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Energy from the sun can be tapped to provide a clean source of home energy. This lesson will introduce you to the ways we use energy in the home, and how solar energy can be used to meet some, or all, of a homes energy needs. It will also address safety, codes and covenants, and permits for Pennsylvania.

End Uses of Energy in the Home

Energy is used in many ways in the home, including space heating and cooling, water heating, refrigeration, appliances, lighting, televisions, computers, stereos, and more. Residential energy use follows a typical pattern. Normally, people get up in the morning and get ready for work, and as they get ready for work, they shower, and fix breakfast. The activities surrounding getting ready for work in the morning makes a peak in home energy use, generally from about 6:00 a.m. to about 8:00 a.m. When people are away from the home during the day, the homes energy use is low, but when they arrive home from work in the evening, energy use in the home goes up again. Preparation of the evening meal, domestic chores, and leisure activities make a larger peak in home energy use in the evenings. Energy use is lowest at night when people are sleeping.

This graph illustrates a typical energy consumption pattern in homes. Source: National Center for Appropriate Technology.

According to DOEs Energy Information Administration, almost half of the average home's energy consumption is used for heating. Another 17 percent is used for water heating, 6 percent for cooling rooms, and 5 percent for refrigeration.

This chart illustrates how energy is used in homes. Due to rounding, percentages may not add to exactly 100 percent. Source: DOE Energy Information Administration.

Source: Alliance to Save Energy


Fossil fuels account for the nearly all residential energy use. Displacing fossil fuel use with renewable energy resources such as solar can make a significant contribution to reducing harmful emissions that contribute to global warming. Using renewable energy resources like solar also can reduce dependence on the utility grid, and reduce energy costs. Back to Top

Energy Efficiency First

Installing energy-efficient systems in a home is more cost-effective than meeting the energy needs of less-efficient equipment with solar energy. Reducing electricity use is the best and least expensive way to save energy and money. A homeowner interested in solar energy should be made aware that solar energy systems will provide a much higher fraction of the total energy used in the home if energy-efficiency measures are taken first. Although some efficiency measures amount to installing and using more energy-efficient equipment, some efficiency measures relate to energy-use habits.

Decreasing hot water requirements or electric requirements of the home will decrease the size of the solar waterheating system or solar electric system and, therefore, will reduce the cost of the solar systems to be installed. Decreasing the hot water requirements of the home from 20 gallons of hot water per person per day to 15 gallons per day will reduce the solar water system cost by about 20%. Every kilowatt-hour you trim off your projected annual use in a PV-based system will reduce your initial setup cost by $10-$12. Being smart about the appliances and lights you choose will allow you all the convenience of a typical home while consuming far less energy. That can shave thousands of dollars off the initial solar energy system cost. The homeowner should consider these energy-efficiency strategies: Replace appliances, lighting, heating and cooling equipment, and other products that are more than 10 years old with an ENERGY STAR model. ENERGY STAR labeled products meet strict energy use guidelines, using about 30 percent less energy than their conventional counterparts. Choosing ENERGY-STAR products can save families about a third on their energy bill with similar savings of greenhouse gas emissions, without sacrificing features, style or comfort. To find ENERGY STAR product lists, go to www.energystar.gov/. Switch electric space heating, water heaters and clothes dryers to natural gas or propane. Replace older full-size fluorescent lamps with newer, more efficient models. Most common full-sized fluorescent lighting fixtures are equipped with T-12 (1-1/2 inch diameter tubes) lamps and magnetic ballasts. This technology started to make its way into American homes in the 1940s. Many of these older fluorescent fixtures are still in use today. Although this lighting technology is much more efficient than incandescent lighting, new full-sized fluorescent technologies are available today that are even more efficient. The new lamps, T-8 (1-inch diameter tubes) and T-5 (5/8-inch diameter tubes) produce much better quality light because of better coatings on the inside of the tube and higher frequency ballasts. The new lamps are more efficient because of their smaller diameter and higher operating frequency. T-8 and T-5 lamps use ballasts specifically made for them; do not use the new lamps on the old T-12 ballasts. Replace incandescent lights with compact fluorescent lamps. The most common lighting in the home is incandescent. This technology basically uses heat to create light. Incandescent lighting is inefficient, converting about 90% of the electric energy to heat, only 10% to light. Most incandescent fixtures can use compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). CFLs are small fluorescent lamps that have the ballast built into the base. Early CFLs (manufactured in the 1990s) used magnetic ballasts and were heavy, relatively large, and flickered when they were turned on. Modern CFLs use electronic ballasts, are smaller, lighter, and come on instantly. CFLs use about one-third as much electric energy to produce the same light as an incandescent lamp. Most CFLs cannot be used with dimming, and CFLs in general do not like enclosed fixtures, where they

Image: NREL/PIX 07737

can get too hot. Install lighting controls. Lighting equipment in the home is generally controlled by light switches. The biggest problem with light switches is that they can be left on when not in use. Lighting controls that can be installed include timers and occupancy sensors. Timers can be installed that will turn off the lights after a set time interval. Timers work well in places where the use is intermittent and the occupancy of the space is for short periods of time, such as stairways, hallways, and closets. There are two basic types of occupancy sensors: Passive Infrared Radiation sensors, and Ultrasonic sensors. Both types have their strengths and weaknesses, and some more expensive occupancy sensors include both types. Occupancy sensors sense when a person is in the space controlled, and turn the lights on. As long as the sensor senses someone is in the room, the lights stay on. After the person leaves the space, the sensor turns off the lights after a pre-set time interval. Problems associated with occupancy sensors include false ons (caused by pets, mainly) and false offs (caused when the person in the room does not move enough to keep the lights on). Occupancy

sensors work well in laundry rooms, workshop areas, and kitchens. If using occupancy sensors in bedrooms and bathrooms, an ultrasonic or dual-sensor type occupancy sensor is recommended. Install low-flow shower heads and faucet aerators. Low-flow shower heads and faucet aerators can significantly reduce the amount of hot water used in the home. There are many different styles to choose from. Insulate the current water heater, as well as any hot water pipes that you can get to.

Lower the water heater thermostat. If there is no dishwasher in the homeor if the dishwasher is equipped with its own automatic water heaterturn the water heater down to 120F (49C) to save energy and money.
Image: NREL/PIX 03062 Practice energy-efficient habits. If a family is accustomed to leaving lights and appliances on when theyre not in use, it will take a lot of dedication on the part of family members to change these energy-wasting habits. Its a worthwhile effort, however, as considerable savings can be achieve simply by turning off lights and appliances when they are not in use.

Eliminate "phantom" loads. Phantom loads are caused by 120VAC to DC chargers such as cell phone chargers, and by appliances that still use power even though they are turned off, such as televisions, computers and audio equipment. These loads may seem small, but because they are on all of the time, they can add up. In fact, they can account for as much as 6% of a homes energy use. To avoid this energy use, plug all of the related appliances (for example, all of the entertainment equipment) into a power strip that has a switch on it. When the appliances are not in use, switch off the power strip switch. Some homes have electric outlets that are switched with wall switches. These can also be used to turn off equipment that contributes to phantom loads. Back to Top

Image: Energy Star

Using Solar Energy in the Home

Solar energyenergy from the suncan provide the energy needed for many of these uses. In fact, solar energy can provide all the energy needs in a home. However, systems designed to meet all energy loads in a home are larger and thus expensive. Zero-energy homes are both energy-efficient and capable of producing enough of their own electricity from solar and other renewable energy resources to offset the amount of energy purchased from the utility. The result is a net-zero annual energy bill.
This Zero-energy home built by Habitat for Humanity features an integral collector storage system to provide hot water. Image: NREL/PIX 14164

Building Characteristics
Buildings must exhibit certain characteristics to be a good candidate for a solar energy system.

Exposure: The building should provide maximum southern exposure without any substantial shading from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Although an orientation of due south is best, a deviation of 30 degrees or less from true south is considered acceptable for most solar energy applications.

Slope: For roof-mounted systems, the preferred roof slope is equal to the latitude at the site, between 39 and 42 degrees in Pennsylvania. Roof slopes between 20 and 60 degrees (roughly 4/12 to 20/12 pitch) are acceptable.

This table shows orientation factors for various roof pitches. Source: U.S. Department of Energy

Structure: Although most roofs can support the added weight of a solar energy system, you should check the condition of the rafters. The roof must be able to safely support the added dead load of the solar array and mounting rack and the temporary live load imposed by the installation crew. The solar array and mounting rack will add approximately 3 pounds per square foot of dead load to the roof. A structural engineer should be consulted if there is doubt that the roof can handle the additional load. Access to wiring (solar electric) or plumbing (solar water heat): Ideally, the south-facing roof should be near the main electrical service entrance if you are installing a solar electric system. To minimize wiring runs, the breaker panel containing the buildings main disconnect switch and then households electrical end-use breakers should be easily accessible and relatively close to the solar array. The breaker panel should have space available for installing a 120/240V breaker; this is the solar systems connection to the electrical grid. If you are installing a solar water heating system, you will have to have access to the connections to the existing water heater, and there should be room near the existing water heater for the solar water storage tank.

The further a home is turned from south, the less its ability to collect solar energy in the winter. Solar energy systems can be designed to heat water or living spaces, or to provide electricity. Solar electric systems can be connected to the existing utility grid or can be separate, stand-alone systems. The following information summarizes common types of solar energy systems. Solar water-heating and solar electric systems will be addressed in more detail later in this course.

Passive Solar Energy Systems

Passive solar designs are those that collect the suns energy using no moving parts. Passive systems can provide over half the space heating energy by using windows to allow more sun into the home in the wintertime, increased levels of insulation to help to keep the house warm, and added thermal masssuch as concrete, tile, or brick. Windows also are an important component of passive solar designs. Effective passive solar designs for most U.S. climates, including Pennsylvania, use windows to maximize solar heat gain in winter and minimize it in summer. In heating-dominated climates like Pennsylvania, most windows should generally face south to collect solar heat during the winter when the sun is low in the sky. In the summer, when the sun is high overhead, overhangs or other shading devices, such as awnings, prevent excessive heat gain. Windows on east-, west-, and north-facing walls are reduced in heating

In passive solar designs, the majority of windows are placed on the south elevation, as shown here. Image: NREL/PIX 02778

climates, while still allowing for adequate daylight. An indirect-gain system has its thermal storage between the south-facing windows and the living spaces. Using a Trombe wall is the most common indirect-gain approach. The wall consists of an 816 inch-thick masonry wall on the south side of a house. A single or double layer of glass is mounted about 1 inch or less in front of the wall's surface. Solar heat is absorbed by the wall's dark-colored outside surface and stored in the wall's mass, where it radiates into the living space. In direct gain passive design, the sunlight is allowed to enter the living space directly. Concrete walls and floor, along with tile, and sometimes water storage features are used to absorb the solar heat gain in the daytime, and these building elements re-radiate the warmth at night.

Solar Water-Heating Systems

In passive solar designs, the majority of windows are placed on the south elevation, as shown here. Image: NREL/PIX 02778

Solar water-heating systems can reduce the cost to heat domestic water by as much as half. The challenge in northern climates such as Pennsylvania is freeze protection, but there are a number of systems on the market that provide freeze protection. Solar water heating is addressed in detail later in this course.

