Solar heating and cooling

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Solar heating and cooling

The use of solar energy to produce heating or cooling for technological purposes. Beneficial uses include distillation of sea water to produce salt or potable water; heating of swimming pools; space heating; heating of water for domestic, commercial, and industrial purposes; cooling by absorption or compression refrigeration; and cooking. See Solar energy


Production of potable water from sea water by solar distillation is accomplished in several parts of the world by use of glass-roofed solar stills (see illustration). Production of salt from the sea has been accomplished for hundreds of years by trapping ocean water in shallow ponds at high tide and simply allowing the water to evaporate under the influence of the Sun.

Swimming pool heating

Swimming pool heating is a moderate-temperature application which, under suitable weather conditions, can be accomplished with a simple unglazed and uninsulated collector. For applications where a significant temperature difference exists between the fluid within the collector passages and the ambient air, both glazing and insulation are essential.

Space heating

Space heating can be carried out by active systems which use separate collection, distribution, and storage subsystems, or by passive designs which use components of a building to admit, store, and distribute the heat resulting from absorbing the incoming solar radiation within the building itself.

Passive systems can be classified as direct-gain when they admit solar radiant energy directly into the structure through large south-facing windows, or as indirect-gain when a wall or a roof absorbs the solar radiation, stores the resulting heat, and then transfers it into the building. Passive systems are generally effective where the number of hours of sunshine during the winter months is relatively high, where moderate indoor temperature fluctuations can be tolerated, and where the need for summer cooling and dehumidification is moderate or nonexistent.

Active systems may use either water or air to transport heat from roof-mounted south-facing collectors to storage in rock beds or water tanks. The stored heat may be withdrawn and used directly when air is the transfer fluid. When the heat is collected and stored as hot water, fan-coil units are generally used to transfer the heat to air which is then circulated through the warmed space. Standby energy sources are included in designs for active systems, since some method of providing warmth must be included for use when the Sun's radiant energy is inadequate for long periods of time. The standby heater may be something as simple as a wood-burning stove or fireplace, or as complex as an electrically powered heat pump. See Heat pump

Service water heating

Solar water heating for domestic, commercial, or industrial purposes is an old and successful application of solar-thermal technology. The most widely used water heater, and one that is suitable for use in relatively warm climates where freezing is a minor problem, is the thermosiphon type. A flat-plate collector is generally used with a storage tank which is mounted above the collector. A source of water is connected near the bottom of the tank, and the hot water outlet is connected to its top. A downcomer pipe leads from the bottom of the tank to the inlet of the collector, and an insulated return line runs from the top of the collector to the upper part of the storage tank which is also insulated.

The system is filled with water, and when the Sun shines on the collector, the water in the tubes is heated. It then becomes less dense than the water in the downcomer, and the heated water rises by thermosiphon action into the storage tank. It is replaced by cool water from the bottom of the tank, and this action continues as long as the Sun shines on the collector with adequate intensity.

For applications where the elevated storage tank is undesirable or where very large quantities of hot water are needed, the tank is placed at ground level. A small pump circulates the water in response to a signal from a controller which senses the temperatures of the collector and the water near the bottom of the tank. Heat exchangers may also be used with water at operating pressure within the tubes of the exchanger and the collector water outside to eliminate the necessity of using high-pressure collectors. See Hot-water heating system


Cooling can be provided by both active and passive systems.

The two feasible types of active cooling systems are Rankine cycle and absorption. The Rankine cycle system uses solar collectors to produce a vapor (steam or one of the fluorocarbons generally known as Freon) to drive an engine or turbine. A condenser must be used to condense the spent vapor so it can be pumped back through the vaporizer. The engine or turbine drives a conventional refrigeration compressor which produces cooling in the usual manner. See Rankine cycle, Refrigeration

Passive cooling systems make use of three natural processes: convection cooling with night air; radiative cooling by heat rejection to the sky on clear nights; and evaporative cooling from water surfaces exposed to the atmosphere. The effectiveness of each of these processes depends upon local climatic conditions. See Energy storage, Solar cell

McGraw-Hill Concise Encyclopedia of Engineering. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
References in periodicals archive ?
Wang, Report for Solar Heating and Cooling System in Qingdao, 2008.
Wang, Test Report for Solar Heating and Cooling System in Dalian, 2012.
IEA Solar Heating and Cooling Programme Report, Task VII "Central Solar Heating Plants with Seasonal Storage, Canada.
Large scale solar heating and cooling systems in Europe.
"We agree solar heating and cooling technologies have the potential to make an immediate impact on our integrated approach and so we're listening with an intent to increase our income streams," Yeo continues.
For the given application in a solar heating and cooling system, heat storage should take place in a very narrow temperature range of approximately 30[degrees]C (86[degrees]F) in order to fulfill both tasks: support of the heat rejection of the chiller at about 35[degrees]C (95[degrees]F) and contribution to the heating of the building at temperatures above 22[degrees]C (71.6[degrees]F).