Solar Hot Water - Integral Collector-Storage Info

If you have settled on the idea of installing a solar hot water heater in your home to replace the traditional one, you have several options. Depending on the climate in which you live, some of the choices will not be available to you. For the most part, however, the choice is yours. Perhaps the first thing you must decide is whether to go with an active or a passive system. An active system uses controlled pumps and valves to move the water from the intake pipe to the solar collector and back into the tank. Most active systems perform these tasks automatically. Passive systems, on the other hand, do not use pumps and controls. Rather, they rely on gravity and the physical properties inherent in water that make it rise when heated. Active systems are typically more expensive and require more maintenance, but they tend to be more efficient that passive systems.

Integral Collector-Storage Systems

One type of solar collector is known as the ICS or Integral Collector Storage system. The basic requirement when installing an ICS system is that you live in a moderate climate. Because there are exposed pipes in an ICS system, should the temperature often reach below freezing the pipes themselves could freeze. This would not only stunt your hot water system, but it might ruin it as well.

ICS System Info

An ICS solar hot water system is made of a few primary components. These include the insulated storage tank, the solar collection tank and the pipes that run between them. ICS systems are also known as “batch” systems because of the way they work. Cold water is pumped into the solar collector in batches. It is stored temporarily in a tank that is contained in a glazed solar collection box. Once preheated by the sun’s energy, the water then passes into the insulated storage tank. The process then repeats itself as long as sun is detected by the solar collector.

Active versus Passive ICS Systems

Active ICS systems use automatic pumps to run the water into the solar collector. It is able to detect when sunlight is hitting it directly and send a signal to the automatic valve which opens and allows water to be pumped to it. When no further sunlight is detected, the valve closes to keep heat trapped in the insulated storage tank. Passive systems have manual valves for bypass and spill out purposes. Passive systems usually run the cold water intake into the backup water heater to forgo the solar collector in case of poor weather or inefficient operation. In this case the water is heated with electricity.

Integral collector storage systems work in moderate climates that seldom see freezing temperatures. Because parts of the pipes are outside, overexposure to freezing weather could cause the pipes to freeze. As far as solar hot water heating systems go, though, it is a fairly simple conception involving the direct movement of cold water through a solar heater and into the tank to be utilized in the home.