Solar Electric Systems

Solar electric systemsalso called photovoltaic (PV) systemsgenerate electricity directly from the sun. A grid-connectedor net-meteredPV system is connected to the utility grid through a special meter than turns backwards when the house produces more electricity than it needs. The utility grid serves as storage, eliminating the need for batteries. Grid connected PV systems are covered later in this course.

Off-gridor remotesystems are those that are completely independent of the utility grid. They require batteries to storage the energy they collect during sunny times for use at night or when the sun isnt shining. Since off -grid systems generally provide electricity for the entire home, they require storage batteries and usually have some kind of backup generator. This course covers only the installation of grid-connected solar electric systems without batteries. Back to Top

Pennsylvanias Solar Resource

Most residential solar collectors are flat panels that can be mounted on a roof or on the ground. Called flat-plate collectors, these are typically fixed in a tilted position correlated to the latitude of the location. This allows the collector to best capture the sun. These collectors can use both the direct rays from the sun and reflected light that comes through a cloud or off the ground. Because they use all available sunlight, flat-plate collectors are the best choice for many northern states. PVWatts (www.pvwatts.org) is a useful on-line calculator that helps to understand the solar resource at a given location. The table below shows summer, winter, and annual solar resources for Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. PVWatts can help you determine the solar resource available at your specific site, and also help you estimate the size of solar system needed to provide the necessary solar energy for either solar water-heating or solar electric systems. (Tip: To convert from Kilowatt-hours to Btu, multiply by 3413. To convert square meters to square feet, multiply by 10.76).

Average Daily Solar Radiation for the months of January and July and yearly for various tilts and azimuth angles in Wilkes Barre, PA (kWh/m2/day) Source: PV Watts Website www.pvwatts.org Tilt Angle Azimuth Angle January July Yearly 25 180 2.50 5.58 4.19 25 210 2.40 5.81 4.12 25 270 1.72 5.52 3.59 40 180 2.81 5.47 4.19 40 210 2.66 5.45 4.09 40 270 1.69 5.08 3.37 55 180 2.89 4.82 3.98 55 210 2.79 4.85 3.88 55 270 1.62 4.55 3.09

Codes, Permits and Covenants

Different communities have different restrictions and requirements in place regarding the installation of solar energy systems. Before installing any solar energy system, contact your local building code officials to learn about required permits, as well as codes and covenants that could affect where and how you install a solar energy system. Grid-tied PV systems should be interconnected by a licensed electrician in compliance with the National Electrical Code (NEC). Hot water systems should be installed by a licensed plumber in compliance with the National Standard Plumbing Code. In fact, some municipalities issue permits for such work only to licensed contractors, and others might require approval of the system by a committee.

It is wise to investigate all requirements prior to beginning your project to ensure that installation is fully in compliance.

Lesson 1 Questions
1. Whats the most important step to ensuring that a PV system provides the highest fraction of total energy used in a home?


What is a "phantom" load?


What building characteristics must be present in a home in order to be a good candidate for a solar energy system?


What is direct gain passive design?


Describe a Trombe wall.


What is a grid-connected PV system?

Solar Hot Water Basics

Overview Solar Water-heating System Types o Active Systems o Passive Systems Solar Water-heating System Components o Solar Collector o Heat Exchangers o Heat Transfer Fluids o Circulating Pumps o Sensors and Controls o Storage Tank o Check Valve o Expansion Tank o Pressure Relief Valve o Pressure and Temperature Gauges Questions Answers


In this lesson, you will learn about using the sun to provide heat. For this portion of the course, we will emphasize heating domestic hot water for a building. In a solar water-heating system, heat collection is the main objective, along with moving the heat from the collecting surface, transferring it to storage, and ultimately using it to heat the domestic hot water. The shallow water of a lake is usually warmer than the deep water. That's because sunlight can heat the lake bottom in the shallow areas which, in turn, heats the water. It's nature's way of solar water heating. The sun can be used in basically the same way to heat water used in buildings and swimming pools. Most solar water-heating systems for buildings have two main parts: a solar collectorand a storage tank. The most common collector is called a flat-plate collector. Mounted on the roof, it consists of a thin, flat, rectangular box with a transparent cover that faces the sun. Small tubes run through the box and carry the fluid either water or other fluid, such as an antifreeze solution to be heated. The tubes are attached to an absorber plate, which is painted black to absorb the heat. As heat builds up in the collector, it heats the fluid passing through the tubes. Different types of solar collectors are described below. The storage tank then holds the hot liquid. It can simply be a modified water heater, but it is usually larger and very well-insulated. Systems that use fluids other than water (usually a propylene-glycol mixture) heat the water by passing it through a heat exchanger, which transfers the heat from the glycol mixture to the water being heated. Solar water-heating systems can be either active or passive. Most common are active systems, which rely on pumps to move the liquid between the collector and the storage tank. Passive systems, on the other hand, rely on gravity and the tendency for water to naturally circulate as it is heated. Solar collectors are the key component of active solar-heating systems. Solar collectors gather the sun's energy, transform its radiation into heat, and then transfer that heat to water, solar fluid, or air. The solar thermal energy can be used in solar water-heating systems, solar pool heaters, and solar space-heating systems. There are several types of solar collectors:

Flat-plate collectors Evacuated-tube collectors Integral collector-storage systems

Residential and commercial building applications that require temperatures below 200F typically use flat-plate collectors, whereas those requiring temperatures higher than 200F use evacuated-tube collectors. Back to Top
This home in Nevada has an integral collector storage (ICS) system to provide hot water.

Solar Water-heating System Types

Active Solar Water-Heating Systems

Active solar water heaters rely on electric pumps, valves, and controllers to circulate water, or other heat-transfer fluids (usually a propylene-glycol mixture) through the collectors. There are the three types of active solar waterheating systems: 1. Direct-circulation systems (or open systems) use pumps to circulate water through the collectors. These systems are appropriate in areas that do not freeze for long periods and do not have hard or acidic water. These systems are not approved by the Solar Rating & Certification Corporation (SRCC) if they use recirculation freeze protection (circulating warm tank water during freeze conditions) because that requires electrical power for the protection to be effective. 2. Indirect-circulation systems (or closed systems) pump heat-transfer fluids, such as a mixture of glycol and water antifreeze, through collectors. Heat exchangers transfer the heat from the fluid to the potable water stored in the tanks. Some indirect systems have overheat protection, which protects the collector and the glycol fluid from becoming super-heated when the load is low and the intensity of incoming solar radiation is high. 3. Drainback systems, a type of indirect system, use pumps to circulate water through the collectors. The water in the collector loop drains into a reservoir tank when the pumps stop. This makes drainback systems a good choice in colder climates. Drainback systems must be carefully installed to assure that the piping always slopes downward, so that the water will completely drain from the piping. This can be difficult to achieve in some circumstances.

Drainback solar water-heating systems are a good choice for cold climates like Pennsylvania. Illustration: North Carolina Solar Center.

Passive Solar Water-Heating Systems Passive solar water heating systems are typically less expensive than active systems, but they're usually not as efficient. Passive solar water heaters rely on gravity and the tendency for water to naturally circulate as it is heated. Because they contain no electrical components, passive systems are generally more reliable, easier to maintain, and possibly have a longer work life than active systems.

1. Integral-collector storage systems consist of one or more storage tanks placed in an insulated box with a glazed side facing the sun. During the winter, they must be drained or protected from freezing. These solar collectors may be best suited for areas where temperatures rarely go below freezing. They are also good in households with significant daytime and evening hot-water needs; but they do not work well in households with predominantly morning draws because they lose most of the collected energy overnight. 2. Thermosyphon systems are an economical and reliable choice, especially in new homes. These systems rely on the natural convection of warm water rising to circulate water through the collectors and to the tank (located above the collector). As water in the solar collector heats, it becomes lighter and rises naturally into the tank above. Meanwhile, the cooler water flows down the pipes to the bottom of the collector, enhancing the circulation. Some manufacturers place the storage tank in the house's attic, concealing it from view. Indirect thermosyphons (that use a glycol fluid in the collector loop) can be installed in freeze-prone climates if the piping in the unconditioned space is adequately protected. Solar water-heating systems almost always require a backup system for cloudy days and times of increased demand. Conventional storage water heaters usually provide backup and may already be part of the solar system package. A backup system may also be part of the solar collector, such as rooftop tanks with thermosyphon systems. Since an integral-collector storage system already stores hot water in addition to collecting solar heat, it may be packaged with a demand (tankless or instantaneous) water heater for backup Back to Top

Solar Water-Heating System Components

Components: Collectors

1. Flat-plate collectors Flat-plate collectors are the most common solar collector for solar water-heating systems in homes and solar space heating. A typical flat-plate collector is an insulated metal box with a glass or plastic cover (called glazing) and a darkcolored absorber plate. These collectors heat liquid or air at temperatures less than 180F. (see Figure 1) Liquid flat-plate collectors heat liquid as it flows through tubes in or adjacent to the absorber plate. The simplest liquid systems use potable household water, which is heated as it passes directly through the collector and then flows to the house. Solar pool heating also uses liquid flat-plate collector technology.
Fig 1

Air flat-plate collectors are used primarily for solar space heating. The absorber plates in air collectors can be metal sheets, layers of screen, or non-metallic materials. The air flows past the absorber by using natural convection or a fan. Because air conducts heat much less readily than liquid does, less heat is transferred from an air collector's absorber than from a liquid collector's absorber. Air flat-plate collectors are used for space heating.

Unglazed solar collectors are typically used for swimming pool heating.

