The Evacuated tube collector consists of a number of rows of parallel transparent glass tubes connected to a header pipe and which are used in place of the blackened heat absorbing plate we saw in the previous flat plate collector. These glass tubes are cylindrical in shape. Therefore, the angle of the sunlight is always perpendicular to the heat absorbing tubes which enables these collectors to perform well even when sunlight is low such as when it is early in the morning or late in the afternoon, or when shaded by clouds. Evacuated tube collectors are particularly useful in areas with cold, cloudy wintry weathers.
How do solar evacuated tube collectors work?
- Evacuated tube collectors are made up of a single or multiple rows of parallel, transparent glass tubes supported on a frame.
- Each individual tube varies in diameter from between 1″ (25mm) to 3″ (75mm) and between 5′ (1500mm) to 8′ (2400mm) in length depending upon the manufacturer.
- Each tube consists of a thick glass outer tube and a thinner glass inner tube, (called a “twin-glass tube”) or a “thermos-flask tube” which is covered with a special coating that absorbs solar energy but inhibits heat loss. The tubes are made of borosilicate or soda lime glass, which is strong, resistant to high temperatures and has a high transmittance for solar irradiation.
Unlike flat panel collectors, evacuated tube collectors do not heat the water directly within the tubes. Instead, the air is removed or evacuated from the space between the two tubes, forming a vacuum (hence the name evacuated tubes).
- This vacuum acts as an insulator reducing any heat loss significantly to the surrounding atmosphere either through convection or radiation making the collector much more efficient than the internal insulating that flat plate collectors have to offer.
- With the assistance of this vacuum, evacuated tube collectors generally produce higher fluid temperatures than they’re flat plate counterparts so may become very hot in summer.
Inside the each glass tube, a flat or curved aluminium or copper fin is attached to a metal heat pipe running through the inner tube. The fin is covered with a selective coating that transfers heat to the fluid that is circulating through the pipe. This sealed copper heat pipe transfers the solar heat via convection of its internal heat transfer fluid to a “hot bulb” that indirectly heats a copper manifold within the header tank.