Solar Heating Engineering Project Dissertation

Solar Heating
Solar Heating

Solar Heating

Design and development of low cost solar thermal systems for domestic use

Background Information

Current trends in energy supply and use are patently unsustainable – economically, environmentally and socially. Without decisive action, energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) will more than double by 2050 and increased oil demand will heighten concerns over the security of supplies. We can and must change our current path, but this will take an energy revolution and low-carbon energy technologies will have a crucial role to play.

Energy efficiency, many types of renewable energy, carbon capture and storage (CCS), nuclear power and new transport technologies will all require widespread deployment if we are to reach our greenhouse gas (GHG) emission goals. Every major country and sector of the economy must be involved. The task is also urgent if we are to make sure that investment decisions taken now do not saddle us with sub-optimal technologies in the long term.

Awareness is growing of the urgent need to turn political statements and analytical work into concrete action. To spark this movement, at the request of the G8, the International Energy Agency (IEA) is leading the development of a series of roadmaps for some of the most important technologies. By identifying the steps needed to accelerate the implementation of radical technology changes, these roadmaps will enable governments, industry and financial partners to make the right choices. This will in turn help societies make the right decisions.

The global energy need for heat is significant in both OECD and non-OECD countries: in 2009 the IEA reported that global energy demand for heat represented 47% of final energy use. Solar heat thus can make a substantial contribution in meeting climate change and security objectives.

Solar heating is a straightforward application of renewable energy; solar domestic hot water heating is already widely used in a number of countries but on a global level contributes to 0.4% only of energy demand for domestic hot water. Moreover, solar heating also includes technologies for other purposes such as space heating and space cooling, and hot water for industrial processes. As different solar heating technologies are at widely differing stages of development and use, policy support must offer custom-made solutions.

Aims and objectives

Project aims

  • Investigate and analysis of current available low cost solutions, its materials, cost, design and manufacturing methods.
  • Design and develop a low cost solar water heating system for domestic use through appropriate thermal management.

Project Objectives

  • Carry out research of the opportunities in low cost solar water heating systems and analyse its uses for domestic application.  
  • Research and analysis suitable materials existent in todays market and compare their design and methods of manufacturing.  
  • Analyse and compare price of other suitable materials in order to produce cost effective alternative.
  • Design and build solar thermal system using Creo Parametric.
  • Examine the performance of proposed low cost solar water heating systems for domestic purposes.

Literature Review

A solar water heating system for domestic use that is both affordable and effective in actualizing its intended purpose will be designed in this project. The system works by not only harnessing solar power and subsequently using this renewable source of energy to heat water depending on the environmental condition or intended use of the water rather than using electricity; but also by ensuring that domestic utility bills are significantly reduced as well as making sure that there is optimization of the effectiveness and efficiency of the system.

The Creo software will be outsourced for the designing of the solar water heating system, particularly for the purpose of domestic use. As a result, in the attempts to achieve the aims and objectives of the research project it will highly possible to ensure that solar water heating systems are not only made affordable, but also considerably efficient and effective.  

Solar Hot Water Systems, abbreviated as SHWS are widely used in domestic as well as industrial applications. SHWS of 200 liter capacity are most suited for a family with two adults and two children. The performance of SHWS is a widely researched area. A briefly reviewed summary of studies on SHWS is presented and discussed in the literature review chapter.

A review of 50 years of research work on solar energy has been discussed by Hoogwijk and Graus (2008). The history of MIT, USA Solar House-I, MIT Solar House-II, MIT Solar House-III and MIT Solar House-IV are enumerated in detail. Useful heat gains ranging from 20 to 40% of the total incident solar radiation are reported. The relative performance of gray absorber, selective absorber and low-reflecting glasses are reported.

Heller (2000) has reported 15 years of research and development on solar heating in Denmark. As a result, I would like to ensure that I undertake a review of the possible low cost alternative materials as well as appropriate and effective models with potential to perform optimally. This goes a long way in ensuring that households are saved a significant proportion of their utility bills as well as improvement of the performance of the solar water heating systems.

In the recent decades, attempts have been made to design and fabricate low cost solar water heaters. Henning and Wiemken (2007) studied the effects of storage tank volume and configuration on efficiency of thermosyphon solar water heaters. Whereas Shariah and Shalabi (1997) presented the effects of auxiliary heater on annual performance of thermosyphon solar water heater simulated under variable operating conditions.

The effects of system configuration and load pattern on the performance of thermosyphon solar heaters were analyzed by Henning and Wiemken (2007); whereas, plastic film liquid layer solar water heaters have also been designed and developed. Thus, I will personally embark on the attempts to consider the effects of a wide array of factors that are likely to influence the performance of a solar water heating system.

Kalogirou and Papamarcou (2000) have modeled the thermosyphon solar water heating system and validated the model with experimental data. An analytical approach has been employed by Belessiotis and Mathioulakis (2002) to analyze the performance of thermosyphon solar domestic hot water system. An alternative approach to thermosyphon solar energy water heater performance analysis and characterization has been put forth by Norton et al (2001).

Modeling the performance of a large area plastic solar collector has been carried out by Janjai et al (2000). Artificial neural networks have been used by Kalogirou et al (1999) for the performance prediction of a thermosyphon solar water heater. Four types of system data are used to train the network. Prediction accuracy within 2.2 C is obtained. These studies have demonstrated that Domestic Solar Hot Water System (DSHWS) performance can be modeled with good accuracy.  

Henning and Wiemken (2007) has reported the measurements of SHWS in residential houses’ performance over a period of 22 years and proposed methods for simulation. Upto 63% reductions in glass cover transmissivity were reported over the years due to fogging. As a result, I consider this as one of the ways of increasing the longevity of these solar water heating systems mainly because I have previously been a victim of cold showers due to breakdown of solar water heating system or electricity failures.