2. Evacuated-tube collectors Evacuated-tube collectors can achieve extremely high temperatures (170F to 350F), making them more appropriate for commercial and industrial application. However, evacuated-tube collectors are more expensive than flat-plate collectors, with unit area costs about twice that of flat-plate collectors. (see Figure 2) The collectors are usually made of parallel rows of transparent glass tubes. Each tube contains a glass outer tube and metal absorber tube attached to a fin. The fin is covered with a coating that absorbs solar energy well, but which inhibits radiative heat loss. Air is removed, or evacuated, from the space between the glass tubes and the metal tubes to form a vacuum, which eliminates

Fig 2 | Evacuated-tube collectors are efficient at high temperatures.

conductive and convective heat loss. A new evacuated-tube design is available from the Chinese manufacturers, Beijing Sunda Solar Energy Technology Co. Ltd. The "dewar" design features a vacuum contained between two concentric glass tubes, with the absorber selective coating on the inside tube. Water is typically allowed to thermosyphon down and back out the inner cavity to transfer the heat to the storage tank. There are no glass-to-metal seals. This type of evacuated tube has the potential to become cost-competitive with flat plates. 3. Integral collector-storage systems Integral collector-storage (ICS) systems, also known as batch systems, are made of one or more blank tanks or tubes in an insulated glazed box. Cold water first passes through the solar collector, which preheats the water, and then continues to the conventional backup water heater. ICS systems are simple, reliable solar water heaters. However, they should be installed only in climates with mild freezing because the collector itself or the outdoor pipes could freeze in severely cold weather. Some recent work indicates that the problem with freezing pipes can be overcome in some cases by using freeze-tolerant piping in conjunction with a freeze-protection method. Components: Heat Exchanger Solar water-heating systems use heat exchangers to transfer solar energy absorbed in solar collectors to the liquid or air used to heat water or a space. Heat exchangers can be made of steel, copper, bronze, stainless steel, aluminum, or cast iron. Solar heating systems usually use copper, because it is a good thermal conductor and has greater resistance to corrosion. Solar water-heating systems use two types of heat exchangers: 1. Liquid-to-liquid heat exchangers Liquid-to-liquid heat exchangers use a heat-transfer fluid that circulates through the solar collector, absorbs heat, and then flows through a heat exchanger to transfer its heat to water in a storage tank. Heat-transfer fluids, such as antifreeze, protect the solar collector from freezing in cold weather. Liquid-to-liquid heat exchangers have either one or two barriers (single wall or double wall) between the heat-transfer fluid and the domestic water supply. A single-wall heat exchanger is a pipe or tube surrounded by a fluid. Either the fluid passing through the tubing or the fluid surrounding the tubing can be the heat-transfer fluid, while the other fluid is the potable water. Double-wall heat exchangers have two walls between the two fluids. Two walls are often used when the heat-transfer fluid is toxic, such as ethylene glycol. Double walls often are required as a safety measure in case of leaks, helping ensure that the antifreeze does not mix with the potable water supply. An example of a double-wall, liquid-to-liquid heat exchanger is the "wrap-around heat exchanger," in which a tube is wrapped around and bonded to the outside of a hot water tank. The tube must be adequately insulated to reduce heat losses. Some local codes require double-wall heat exchangers on solar water-heating systems. While double-wall heat exchangers increase safety, they are less efficient because heat must transfer through two surfaces rather than one. To transfer the same amount of heat, a double-wall heat exchanger must be larger than a single-wall exchanger. 2. Air-to-liquid heat exchangers Solar heating systems with air-heater collectors usually do not need a heat exchanger between the solar collector and the air distribution system. Some solar air-heating systems are designed to heat water if the space heating requirements are satisfied. These systems use air-to-liquid heat exchangers, which are similar to liquidto-air heat exchangers.

Heat Exchanger Designs

There are many heat exchanger designs. Here are some common ones: 1. Coil-in-tank heat exchanger The heat exchanger is a coil of tubing in the storage tank. It can be a single tube (single-wall heat exchanger) or the thickness of two tubes (double-wall heat exchanger). A less efficient alternative is to place the coil on the outside of the collector tank with a cover of insulation. 2. Shell-and-tube heat exchanger The heat exchanger is separate from (external to) the storage tank. It has two separate fluid loops inside a case or shell. The fluids flow in opposite directions to each other through the heat exchanger, maximizing heat transfer. In one loop, the fluid to be heated (such as potable water) circulates through the inner tubes. In the second loop, the heattransfer fluid flows between the shell and the tubes of water. The tubes and shell should be made of the same material. When the collector or heat-transfer fluid is toxic, double-wall tubes are used, and a non-toxic intermediary transfer fluid is placed between the outer and inner walls of the tubes. 3. Tube-in-tube heat exchanger In this very efficient design, the tubes of water and the heat-transfer fluid are in direct thermal contact with each other. The water and the heat-transfer fluid flow in opposite directions to each other. This type of heat exchanger has two loops similar to those described in the shell-and-tube heat exchanger. Back to Top Sizing A heat exchanger must be sized correctly to be effective. There are many factors to consider for proper sizing, including the following:

Type of heat exchanger Characteristics of the heat-transfer fluid (specific heat, viscosity, and density) Flow rate Inlet and outlet temperatures for each fluid.

Usually, manufacturers will supply heat transfer ratings for their heat exchangers (in Btu/hour) for various fluid temperatures and flow rates. Also, the size of a heat exchanger's surface area affects its speed and efficiency: a large surface area transfers heat faster and more efficiently. Installation For the best performance, always follow the manufacturer's installation recommendations for the heat exchanger. Be sure to choose a heat-transfer fluid that is compatible with the type of heat exchanger you will be using. If you want to build your own heat exchanger, be aware that using different metals in heat exchanger construction may cause corrosion. Also, because dissimilar metals have different thermal expansion and contraction characteristics, leaks or cracks may develop. Either of these conditions may reduce the life span of the heat exchanger. Components: Heat Transfer Fluids Heat-transfer fluids carry heat through solar collectors and a heat exchanger to the heat storage tanks in solar water heating systems. When selecting a heat-transfer fluid, you should consider the following criteria:

Coefficient of expansion the fractional change in length (or sometimes in volume, when specified) of a material for a unit change in temperature Viscosity resistance of a liquid to sheer forces (and hence to flow) Thermal capacity the ability of matter to store heat Freezing point the temperature below which a liquid turns into a solid Boiling point the temperature at which a liquid boils Flash point the lowest temperature at which the vapor above a liquid can be ignited in air.

For example, in a cold climate, solar water heating systems require fluids with low freezing points. Fluids exposed to high temperatures, as in a desert climate, should have a high boiling point. Viscosity and thermal capacity determine the amount of pumping energy required. A fluid with low viscosity and high specific heat is easier to pump, because it is less resistant to flow and transfers more heat. Other properties that help determine the effectiveness of a fluid are its corrosiveness and stability Types of Heat-Transfer Fluids The following are some of the most commonly used heat-transfer fluids and their properties: Air Air will not freeze or boil, and is non-corrosive. However, it has a very low heat capacity, and tends to leak out of collectors, ducts, and dampers. Water Water is nontoxic and inexpensive. With a high specific heat, and a very low viscosity, it's easy to pump. Unfortunately, water has a relatively low boiling point and a high freezing point. It can also be corrosive if the pH (acidity/alkalinity level) is not maintained at a neutral level. Water with a high mineral content (i.e., "hard" water) can cause mineral deposits to form in collector tubing and system plumbing. Glycol/water mixtures The most common fluid used in closed solar water heating systems is propylene glycol. Glycol/water mixtures have a 50/50 or 60/40 glycol-to-water ratio. Ethylene and propylene glycol are "antifreezes." Ethylene glycol is extremely toxic and should only be used in a double-walled, closed-loop system. You can use food-grade propylene glycol/water mixtures in a single-walled heat exchanger, as long as the mixture has been certified as nontoxic. Make sure that no toxic dyes or inhibitors have been added to it. Most glycols deteriorate at very high temperatures. The pH value, freezing point, and concentration of inhibitors should be checked annually to determine whether the mixture needs any adjustments or replacements to maintain its stability and effectiveness.

Refrigerants/phase change fluids These are commonly used as the heat transfer fluid in refrigerators, air conditioners, and heat pumps. They generally have a low boiling point and a high heat capacity. This enables a small amount of the refrigerant to transfer a large amount of heat very efficiently. Refrigerants respond quickly to solar heat, making them more effective on cloudy days than other transfer fluids. Heat absorption occurs when the refrigerant boils (changes phase from liquid to gas) in the solar collector. Release of the collected heat takes place when the now-gaseous refrigerant condenses to a liquid again in a heat exchanger or condenser. Evacuated tube heat pipe solar collectors use this kind of fluid. For years chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) refrigerants, such as Freon, were the primary fluids used by refrigerator, airconditioner, and heat pump manufacturers because they are nonflammable, low in toxicity, stable, noncorrosive, and do not freeze. However, due the negative effect that CFCs have on the earth's ozone layer, CFC production is being phased out, as is the production of hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFC). The few companies that produced refrigerant-charged solar systems have either stopped manufacturing the systems entirely, or are currently seeking alternative refrigerants. Some companies have investigated methyl alcohol as a replacement for refrigerants. If a refrigerant-charged solar system and it needs servicing, a local solar or refrigeration service professional should be contacted. Since July 1, 1992, intentional venting of CFCs and HCFCs during service and maintenance or disposal of the equipment containing these compounds is illegal and punishable by stiff fines. Although production of CFCs ceased in the U.S. 1996, a licensed refrigeration technician can still service your system. Back to Top Components: Circulating Pumps Centrifugal-type circulating pumps are most commonly used in solar water-heating systems. Centrifugal pumps generally have low power consumption and low maintenance and are highly reliable. The bodies are typically made with cast iron, bronze, or stainless steel. For closed loop systems lower cost, cast iron circulating pumps are adequate. For openloop systems, circulating a replenishing supply of water, a bronze circulating pump is necessary. Stainless steel pumps are used in swimming pools and other applications where chemicals are present. Once it is determined that the pump is to operate in a closed loop, open loop, or other particular environment, the solar system head and flow requirements are used to select the appropriate pump. Head is the pressure the pump must develop in order to create desired flow through the system. The overall pressure a pump must create is determined by the height the water must be lifted and the frictional resistance of the pipe. Static head is pressure resulting from the vertical height and corresponding weight of the column of fluid in a system. The higher a pump must lift the fluid against gravity, the greater the static head it must develop. Dynamic head includes the frictional resistance of the fluid flowing through the pipe and fittings in the system. The pressure a pump must develop to overcome dynamic head varies with the size and length of the pipe, number of fittings and bends, and the flow rate and viscosity of the fluid. Circulating pumps are typically categorized for low, medium, or high head applications. Low head applications have 3 to 10 feet (0.9-3 m) of head; medium head applications, 10 to 20 feet (3-6 m) of head; and high head applications, over 20 feet of head. Components: Sensors and Controls

The differential controller tells the pump when to turn on and off. The controller, via sensors connected to the collector and the storage tank, determines whether the collector outlet is sufficiently warmer than the bottom of the tank to turn the circulating pump on.

The sensors are located at the collector outlet, and at the bottom of the solar storage tank. These sensors are thermistors that change their resistance with temperature. The differential control compares the resistances of the two sensors. It turns the pump on when the collectors are warmer (usually 20F) than the bottom of the solar storage tank to collect useful heat. The controller usually shuts the pump down when the temperature difference is 3 to 50F.

Components: Storage Tank A solar water-heating system is generally installed between the cold water coming into the home and the conventional water heater, and is used to pre-heat the water entering the conventional water heater. A storage tank is necessary to hold water heated by the solar water heating system. Adding another storage tank to hold solar heated water is not only more efficient than have just the conventional water heater, but the solar water storage tank acts as a means to keep the solar panels from over heating. This picture shows the 80-gallon storage tank on the left and the natural-gas fired conventional water heater with the add-on insulation blanket on the right. For the summer months that can be satisfied with solar hot water alone, you can install a "bypass valve assembly" between the solar storage tank and the backup water heater. The solar bypass consists of three valves (or two 3-way valves), which will allow the house to be supplied with solar heated water directly. A tempering valve should be added when solar heated water is hotter than normally produced by thermostatically controlled conventional tank. The tempering valve is installed on the hot water line feeding the home. The desired maximum temperature of the water delivered to the tap can be adjusted. Hot water enters one side, cold water, if necessary, enters from the bottom and mixed water goes out to the homes hot water plumbing.

