The Sun remains a paramount source of vast energy that is far more than the actual energy consumption of the entire world at any given time. The use of both passive and active solar energy systems can make a huge impact in our conservation of traditional energy sources such as coal, oil and natural gas.

Solar technologies can be generally categorized into systems that are based upon active solar energy and passive solar energy. Both types of solar heating systems are finding their usage in various applications that are appropriate, depending upon the requirements and economic feasibility.

Passive Solar Energy Technology

This is a relatively a simpler form of solar technology that involves no mechanical systems to retain and exploit sunlight for heating, lighting, cooling or ventilation. The performance of a passive solar energy system is purely based on the use of materials with high heat absorption properties to retain the sun's energy that can be disseminated in the form of heat in effectively designed spaces.

Passive solar energy offers numerous advantages because it requires no additional components or energy to operate. Besides the fixed initial cost involved in the selection of high absorption materials, the operating and maintenance costs are minimal. The added advantage is that these systems do not emit greenhouse gasses during their operation.

Active Solar Energy Technology

Thermal Solar Energy for
Hot Water and Solar Home Heating
Solar Heat Panels
Storage Systems
retain the sun's
heat energy

Essentially, active solar energy technology utilizes solar collecting devices that are designed to capture the sun's energy. The device can be used to store or transfer heat energy through various fluids such as air, water and certain chemicals. The other distinct feature involves the use of some form of mechanical device, which is termed as the moving part of the system. The term active solar energy is derived from this moving part - usually a pump or a fan type device that is used to distribute heat from the collectors.

The fluids are used as a heat transfer medium to dispense heat from the collectors. One of the important components used in this system is a heat exchanger that is designed to transfer actual heat energy carried by the fluids. Solar collectors are generally flat plate collectors or evacuated tube collectors. They are located outdoors and have to be made of durable materials that can withstand harsh weather conditions.

Usually, the collectors are positioned and installed so they are oriented towards the south in the northern hemisphere for optimal collection of the sun's heat energy. One of the important factors for positioning of collectors is to ensure that trees or buildings do not obstruct them. Any obstructions that shade the collectors reduce their ability to collect solar heat and will adversely reduce the performance.

Model of an Active Solar Heating System

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Solar Heating with active or passive Solar Energy Systems