Various system configurations were investigated by Abd-al Zahra and Joudi (1984) to improve the performance of solar heaters. Lee and Sharma (2007) attempted to improve the solar absorption efficiency by an affordable solar selection coating and observed the tank water temperature to increase by 5 °C when compared to commercial black paint coating.

A 15 °C increase in tank water temperature over conventional ones was observed by Ardente et al (2005) using thermoplastic natural rubber tubing as absorber plate. This is highly likely to be an important strategy to me, especially during the winters when the temperatures are very low because it will ensure that the relevant water temperatures are maintained by the solar water heating system.

In recent times, considerable efforts have been made towards optimization of the system performance of SHWS while also ensuring that the prices of these systems do not go beyond the purchasing power of many households. I can personally articulate the inconvenience caused by poorly performing solar water heating systems, especially when there are numerous domestic chores mainly because at our elementary school I had to undergo this experience first-hand.

Duffie and Beckman (1991) have analyzed the performance optimization of solar water heater flat plate collector based on the impact of the number and type of cover plate. Therefore, it would be my pleasure and delight to embark on this noble and worthy project to make sure that I can contribute to the well-being of the living standards of the humanity.

Collector surface coating (black paint, black chrome painting), PU form density (high, low) of the collector insulation and tank (with and without) insulation are used as control parameters. It is undoubtedly evident that through these measures the insulation forms used on a day-to-day basis are going to be utilized in this project to ensure an appropriate model is designed and developed.     

According to Ambrosini et al (2010), it is worthwhile to make significant attempts in ensuring that economic optimization of low-flow solar domestic heating water plants has been attained. The flow has been provided by solar PV panels. Life cycle cost analysis has been carried out and the PV powered system is found to be economic when compared to direct electricity use. This implies that even the households that are off-grid can enjoy the privileges enjoyed by those connected to electricity.

I can vividly connect with this because once in a while there are times during my travelling expeditions when I have been forced to bath with cold water or take longer time to warm the bathing water using other forms of water heating methods.  Sharia and Shalabi (1997) have carried out experiments on rotor wind turbine with the help of wind tunnel towards optimization of the configuration of the wind turbine. Ardente et al (2005) has done the optimization of a natural circulation two phase closed thermosyphon flat plate solar water heater.

Mugnier and Jakob (2012) have optimized the minimum backup required for the SHWS under varying load conditions. Optimization of tilt angles for the solar collectors is attempted by Crawford et al (2003) and that for the low latitude countries. Optimal design for a thermosyphon solar water heater is carried out by Shariah and Shalabi (1997). Hoogwijk and Graus (2008) have attempted towards the optimization of tank-volume-to-collector-area ratio for a thermosyphon solar water heater.

Capital cost as well as economic viability of thermosyphon solar water heaters made from alternate materials is also essential in the attempts of improving the feasibility of such a project. This is because development and production of low cost materials without compromising the performance of the solar water heating systems intended for domestic use will make them more affordable, and this will go along way in promoting the adoption of these systems by a wider population. Considering the financial constraints facing many people globally, I am very sure that through increased affordability many people will have access to these solar water heating systems.

Wara and Abe (2013) have designed and developed a one dimensional transient numerical model for flat plate solar thermal devices and gave a description of the fundamentals of a model for the design as well as optimization of flat plate collectors. Dalenbäck (2010) has presented a detailed techno-economic appraisal of integrated collector in addition to the storage water heating systems. I consider the adoption of these new technologies to be really important since they play a crucial role promoting efficiency and effectiveness.

Lee and Sharma (2007) have made a performance evaluation of an integrated solar water heater as an option for building energy conservation. Daytime collection efficiencies of about 60% and overall efficiencies of about 40% are reported. Kalogirou (2009) has conducted a study on optimization of size and structure for solar energy collection system by considering three solar energy applications and economical indices like net present value and internal return rate. The author has suggested that best performance is obtained with the use of unglazed, single and double glazed collectors. 

Duffie and Beckman (2012) have discussed the design of solar thermal systems utilized for storage of pressurized hot water for applications in the industries, in which the authors developed a design space methodology procedure for component sizing of concentrating collectors, pressurized hot water storage and load heat exchanger by considering the design variables as collector area, storage volume, solar fraction, storage mass flow rate and heat exchanger size.

I am highly optimistic that through these measures, it will be possible to ensure that low cost solar water heating systems are designed and developed that are effective and optimally functioning, which subsequently improves their performance. Liu et al (2012) have optimized the system parameters of solar hot water system of with the help of f-chart and models. In addition, Liu et al (2012) have emphasized that discharge from different levels in solar storage tanks will improve the performance of the system.  


The research design to be adopted in this project is a mixed research design, because it will involve a review of both primary and secondary information concerning the research topic while at the same time enabling experimentation of the low cost solar system that shall be designed and developed in course of this project to determine its performance. As a result, the principal method that will be used in this project is experimentation, which shall involve conducting experimental trials on various low cost solar water heating systems in order to determine the optimal design in terms of performance efficiency and effectiveness. 

Creo Parametric software is used to design and develop the proposed low cost solar water heating system intended for domestic use. The choice for the Creo Parametric software is because it is undoubtedly one of the most flexible and powerful 3D modeling software in the market today. This is because Creo Parametric has the core modeling strengths you’d expect from the industry leader, along with breakthrough capabilities in additive manufacturing, model based definition (MBD) and smart connected design. Streamlined workflows and an intuitive user interface complete the picture.


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