Components: Check Valve A check valve permits fluid to flow in one direction only. It prevents heat loss at night by convective flow from the warm storage tank to the cool collectors. Check valves are either the "swing" type or the "spring" type. Swing-type check valves should be properly installed (i.e. not vertically upside-down which allows them to hang open). A swing-type check valve should be used with pump powered directly from a PV module. Low sun conditions produce lower flow rates, which may not be strong enough to overcome a spring-type check valve. For systems using AC circulating pumps, spring-type check valves should be installed. The spring resists thermosyphon flow in either direction. Components: Expansion Tank An expansion tank allows the fluid in a closed-loop system to expand and contract depending on the temperature of the fluid. Without the expansion tank, the plumbing would easily burst when the fluid is heated. Diaphragm-type expansion tanks are constructed with an internal bladder and a pressurized air chamber. Heated fluid expands in the closed loop against the bladder and pressurized air chamber. As the fluid contracts while cooling, the air chamber maintains pressure in the closed loop. The size of the expansion tank must be able to handle the expansion based on the volume, coefficient of expansion, and range of temperature fluctuation. The size and number of collectors, and the size and length of piping and fittings determine fluid volume. Diaphragm-type expansion tanks are readily found in most plumbing supply houses.

Components: Pressure Relief Valve Every hydronic heating system must have protection against high pressures due to high temperatures. A pressure relief valve of 50 psi is usually adequate to protect closed-loop plumbing systems from excessive pressures. Temperature/pressure relief valves are not commonly used in the closed loop because high temperatures are common. Pressure-only relief valves are most commonly used. Pressure relief valves should be have a vent tube that directs escaping fluid to a bucket or floor drain. Once one of these valves opens, it is wise to replace it, since they often do not fully reseat, scale or dirt particles may allow a slow leak. Components: Pressure and Temperature Gauges A pressure gauge shows if the closed loop system is within an acceptable range of pressure. A typical system pressure is on the order of 10 to 15 psi. A pressure gauge is used as a diagnostic tool to monitor the state of the glycol charge. A loss of pressure indicates a leak in the system that needs to be located and repaired.
A pressure gauge

Two temperature gauges in the closed loop and one in the water loop are optional, but valuable indicators of the systems function. One gauge on each side of the heat exchanger in the collector loop shows the temperature rise across the collectors and the temperature change across the heat exchanger. A temperature difference of 15 to 20F indicates effective system operation. One temperature gauge in the water loop between the exit of the heat exchanger and the entry to the storage tank will display the current temperature of solar heated water entering the storage tank. The temperature gauges should have a range of 0 to 240 or 300F. A hot summer day may produce water temperatures in the solar loop around 200F, although normally 180F is the maximum temperature attained.

A temperature gauge

Lesson 2 Questions
1. Briefly describe the two main types of active solar water-heating systems.


In passive solar water heating systems, what drives the fluids circulation from the collector(s) to the storage tank?


What is the most common solar collector type?


When is a double-walled heat exchanger required in a solar water-heating system?


Why are refrigerant heat transfer fluids, such as chlorofluorocarbon, being phased out of solar heating systems?


In a typical residential, closed-loop solar water-heating system what type of pump is commonly used?


What is the difference between static head and dynamic head?


Where should the controllers sensors be placed in a solar water-heating system?


Why should a check valve be installed on a solar water heating system? Where should a spring-type check valve be installed?

10. What is the main function of the expansion tank in a closed-loop system?

11. Where should temperature gauges be installed to indicate how the system is functioning in an open-loop and in a closed-loop solar water-heating system?

Lesson 3 Solar Water-Heating Systems; Siting and Sizing

Introduction Energy Calculations and Units Siting a Solar Water-heating System o Collector orientation o Collector tilt o Shading Sizing a Solar Water-heating System o Collector area o Storage volume Questions Answers

Visible light (insolation) is the main energy source collected by systems that provide space heat, water heat, and electricity for homes. Because of the Earths axial tilt, the amount of solar insolation incident at any one spot on the Earths surface varies throughout the year. On a daily and a seasonal basis, the amount of light energy incident on a surface varies from sunrise to sunset. The atmospheric conditions and elevation at the site are also factors that influence the amount of light reaching the Earths surface. For sites above and below the equator, seasonal variations are commonly marked by the spring and fall equinoxes and the summer and winter solstices. The equinoxes are defined as the time of year when the sun crosses the equator (March and September 21/22). At this time there are an equal number of hours of daylight and nighttime. The summer and winter solstices are defined as the time when the sun reaches its highest/lowest latitude. In the northern latitudes, the summer solstice in June 21/22 and the winter solstice is December 21/22. The summer solstice is the date when the number of daylight hours is the longest and the winter solstice has the shortest number of daylight hours. In the southern hemisphere, the solstices are just the opposite. Before installing a solar water-heating system, you must first consider the site's solar resource, since the efficiency and design of a solar water-heating system depend on how much of the sun's energy reaches the building site. Youll also have to properly size the system to ensure that it meets the hot-water needs of the home. In this lesson, you will learn how to site and size a solar water-heating system.

Energy Calculations and Units

We have to be able to measure and compare energy and other quantities to be able to estimate the size of solar water-heating and solar electric systems. We, therefore, need to gain an understanding of the energy calculations and energy units we use to make these estimates. Definitions: Heat:
Conversion Table

British Thermal Unit (Btu): the amount of energy to raise 1 pound of water 1
degree Fahrenheit

Therm: 100,000 Btu DekaTherm (DKT): 1,000,000 Btu

Natural gas contains about 1 DKT of energy in 1000 cubic feet of gas. Electric Power and Energy 1 Watt = 1 Volt*1 Amp in purely resistant circuits 1000 Watts = 1 Kilowatt (KW) (this is Power) 1 KW* 1 Hour = 1 Kilowatt-Hour (this is energy) Back to Top

Siting a Solar Water-heating System

Geographic orientation and collector tilt can affect the amount of solar radiation the system receives.

Solar water-heating systems use both direct and diffuse solar radiation. Despite being a colder, northern climate, Pennsylvania still offers an adequate solar resource. Generally, if the installation site is un-shaded from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and faces south, it's a good candidate for a solar water-heating system. PVWatts (www.pvwatts.org) is a useful on-line calculator that helps to understand the solar resource at a given location. The table below shows average summer, winter, and annual solar radiation for Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. PVWatts can help you determine the solar resource available at your specific site, and also help you estimate the size of solar system needed to provide the necessary solar energy for either solar water-heating or solar electric systems. (Tip: To convert from Kilowatt-hours to Btu, multiply by 3413. To convert square meters to square feet, multiply by 10.76). Average Daily Solar Radiation for the months of January and July and yearly for various tilts and azimuth angles in Wilkes Barre, PA (kWh/m2/day) Source: PV Watts Website www.pvwatts.org

Tilt Angle 25 25 25 40 40 40 55 55 55

Azimuth Angle 180 210 270 180 210 270 180 210 270

January 2.50 2.40 1.72 2.81 2.66 1.69 2.89 2.79 1.62

July 5.58 5.81 5.52 5.47 5.45 5.08 4.82 4.85 4.55

Yearly 4.19 4.12 3.59 4.19 4.09 3.37 3.98 3.88 3.09

Collector Orientation Collector orientation is critical in achieving maximum performance from a solar energy system. In general, the optimum orientation for a solar collector in the northern hemisphere is true south (azimuth of 1800). However, recent studies have shown that, depending on the location and collector tilt, the collector can face up to 90 east or west of true south without significantly decreasing its performance. Local climatic conditions can play a significant role in whether to orient the collectors east or west of true south, as well as in determining the proper tilt angle for the collectors. The buildings roof orientation and slope, shading factors, perceived aesthetics, and local covenants also play significant roles in the installation of the solar systems collection hardware. You must also consider factors such as roof orientation (if you plan to mount the collector on the roof), local landscape features that shade the collector daily or seasonally, and local weather conditions (foggy mornings or cloudy afternoons, for example), as these factors also can affect the collector's optimal orientation. Collector Tilt Most residential solar collectors are flat panels that can be mounted on a roof or on the ground. Called flat-plate collectors, these are typically fixed in a tilted position correlated to the latitude of the location. This allows the collector to best capture the sun. These collectors can use both the direct rays from the sun and reflected light that comes through a cloud or off the ground. Because they use all available sunlight, flat-plate collectors are the best choice for many northern states.

Optimal tilt angle for solar collector is an angle equal to the latitude.

Although the optimal tilt angle for the collector is an angle equal to the latitude, mounting the collector flat on an angled roof will not result in a big decrease in system performance and is often desirable for aesthetic reasons. You will, however, want to take roof angle into account when sizing the system. Shading As previously mentioned, solar collectors should be installed at a site that is un-shaded from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and faces south. Shading from mountains, trees, buildings, and other geographical features can significantly reduce the collectors performance. Before installing a solar energy system, you should first complete a sun path diagram to estimate the impact of shading on annual system performance. Back to Top

Sizing a Solar Water-Heating System

To properly size a solar water-heating system, youll need to determine the total collector area and the storage volume needed to meet 90 to 100 percent of the household's hot water needs during the summer. One software tool that is available to calculate solar water heating system sizing is RetScreen (www.retscreen.net/ang/home.php). If you plan on designing a number of solar water heating systems, you can choose to download the Solar Hot Water software from www.retscreen.net/ang/t_software.php. This software can be used to size solar water-heating systems, and we will use it to verify our Rule of Thumb calculation example below. Sizing Collector Area A good rule of thumb for sizing collector area in northern climates such as Pennsylvania is to allow 20 square feet (2 square meters) of collector area for each of the first two family members, and 12 to 14 square feet for each additional person. Sizing Storage Volume A small (50- to 60-gallon) storage tank is usually sufficient for one to two people. A medium (80-gallon) storage tank works well for three to four people. A large tank (120-gallon) is appropriate for four to six people. For active solar water-heating systems, the size of the solar storage tank increases with the size of the collector typically 1.5 gallons per square foot of collector. This helps prevent the system from overheating when the demand for hot water is low. The Solar Rating and Certification Corporation website has thermal performance results for tested solar collectors atwww.fsec.ucf.edu/solar/testcert/collectr/tprdhw.htm. The site has performance data within the temperature range that is appropriate for picking a collector for heating the hot water demand. The following is a page from this site. Bear in mind that these collectors are certified based upon Florida conditions. A trial and error procedure is necessary to get to the right collector sizing for Pennsylvania.

