There are two types of Solar collector. Evacuated tube and flat panel.
Whilst the flat panel collector arguably has a better appearance, the evacuated tube type perform slightly better as detailed below. They:-
Capture sunlight better as they have a greater surface area exposed to the sun at any time.
Are more efficient in transferring heat.
Can be used in subzero temperatures.
Are durable and if a tube should be broken, it can be easily and cheaply replaced.
Provide excellent performance in overcast conditions.
Require a smaller roof area than comparable flat plate collectors.
Click here to find out more information from the Energy Saving Trust website
Solar Thermal is the heating of stored water by capturing the power of the sun (heat).
Solar thermal technology was discovered in 1767 and has been successfully used to heat hot water systems since the early 1900's. Many warmer countries such as Turkey & Israel use solar thermal as the primary source of heating hot water. With rising UK energy costs and lower system component costs solar thermal is becoming a more attractive alternative than relying on gas & oil.
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Solar Collectors (panels) capture the heat of the sun and transfer that heat via a glycol liquid pumped through a coil in an indirect solar cylinder. The heat from the glycol liquid is indirectly transferred in to the water in the cylinder heating up the water to a preset temperature. The glycol liquid and the domestic hot water never come in to contact with each other (in the same way as a hot water cylinder is heated by a conventional boiler) When there is not enough solar energy the conventional gas boiler or electric immersion heater is used to 'top up' as required.