Collector Certification (A)

Education | Environment | Hydrogen | Buildings | Photovoltaics | Solar Energy >Testing & Certification > Collector > Certification Collector Certification (A) Thermal Gros Performance s Intermediate Area Temperature Rating Sq. Ft 20.0 7 10.0 0 Btu/Da Btu/f y t 14800 736 Solar Thermal


Glazing Manufactur Model er FSEC # No Type . 1 Clear rigid plastic Clear rigid plastic Evacuat ed glass tube

Absorber Material Coating Copper tubes and fins Copper tubes and fins

ACR Solar Skyline Internationa 20-01 00030 l Corp ACR Solar Skyline 00212 Internationa 10-01 C l Corp AMKCollectra AG OPC 10 MK-III 00083





Copper tubes and Selective aluminu m fins

15.6 7



Alfa Casting Corp Alfa Casting Corp Alternate Energy




Copper tubes Nonselecti 18.4 and ve 1 aluminu m fins Copper tubes and fins Copper tubes Nonselecti 18.4 ve 1 Selective 20.7 7



*ACC419 AE-21

83129 00081 N







Technologi es, LLC Alternate Energy Technologi es, LLC Alternate Energy Technologi es, LLC Alternate Energy Technologi es, LLC Alternate Energy Technologi es, LLC Alternate Energy Technologi es, LLC Alternate Energy Technologi es, LLC Alternate Energy Technologi es, LLC Alternate Energy Technologi es, LLC Alternate Energy Technologi es, LLC Alternate 00088 N

and fins



Copper tubes and fins Copper tubes and fins Copper tubes and fins Copper tubes and fins Copper tubes and fins Copper tubes and fins Copper tubes and fins Copper tubes and fins Copper tubes and fins Copper


25.3 5




00089 N



31.9 1




00090 N



39.7 9



AE-32- 00036 E C


Moderatel y selective

31.8 5



AE-40- 00037 E C


Moderatel y selective

39.7 1




00119 C


Moderatel y selective

30.9 1




00120 C


Moderatel y selective

38.6 2




00213 N



21.5 0




00214 N 00215



32.6 7 42.1







Energy Technologi es, LLC American Solar Network, Ltd. American Solar Network, Ltd. American Solar Network, Ltd. Apricus Solar Co., Ltd. Apricus Solar Co., Ltd. Apricus Solar Co., Ltd. Apricus Solar Co., Ltd.


tubes and fins UV Stabilize None d EPDM UV Stabilize None d EPDM UV Stabilize None d EPDM Glass Selective cylinder Glass Selective cylinder Glass Selective cylinder Glass Selective cylinder

ASN30 89011 A

Clear rigid plastic Clear rigid plastic Clear rigid plastic Evacuat ed glass tube Evacuat ed glass tube Evacuat ed glass tube Evacuat ed glass tube

31.1 7



ASN45 89018 A C

46.5 0



ASN60 91025 A C

61.8 3




00202 N 00106 N 00203 N 00204 N

14.4 5 29.1 6 32.1 1 43.6 3












Aqua Sol Component 6536 s Ltd.



Copper tubes Nonselecti 36.4 and ve 6 aluminu m fins

Thermosiphon System Net Energy Delivered: 27,300 Btu Heat Loss Coefficient: 3.7 Btu/hrF

*The flow rate through a solar collector affects its performance, but may or may not affect the performance of the system in which it is installed. Some of the collectors listed here have been tested at flow rates other than those specified by testing standards. These collector models are identified with an asterisk (*) immediately preceding the model number.

Comparing the daily hot water heat demand with the tested collector thermal performance numbers, we want to choose solar collectors that will produce the 45,081 Btu/day. Looking in the Btu/day column, we see that we will need two collectors to match our load, each collector being able to provide about 22,541 Btu/day. An Alternate Energy Technologies AE-32 collector is rated at 27,500 Btu/day. These collectors each have an area of close to 32 square feet. This example compares favorably with the general guidelines presented earlier for the number of solar collectors to install 20 square feet of collector area for the first two people and 12 square feet for each additional occupant. For Pennsylvania, the water storage tank to couple to 64 square feet of solar collector should be at least 80 gallons, but a tank with a capacity of 90+ gallons would be better. Back to Top

1. Using the RETScreen software, the AET AE-32 collectors will produce .98 MWh from June-August, or 36,347 Btu per day. This is short of our design water-heating load, so we need to pick a different collector. Since we are short about 8,734 Btu per day, or 24%, we need to pick collectors about 24% larger than our original estimate. We will try a 40-square-foot collector, the AET AE-40. Using the RET Screen software, we see that the AE-40 collectors will produce 1.08 MWh from June to August or about 40,055. What happened? Why do we increase the solar collector area by 25% and only get 10% more hot water? The answer lies in the fact that, as the amount of energy produced gets close to the amount of energy used, the efficiency of the system drops because the higher system temperatures result in more heat loss. The system with the two AE-32 collectors has a system efficiency of 35 percent, while supplying 86% of the energy needed in the summertime (the 86% is called solar fraction). The system with the two AE-40 collectors has a system efficiency of 31% while supplying 95% of the energy needed in the summertime. Remember, we started out by sizing the system to provide 100% of summertime water-heating energy. The other system design parameter we need to look at is the size of solar water storage tank. Using RETScreen, the previous analysis was done assuming a 120-gallon storage tank. What would the efficiency and solar fraction be if we were to install an 80-gallon storage tank? The RETScreen model predicts that using an 80-gallon storage tank, the solar fraction drops to 93%, and the efficiency stays at 31% for the summer time. A smaller storage tank therefore decreases the system solar fraction. How does our system perform on an annual basis?

Average Daily Solar Radiation for the months of January and July and yearly for various tilts and azimuth angles in Wilkes Barre, PA (kWh/m2/day) Source: PV Watts Website www.pvwatts.org
Tilt Angle 25 25 25 40 40 Azimuth Angle 180 210 270 180 210 January 2.50 2.40 1.72 2.81 2.66 July 5.58 5.81 5.52 5.47 5.45 Yearly 4.19 4.12 3.59 4.19 4.09

40 55 55 55

270 180 210 270

1.69 2.89 2.79 1.62

5.08 4.82 4.85 4.55

3.37 3.98 3.88 3.09


Using the data for Wilkes Barre in the table above, what is the percent difference in the yearly average daily solar insolation incident on a surface facing true south (azimuth angle 1800) with a tilt of 25 degrees versus that with a 55 degree tilt? For a 25-degree tilt versus a 40-degree tilted surface?


What is the percent difference between the yearly average value for a surface tilted at 25 degrees facing true south versus the same surface, same tilt but with an azimuth angle of 210 degrees?


What is the percent difference between the yearly average value for a surface tilted at 25 degrees facing true south versus the same surface, same tilt with an azimuth angle of 270 degrees? For surfaces with 40 and 55 degree tilts?


Given the percent differences shown in question 3, which tilt angle is more reasonable to accept if you had no choice but to install a solar system with an azimuth angle of 270 degrees? Please explain your answer.


If you lived in Wilkes Barre and wanted to maximize the collection of solar insolation in the winter, what tilt and azimuth angles would you mount the solar collectors? Conversely, if you wanted to maximize the summer solar collection, what tilt and azimuth angles would you mount the solar collectors?


In the solar system sizing example, the total daily heat energy demand for 80 gallons of hot water was calculated at 45,081 Btus. What would the total heat energy demand be for 80 gallons with the hot water temperature set at 1400F with the same cold water temperature?


What would the auxiliary energy demand be for 80 gallons of hot water with the hot water temperature set at 1200F and a solar water heating system providing 1000F water to the cold water inlet of the conventional domestic hot water heater? Assume the heat losses for the 120 degree set temperature from the conventional heater when making the calculation.

Lesson 4 Installing Solar Water-Heating Systems

Introduction Installation Steps o Mount the solar collectors on the roof o Install the solar storage tank and heat exchanger next to conventional water heater o Install the piping and pump for the glycol loop o Install the water piping o Install the controls o Fill the system o Insulate water and glycol lines Questions Answers

To say there are a lot of variables in installing solar water-heating systems would be an understatement. As you learned in Lesson 3, there are a number of different system types, and the components used will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. Every home is a little different, and getting the plumbing from the collectors to the storage tank may require removal of plaster or sheet rock, which then must be replaced. You may be faced with building a pipe chase in which to run the piping. In this lesson, we will focus on installing a basic closed-loop solar water-heating system. The links below will provide more insight into system installation. Before the actual solar system installation can take place, a site survey must be done to answer questions such as:

Can the roof support the dead load of the solar collectors and the live load of the installation crew? Is the roof properly oriented with enough un-shaded area and surface that does not need to be replaced in the near future? Can the roof work be done safely? Is there room in the building for the storage tank and associated hardware? Can the plumbing lines be installed between the storage tank and the collectors without a significant remodeling effort?

For a quick review of some of solar water-heating components and their relationship to each other, see Gly-Mod-WBSND (used with permission from AAA Solar Supply, 2021 Zearing NW, Albuquerque, NM 87104). You will need Flash Player 5 or 6 plug-in to view the video. If you have a Mac computer, go to AAA Solar Supplys website at: www.aaasolar.com/video/#menu to download the Mac version. AAA Solar Supply also granted permission to use its GlycolModule video, [Windows Media 16.4MB] which illustrates the components and assembly of an antifreeze solar water-heating system and how to sweat-solder copper pipes and fittings. You will need Windows Media Player to view the video. If you do not have Windows Media Player, you can view the video with Real Player or Quick Time Player at AAA Solar Supplys website at: www.aaasolar.com/video/#menu. The Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC), University of Central Florida, 12443 Research Parkway, Orlando, FL 32826 and the Solar Rating and Certification Corporation (SRCC), c/o FSEC, 1679 Clearlake Road, Cocoa, FL 32922, have granted permission to use their materials on installing solar water-heating systems. Section 3 from Solar Water and Pool Heating Manual Design and Installation & Repair and Maintenance , produced by FSEC, covers the steps involved in installing a solar water-heating system without a separate solar storage tank.

See also FSECs SDHW System Installation.pdf [internal link], which provides pictures to complement the Chapter 3 text file. Unlike solar water-heating systems installed in Florida, systems installed in Pennsylvania will have to be freezeprotected. What this means is that the freeze-protected system will include a heat exchanger, a non-toxic heat transfer fluid, an expansion tank, and depending on the system installed, another circulation pump may be required. AAA Solar Supplys information on filling a glycol system [PDF /14KB] provides practical information that you will need to install systems in Pennsylvania. Back to Top

Installation Steps
The basic steps to install a closed-loop solar water-heating system are: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. Mount the solar collectors on the roof Install the solar storage tank and heat exchanger next to conventional water heater Install the piping and pump for the glycol loop Install the water piping Install the controls Fill the system Insulate the water and glycol lines

This schematic illustrates components of a solar water-heating system.

Step 1: Mount the solar collectors on the roof When mounting collectors, make as few roof penetrations as possible. In some cases, the collectors can be mounted on a roof and the piping run through a vertical wall instead of through the roof. Seal all roof penetrations with silicone sealant. Different manufacturers will supply slightly different hardware for mounting the collectors on the roof. Follow the manufacturers directions carefully. Locate the rafters to which you will be attaching the collectors. You may be able to do this with a stud finder, or you may have to go inside the attic space and drill a small hole next to a rafter to locate it. Drill the hole, and then run a small wire out of the hole to help locate it on the outside. Remember to seal the hole with silicone sealant.

Rafters are usually 16 inches or 24 inches center to center. If you cannot attach the collector mounting hardware to the rafter itself, you must install a spanner block between the rafters and mount the collector hardware to the sleeper. Do not rely on the roof sheathing to support the solar collectors. Be sure that the collector mounting hardware is securely attached to the framing members.

Use the manufacturers recommended flashing around piping going through the roof, or use pipe flashing. Install the flashing with roof sealant to be sure it will not leak.

If you are using sweated copper plumbing fittings, protect the roof from the torch with a flame-resistant mat. Remember to install an air vent at the top of the collector. Back to Top Step 2: Install the storage tank and heat exchange next to the conventional water heater Place the solar storage tank near the conventional water heater. If the heat exchanger is internal to the storage tank, make sure that the glycol loop connections to the heat exchanger and the cold and hot water connections are accessible. If the heat exchanger is external to the storage tank, it is likely that it is supported by the plumbing. Install unions at the storage tank and heat exchanger connections so that the piping will not have to be cut if the tank or heat exchanger ever need to be replaced.

Solar water-heating systems use both direct and diffuse solar radiation. Despite being a colder, northern climate, Pennsylvania still offers an adequate solar resource. Generally, if the installation site is un-shaded from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and faces south, it's a good candidate for a solar water-heating system.

Step 3: Install the piping and pump for the glycol loop In most systems, the piping for the glycol loop is no bigger than -inch pipe. Assemble the entire glycol loop without solder so you can be sure the entire loop will go together, and then solder the entire loop. Be sure to install unions at the pump, so if it ever needs to be replaced, it can be replaced without cutting the piping. The pump should be installed at the lowest part of the glycol loop. The pump outlet is plumbed to the piping leading to the solar collectors on the roof. A check valve must be installed at the outlet of the pump so that when the pump is turned off, the glycol will not flow backwards around the loop. An expansion tank must be installed, and a pressure gauge should be installed to monitor the pressure in the glycol loop. A pressure relief valve must be installed in the glycol loop. The outlet from the pressure relief valve should be piped to a drain. This pressure relief valve should be a boiler relief valve, and the operating pressure should be no more than 30 psi. Optional Equipment:

A ball valve or circuit setter may be installed to control the flow in the loop A flow meter also may be installed in the glycol loop Thermometers on the inlet and outlet of the heat exchanger will help to monitor system performance

Back to Top Step 4: Install the water piping Plumb the cold water energy in the house to the inlet of the solar storage tank, and the outlet of the solar storage tank to the inlet of the conventional water heater. Install valves and unions on the inlets and outlets of the tanks. If the heat exchanger is external to the solar storage tank, you may choose to use a natural convection loop between the heat exchanger and the solar storage tank, or you may install a pump to force water through the heat exchanger and tank. If you choose to use natural convection, you should use a large pipeat least 1-1/4" copperto get adequate flow through the heat exchanger. If you choose to install a pump to force water through the heat exchanger, you can use -inch copper pipe. Step 5: Install the controls The differential controller must be installed to sense the temperature difference between the water at the bottom of the solar storage tank and the glycol at the top of the solar collectors. The sensors can be attached to the pipes with hose clamps.

There are some optional additions to this part of the system that, while adding additional costs, will add convenience and possibly safety to the system. Optional equipment includes:

Bypass valve Tempering valve High-temperature radiator loop

Bypass valve: Run a pipe between the water pipe entering and the water pipe leaving the conventional water

heater. Install a valve in this pipe (bypass valve). When this valve is closed and the valves on the inlet and outlet of the conventional water heater are open, water will flow from the solar storage tank to the conventional water heater (normal operation). If the valves on the water pipe entering and the water pipe leaving the conventional water heater are closed and the bypass valve is open, water will flow from the solar storage tank past the conventional water heater. This bypass mode can be used in the summertime when water temperatures are high, and the conventional water heater can be shut off completely.

Tempering valve: To avoid scalding temperatures from the solar storage tank, a tempering valve may be installed
after the conventional water heater. The tempering valve adds cold water to the hot water to control the temperature so that there is no risk of scalding.

High-temperature radiator loop: A radiator, pump, and controls may be installed on the system to dump

energy in case the glycol loop gets too hot. This addition to the system can protect the system from overheating if there is no hot water used for several days in the summertime.

An example of a heat rejection loop using a radiator.

Operati on

The solar collector heats the solar storage tank through the bottom coil in the tank. Heat rejection loop removes excessive heat when tank temperature (TT) exceeds its design limit.


www.thermomax.com/Heat_Reje ction.htm

Back to Top Step 6: Fill the system Check the glycol loop for leaks by filling the glycol loop with water. The circulation pump will probably be too small to fill the system, so you will need a fill pump that can provide enough pressure to lift the water (and glycol) up to the top of the solar collectors. A drill pump has successfully been used to fill solar water-heating systems. To test the system for leaks, being sure that there is no air in the glycol loop, overpressure the glycol loop to twice the operating pressure (30 PSI maximum, and less than the pressure relief valve rating) and let the system stand for eight hours. If the pressure in the loop has dropped, you have a leak that must be found and repaired. If the pressure holds, fill the system with a 50-percent propylene glycol 50-percent water mixture and pressurize the loop to no more than 15 PSI.

Back to Top

Step 7: Insulate water and glycol lines After the system has been checked for leaks, carefully insulate all of the glycol and water lines. Water piping can be insulated with standard foam pipe insulation. Glycol piping and external heat exchangers should be insulated with fiberglass pipe insulation. Duct tape can be used on the joints of the water piping insulation, and use the joint tape that comes with fiberglass piping insulation. Insulation exposed to sunlight can be protected by a foil wrap, or UV resistant paint. Fiberglass insulation used outside should be protected with PVC insulation covers. Appendix 6 from FSECs Solar Water and Pool Heating Manual (Appendix.pdf) provides an extensive list of tools needed to install, service, and repair solar water-heating systems. The troubleshooting information presented in FSECs Solar Water and Pool Heating Manual [PDF/266KB] offers methods for diagnosing and correcting problems in solar water-heating system installations. Two useful sources from SRCC that provide valuable information on installing a solar water-heating system are OG300 Solar Water Heating Systems Installation Guidelines and Training Video for Inspection of Solar Water Heating Systems (the Outdoor Inspection and Indoor Inspection segments within this video review system installation from the perspective of an inspector). You will need Quick Time 7 to view the segments. You can choose large, medium, or small format versions depending on your connection speed (use the smaller version for slower connection speeds). The transcripts of these segments are available by clicking on the following links:

Training Video Indoor Inspection Transcript [PDF/31KB] Training Video Outdoor Inspection Transcript [PDF/34KB]

1. 2. During the initial site survey, what are five important building characteristics to evaluate? What are the three common methods of installing the collector mounting clips?


Where must the lag screw be when installing a mounting clip in a rafter and why?


Why is a compression block needed when installing a mounting clip between rafters?


For a one-story building, what is a method of getting the collectors on the roof and how many people are required to do so?


Although not given in the materials presented in this lesson, how could you get solar collectors on the roof of a two- or more-story building?


Why should you be careful when lifting shingles to make it possible to install a copper flashings for the plumbing lines?


What function does the flashing cap perform?


Why is it necessary to clean and flux both surfaces of copper pipes and fittings before sweat soldering?

10. Why is it necessary to install the collector plumbing lines such that the collectors can be drained?

11. What could be the result if you install a temperature/pressure relief valve near the collector outlet?

12. Why does the automatic air vent valve have to be installed in a vertical position?

13. Where are the proper places to install a differential controllers sensors?

14. What is main reason that soft copper piping is installed between the storage tank and the collector inlet and outlet?

15. Why install a check valve in a solar water-heating system?

16. In a freeze-protected solar water-heating system, how do you fill the system with the heat transfer fluid and when is it best to do the task?

17. Why is an expansion tank needed in a freeze-protected solar water heating system?

18. Why should a by-pass line and ball valves be installed between the solar storage tank and the conventional domestic hot water heater?

19. Why is it important that you fill and pressurize the solar water heating system before installing insulation on the plumbing lines?

20. After installing pipe insulation on the exterior plumbing lines, how do you protect the insulation from UV degradation?

21. After turning the solar water heater "on" and giving the building owner a walk-through, what printed materials should be left at the building?

Lesson 5 Photovoltaics (PV) System Basics

Overview Types of PV systems PV System Components Grid-Connected PV System Components System Components o Solar Cells o Arrays o Mounting Structures o Combiner Box o Inverters Questions Answers

Photovoltaic (PV) systems convert sunlight to electric current. You are already familiar with some simple PV applications in todays society, such as calculators and wristwatches. More complicated systems provide power for communications satellites, water pumps, and the lights, appliances, and machines in homes and workplaces. Many road and traffic signs along highways are now powered by PV. PV systems produce some electric current any time the sun is shining, but more power is produced when the sunlight is more intense and strikes the PV modules directly (as when rays of sunlight are perpendicular to the PV modules). While solar thermal systems use heat from the sun to heat water or air, PV does not use the sun's heat to make electricity. Instead, electrons freed by the interaction of sunlight with semiconductor materials in PV cells create an electric current. PV modules are much less tolerant of shading than are solar water-heating panels. When siting a PV system, it is most important to minimize any shading of the PV modules. PV allows you to produce electricitywithout noise or air pollutionfrom a clean, renewable resource. A PV system never runs out of fuel, and it won't increase U.S. oil imports. Many PV system components are manufactured right here in the United States. These characteristics could make PV technology the U.S. energy source of choice for the 21st century. Back to Top

Types of PV Systems
Net-Metered Systems Lesson 7 will focus on installation of grid-connected/net-metered PV systems. PV systems interconnected to the utility called grid-connected or net-metered systems can be metered in such a way as to allow the customergenerator to get credit for electric energy produced by the PV system. The PV system is connected at the customers breaker panel, and if the power generated is greater than the load, the power runs in reverse through the meter, and

runs it backwards. The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission adopted net-metering standards that govern how small alternative electric generatorssuch as PV systemsconnect to the electric distribution system and how they are compensated for generation they provide into the electric utility distribution system. The net-metered customer is to be reimbursed (by the electric distribution company) at the full retail rate for each kilowatt-hour produced by the customer during a billing period and at the end of the billing period, the customer will be compensated if they generated more than they used during the period. In other words, the electric utility meter on the building can backup whenever the PV system produces more electricity than is being consumed and if at the end of the billing period the building still has generated more than it consumed, the distribution company will pay for the excess. Net metering laws are generally in place in order to encourage renewable energy generation. Before the homeowner buys or installs any generation equipment to be net metered, they should call their electric utility service provider, and find out from them all of the utility requirements and rules for installing and interconnecting a generator.

Net-metered PV systems use the existing utility grid as storage. Image: DOE

Stand-alone Systems PV systems that are not connected to the utility grid are called remoteor stand-alone systems. These systems are sized large enough to meet all the electric needs of the building, rather than just a portion as is common in grid-connected systems. To reduce the sizeand, thus, costof these systems, the home owner must be very efficient in electric energy use. Rafters are usually 16 inches or 24 inches center to center. If you cannot attach the collector mounting hardware to the rafter itself, you must install a spanner block between the rafters and mount the collector hardware to the sleeper. Do not rely on the roof sheathing to support the solar collectors. Be sure that the collector mounting hardware is securely attached to the framing members.

PV provides electric energy to this remote home. Image: NREL/PIX 07630

In remote areas where existing utility lines are a considerable distance away, PV is often the least expensive way to provide electricity to a building. The expense of installing the power line can be at least $25,000.00 per mile and can be as much as $60,000.00 per mile. A remote solar electric system can be less expensive than the line extension.

Off-grid systems have the same components as grid-connected systems, except that they do not need a grid-tie inverter, and they do need storage batteries. Also, off-grid systems may have additional components such as an auxiliary generator, or even a wind turbine. Back to Top

PV System Components
Specific PV system components may include a DC-AC power inverter, battery bank, system and battery controller, auxiliary energy sources, and sometimes the specified electrical load (appliances). In addition, an assortment of balance-of-system hardware, including wiring, over-current, surge protection and disconnect devices, and other power processing equipment may be included. The following diagram illustrates the relationship of individual components.

Diagram: Florida Solar Energy Center

Grid-Connected PV System Components

This schematic shows example components of a general grid-connected system.

PV modules are mounted on mounting racks and are attached to a structure or may be mounted on a pole. A number of modules assembled together is called an array. Individual modules produce electric current and voltage that depends upon the specific module. The electric output wires of the modules are wired together in a combiner box in order to get the voltage and current required by the inverter. The array output can be disconnected by a DC disconnect switch. In order for the system to be disconnected from the grid by utility workers, a utility accessible AC disconnect switch is installed on the inverter output. The inverter may have two connections to the breaker panel.

Pole-mounted PV system array. Tantare Residence, Townsend, MT.

Back to Top System Components: Solar Cells Semiconductor The primary material used to convert sunlight to electricity is called a semiconductor. There are two basic types of semiconductors: p-type and n-type. The p-type semiconductor material has an abundance of holes with a positive electrical charge, while the n-type semiconductor material has an abundance of electrons with a negative electrical charge. When these two semiconductors come into contact with each other, a p/n junction is created at the interface. At this junction, excess electrons move from the n-type side to the p-type side, resulting in a positive charge along the n-type side and a negative charge along the p-type side. This creates an electric field much like a battery with one side having a positive charge and the other a negative charge. The process through which the device converts sunlight into electricity is called thephotoelectric effect. The device is commonly called a photovoltaic or PV cell. Sunlight striking a PV cell is either reflected, absorbed, or it passes through. The light that is absorbed in the PV cell transfers energy to the electrons in the cells atoms. With the added energy from the absorbed light, the electrons escape from their normal position and become part of the electrical flow in an electrical circuit through, for example, a motor on a model car, shown at left. The typical PV cell produces a small electrical output usually constructed to produce between 0.5 and 2 Watts. Since these devices are electrical, they can be connected in series and parallel strings to boost the electrical output. Connecting in series increases the voltage output, while connecting in parallel increases the current output. Connecting PV cells in series and parallel strings forms what is called a module. Some manufacturers now produce power modules that can produce 190 Watts or more. A 190-Watt module connected to a load may produce 27 volts at around 7 amps when exposed to full sun conditions. System Components: Arrays

Modules are commonly connected in series and parallel strings to form what is called an array. The output of an array can be designed to meet almost any electric requirement, large or small. The picture below shows an array that has a peak DC rating of 4.5 kilowatts.

Image: National Center for Appropriate Technology, Butte, MT

System Components: Mounting Structures

Image: DOE

Image: Spa Hot Springs Motel Tracking Solar Arrays

Generally, solar modules do not have the structure needed to withstand wind loading, and so must be mounted on a mounting structure. Mounting structures are usually made of steel or aluminum and may be attached to the roof of the home in a fashion similar to that for solar water-heating panels (see Lesson 4). Mounting structures may be fixed mount, may allow the array to be tilted seasonally, or may, on pole mounts, be able to track the sun. Back to Top System Components: Combiner Box Another major component of a PV system is the combiner box. Modules are commonly connected into an electrical string to produce the desired voltage and amperage. The resulting wires from each string are routed to the combiner box. In this box all the strings are combined into one electrical output that is then fed to the inverter. In this picture, ten strings of modules are fed through fuses to produce a single output. Note the size of the input wires versus the size of the wire conducting the combined output out the bottom of the circuit board. The black cylinder on the right hand side of the combiner box is a lightning arrestor.

System Components: Inverters PV cells, modules, and arrays produce direct current (DC). Electric loads that are not connected to the utility grid can use the PV-generated power if they are designed to operate on direct current. Using a charge controller, PVgenerated power can charge a bank of storage batteries which can power DC loads when the sun is not shining on the array. Most appliances and equipment found in the home are designed to operate on alternating current (AC) which is generated by electric utility companies. The device that converts DC to AC for use in the home is called an inverter. In stand-alone or grid-connected PV system installations, inverters are commonly used to power household appliances, tools and other equipment. These inverters do not need the utilities voltage and frequency reference to produce AC with electrical characteristics much like utility-generated AC. Inverters that are connected to the utility grid produce AC that is identical to the power produced by the utility. These inverters sense the utilitys generated voltage and wave form characteristics and produce AC of the same form.

In the picture to the right, the inverter is the large, white, rectangular device. The white, square box to the right of the inverter and the gray box to its left are disconnect switchesthe one on the left disconnects the inverter from the utility and the one on the right is the DC disconnect. In this case, the DC disconnect switch also contains a ground fault interrupter for the PV array. The small box just above the inverter is a monitor that shows the arrays DC voltage and current output. Note the electrical conduit into and out of the disconnect switches.

1. Give three ways that a PV cell and a battery are alike.


A battery converts chemical energy into electrical energy. What type of energy does a PV cell convert?


Since each individual PV cells electrical output is small, how can the cells be configured to produce the electrical output needed to power a high electric demand?


Why is an inverter needed for a PV system that is connected to the local utility grid?


What function does the combiner box perform in a PV system?

Lesson 6 PV System Selection and Sizing

Questions Answers

The first step in designing a PV system is to decide whether to install a PV system that is connected to the local utility grid or a remote system that functions without a utility connection. For either PV system type, the amount of shadefree roof area available from roughly 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. for mounting the PV array must be determined. If a ground- or a pole-mount is considered rather than a roof-mount, these optional sites need to be shade-free also during the same time period. A remote PV systems array size is determined after determining the buildings average daily electrical demand and sizing other components in the total system. For a grid-connected PV system the array size can be simply sized to fit within the amount of mounting area and the budget for the project. Most of the discussion in this lesson will focus on grid-connected PV systems, with some tidbits on remote site installations

Most power modules have a peak output around 12 Watts per square foot of module area. Thus, for every 100 square feet of roof area, a PV array with an output of around 1200 peak Watts could be installed. Using the amount of roof area available, an estimate of the total potential array output can be made. Be sure that there is room around the PV array to be able to work around it safely. At this point, an economic decision must be made. Using a cost of $8 to $10/Watt of the arrays peak output to install a PV system, a preliminary assessment between available funds and array size can be made. Only install modules that have a UL 1703 listing. The Underwriters Laboratory (UL) uses safety and performance standards specific to the equipment type and issues a listing for models that pass the safety and performance tests. For most grid-connected PV system installations, the estimated peak array output is used as the basis for specifying the inverter needed for the PV system. In some cases, the buildings electrical demand may be determined and used to specify the inverter. In a remote or stand-alone PV system installation, the average daily electric load of the building needs to be calculated first. The buildings electric demand should include the Watt demand of all ac loads running at the same time, plus the wattage from the surge of starting motors, plus all dc loads operating at the same time; this demand is further increased by 1.2 to account for inverter losses. In both the grid-connected and remote site situations, the initial estimate of the inverters capacity may be changed by making a decision that at some point in the future you plan to increase the size of PV array. There are two basic types of inverters to consider for this course those that produce a modified sine wave and those that produce a true sine wave. Although modified sine wave inverters are less expensive than true sine wave models, they can not produce the quality waveform required by some equipment. Utility companies produce electricity that is a true sine wave. A modified sine wave inverter produces a slightly squared off electrical waveform, but computers, power tools, refrigerators and most all equipment can use this generated electricity. Pure sine wave inverters produce a true sine wave that is the same as utility generated waveforms and is needed by high-end audio equipment and other specialized equipment that are electrically sensitive such as life support equipment. All inverters should be UL 1741 listed. In grid-connected installations the inverter must shut down rapidly in situations where the utility goes down this is called anti-islanding and is a safety function for utility personal and electricians who may be working in the area.

Sine Wave and Modified Sine Wave Electric Power Forms Graphic: NCAT

Back to Top Inverters designed for remote site and grid-connected installations are available that are designed to use nominal 12, 24-, or 48-volt DC electricity from the PV array and some grid-connected inverters are designed to operate with input voltages ranging from 139 up to nearly 600 volts DC. The higher-voltage strings carry low current levels; this allows the use of smaller diameter wire in the circuit between the inverter and the modules. Once you have identified the type and the output capacity of the inverter for a grid-connected system, you can determine the PV modules youll need. Using module maximum working voltage and amperage values, you can use series and parallel calculations to match the inverters input electrical requirement with the proposed array output electrical characteristics. You will have to be aware of the open circuit voltage and amperage of the module strings to not exceed the normal input range for the inverter chosen. Matching modules with the inverter will most likely be an iterative process. Inverters using high voltage inputs are best matched with PV modules using a computer program provided by each inverter manufacturer. The computer programs use a database of specific module electrical characteristics to identify the appropriate number of modules in each string and the number of strings feeding the specified inverter. Programs for several brands can be found at the links below:

Xantrex: www.xantrex.com/support/gtsizing/disclaimer.asp?lang=eng Sunnyboy: www.sma-america.com/stringsizing.html PV Powered: www.pvpowered.com/string_sizing.php Beacon Power: www.beaconpower.com/StringCalc/ Fronius: www.fronius.com/solar.electronics/downloads/configurator.htm

In Lesson 3, you learned that the amount of solar insolation incident on surfaces with tilt angles between 10 and 50 degrees up from horizontal and orientations plus/minus 30 degrees of true south varies only about 6 percent on an annual basis. Mounting the array on a sloped roof at the optimum 40 degree tilt angle is most likely not worth the added cost for tilting the rack up to hold the array. A slight advantage of tilting the array at 40 degrees is wintertime shedding of snow. real disadvantage of the added tilt is the potential of damage from strong winds. And another consideration is the aesthetic appearance of a skylight-like structure on the roof compared to an off-angle array installation. Given the small annual insolation variation, the decision to mount the PV array three to four inches above (parallel to) the roof is the best method to use. On a flat roof, and for a ground- or a polemount, the array should be installed at a 40-degree tilt angle. The pictures to the right and below show grid-connected PV systems mounted on a flat roof, a pole, and on a railroad tie foundation (ground mount). Installing a PV system parallel to a sloped roof would have the following equivalent tilt angle: Roof slope Slope or Tilt Angle (degrees) 14 18 23 27 37 45 53 59

3/12 4/12 5/12 6/12 9/12 12/12 16/12 20/12

The National Electric Code (NEC) has a significant impact on the design of and the components used in a PV system. Sandia National Laboratories' Photovoltaic Center has posted the following wire coding and sizing information from The Stand-Alone PV System Handbook on its website.

Wire Types Commonly Used in the U.S.

Underground Feeder (UF)may be used for interconnecting balance-of-systems

(BOS) but not recommended for use within battery enclosures; single conductor UF wire may be used to interconnect modules in the array but this type of wire is not widely available. Tray Cable (TC)multi-conductor TC wire may be used for interconnecting BOS; TC has good resistance to sunlight but may not be marked as such. Service Entrance (SE)may be used for interconnecting BOS Underground Service Entrance (USE)may be used for interconnecting modules or BOS; may be used within battery enclosures THHNindicates wire with heat resistant thermoplastic sheathing; it may be used for interconnecting BOS but must be installed in conduit, either buried or above ground. It is resistant to moisture but should not be used in wet locations. TWrefers to moisture resistant thermoplastic sheathing; it may be used for interconnecting BOS but must be installed in conduit. May be used in wet locations.

Note: The use of NMB (Romex) is not recommended except for ac circuits as in typical residential wiring. Although commonly available, it will not withstand moisture or sunlight.

Back to Top In the United States, the size of wire is categorized by the American Wire Gage (AWG) scale. The AWG scale rates wires from No. 18 (40-mil diameter) to No. 0000 (460 mil diameter). Multiple conductors are commonly enclosed in an insulated sheath for wires smaller than No. 8. The conductor may be solid or stranded. Stranded wire is easier to work with particularly for sizes larger than No. 8. Copper conductors are recommended. Aluminum wire is less expensive, but can cause problems if used incorrectly. Many different materials are used to make the sheath that covers the conductors. You must select a wire with a covering that will withstand the worst-case conditions. It is mandatory that sunlight resistant wire be specified if the wire is to be exposed to the sun. If the wire is to be buried without conduit it must be rated for direct burial. For applications such as wiring to a submersible pump or for battery inter-connections, ask the component dealer for recommendations. Often the dealer or manufacturer will supply appropriate wire and connectors. More useful information is contained in NEC. It is recommended that any designer/installer review Article 300 before proceeding. This article contains a discussion of wiring methods and Table 310-13 gives the characteristics and recommended usage of different wire types. Table 310-16 gives temperature derate factors. Another useful reference available from the PVSAC at Sandia National Laboratories is Photovoltaic Power Systems and the National Electrical Code, Suggested Practices. Selecting the correct size and type of wire for the system will optimize performance and increase reliability. The size of the wire must be capable of carrying the current at the operating temperature without excessive losses. It is important to derate the current carrying capacity of the wire if high temperature operation is expected. A wire may be rated for high temperature installations (60-90C), but this only means that the insulation of the wire can withstand the rated temperature it does not mean that ampacity is unaffected. The current-carrying capability (ampacity) depends on the highest temperature to which the wires will be exposed when it is carrying the current. According to Table 310-16 in the NEC, a UF-type wire operating at 55C can safely carry only 40 percent of the current, or 30C a significant derate. If the ampacity of the wire is exceeded, it could result in overheating, insulation break-down, and fires. Properly sized fuses are used to protect the conductors and prevent this kind of damage. Loss in a DC circuit is equal to I2R, where I is the current and R is the resistance of the wire. For 100 ampere current, this means 10,000 times the loss in the circuit compared to a one amp load. It is easy to see why resistance must be kept small. Also, the voltage drop in the circuit is equal to IR. Voltage drop can cause problems, particularly in low-voltage systems. For a 12-volt system, a one-volt drop amounts to more than 8 percent of the source voltage. Avoid long wire runs or use larger wire to keep resistance and voltage drop low. For most applications, AWG No. 8, No. 10, and No. 12 are used.

An abbreviated wire sizing table for a 12-Volt DC system is shown below. The table indicates the minimum wire size that should be used if the voltage drop is to be limited to 3 percent for any branch circuit. (This table can be adjusted to reflect different voltage drop percentages or different system voltages by using simple ratios. For example, a 2percent loss can be calculated by multiplying the values in the table by 2/3. For a 24-Volt DC system, the values can be multiplied by two. For a 120-volt system multiply by 10.) The calculations show one-way distance, taking into account that two wires, positive and negative, are used in an electrical circuit. As an example, assume the array is 30 feet from the controller and the maximum current is 10 amperes. The table shows that No. 8-size wire can be used up to a one-way distance of 30 feet (no temperature derate included). While the general rule is to limit the voltage drop for any branch circuit to 3 percent, there may be some applications, particularly those operating at or below 12 Volts, where the loss should be limited to 1 percent or less. For the total wire run on any path from source to load, the loss should be no greater than 5 percent. One-way Wire Distance (feet) for 3% voltage drop - 12 volt system - copper wire AWG Wire Size 14 Amperes 1.0 2.0 5.0 10.0 20.0 30.0 71 35 15 7 113 56 24 12 6 4 180 90 38 19 9 6 286 143 60 30 15 10 278 95 47 23 17 362 150 75 36 24 12 10 8 6 4

The NEC requires certain conventions for color of conductors and specifies requirements for disconnecting the power source (code reference for each condition is given in brackets). Specifically:

The grounded conductor is to be white. [200-6]. Convention is for the first ungrounded conductor of a PV system to be red, and the second ungrounded conductor black (negative in a center tapped PV system). Single-conductor cable is allowed for module connections only. Sunlight resistant cable should be used if the cable is exposed. [690-31b] Modules should be wired so they can be removed without interrupting the grounded conductor of another source circuit. [690-4c] Any wiring junction boxes should be accessible. [690-34] Connectors should be polarized and guarded to prevent shock. [690-33] Means to disconnect and isolate all PV source circuits will be provided. [690-13] All ungrounded conductors should be able to be disconnected from the inverter. [690-15] If fuses are used, you must be able to disconnect the power from both ends. [690-16] Switches should be accessible and clearly labeled. [690-17]

The purpose of grounding any electrical system is to prevent unwanted currents from flowing (especially through people) and possibly causing equipment damage, personal injury, or death. Lightning, natural and man-made ground faults, and line surges can cause high voltages to exist in an otherwise low-voltage system. Proper grounding, along

with over-current protection, limits the possible damage that a ground fault can cause. Consider the following and recognize the difference between the equipment grounding conductor and the grounded system conductor:

One conductor of a PV system (>50 volts) must be grounded, and the neutral wire of a center tapped three wire system must also be grounded. [690-41]. If these provisions are met, this is considered sufficient for the battery ground (if batteries are included in the system). [690-73]. A ground is achieved by making a solid low resistance connection to a permanent earth ground. This is often done by driving a metallic rod into the earth, preferably in a moist location. [250-83]. A single ground point should be made. [690-42]. This provision will prevent the possibility of potentially dangerous fault current flowing between separate grounds. In some PV systems where the PV array is located far from the load, a separate ground can be used at each location. This will provide better protection for the PV array from lightning surges. If multiple ground points are used, they should be bonded together with a grounding conductor. All exposed metal parts shall be grounded (equipment ground). [690-44] The equipment grounding conductor should be bare wire or green wire. [210-5b] The equipment grounding conductor must be large enough to handle the highest current that could flow in the circuit. [690-43]

Because the module frames are usually aluminum and bare copper wire is used for the ground conductor, you must use the module grounding location and the manufacturers specified hardware to assure a low-resistance connection to provide long-term protection from shocks and fire hazards. The grounding conductor must be sized to safely carry the current of the over-current device protecting the circuit. It is important that the installation crew includes a certified electrician knowledgeable about applicable codes and a person knowledgeable about the equipment used in the PV system installation. Article 690 of NEC addresses electrical requirements and the equipment for installing a PV system. The electrician must know the codes and be present to answer questions during the electrical inspection. Back to Top

1. During the initial site visit to check a single story buildings acceptability for a PV system, you note that the asphalt-shingled roof has a 4/12 slope and is oriented 10 degrees to the west of true south. The southfacing roof is a rectangle that is 30 feet wide and 20 feet from the eaves to the roof top. Is this building a good candidate for a PV installation? If it is and given that the roof can support the PV system and a 3person installation crew, what would you suggest to the building owner as the largest, safe array (peak output) to install?


For the same building described in question 1, what conditions might you encounter that would make you reject the site for a system installation?


What estimated cost would you tell the building owner for an installed PV system with a peak output of 3000 Watts?


Why is an inverter needed in a grid-connected PV installation?


Why is an inverter needed in a remote or stand-alone PV system?


How would you size the inverter for a grid-connected PV system?


What is the color of the grounded conductor in a PV installation and how is it sized?


What is the color of the equipment/frame ground wire in a PV installation and how is it sized?


What function does the equipment/frame ground perform?

10. Given that a PV system uses modules outputting a nominal 12 volts at 5 amperes, the modules are 30 feet from a combiner box, and you can only tolerate a 2% voltage drop, what gauge of wire should be used to connect the modules with the combiner box? What gauge of wire if the modules strings were 24 volt at 5 amps?

Lesson 7 PV System Installation

Questions Answers

In the initial site visit, the approximate locations for the inverter, disconnect switches, the combiner box(es), and the junction box(es) are identified. The distance between each device and from the inverter to the buildings electric panel is noted. Using the PV systems peak DC voltage and current output, the inverters AC electrical characteristics, and the distances between the equipment the appropriate size of wire for each run can be determined (see the voltage drop table in Lesson 6). Given that the building has passed the site survey and is a good candidate for installing the solar electric system, it is time to start the paper work. Keep in mind that various municipalities across Pennsylvania enforce different codes and may have restrictive covenants that need to be checked and cleared with the local officials. The building and electrical permits need to be obtained before proceeding with the PV system installation. Safety

Safety is of the utmost importance. Even before unloading the solar equipment and installation hardware and tools, the crew should have a safety meeting. It is recommended that everyone on the crew be trained in CPR and basic first aid. This meeting should include safety issues presented in the solar water-heating section, such as preventing falls from cluttered work areas, setting up and using ladders correctly, wearing gloves and safety glasses, and being careful to not drop tools or equipment. The meeting also should include a lengthy discussion of electric shock and its potential when working around PV systems should be presented. The following information is excerpted from Sandia National Laboratorys Photovoltaic Systems Research & Development website www.sandia.gov/pv/syso/ESafety1.html. Common electrical accidents result in shocks and/or burns, muscle contractions, and traumatic injuries associated with falls after the shock. These injuries can occur any time electric current flows through the human body. The amount of current that will flow is determined by the difference in potential (voltage) and the resistance in the current path. At low frequencies (60 Hz or less) the human body acts like a resistor but the value of resistance varies with conditions. It is difficult to estimate when current will flow or the severity of the injury that might occur because the resistivity of human skin varies from just under a thousand ohms to several hundred thousand ohms depending primarily on skin moisture. If a current greater than 0.02 amperes (only 20 milliamperes) flows through your body, you are in serious jeopardy because you may not be able to let go of the current-carrying wire. This small amount of current can be forced through sweaty hands with a voltage as low as 20 volts, and the higher the voltage the higher the probability that current will flow. High voltage shock (>400 volts) may burn away the protective layer of outer skin at the entry and exit points. When this occurs, the bodys resistance is lowered and lethal currents may cause instant death. The data in the following table shows the reaction of the human body to various levels of current flow. Electric Shock Hazard - Current Level Reaction Perception - Tingle, Warmth Shock - Retain muscle control; reflex may cause injury Severe Shock - Lose muscle control; cannot let-go; burns; asphyxia Ventricular Fibrillation Heart Frozen - Body temperature rises; death occurs in minutes AC Current (ma) 1.0 2.0 20 100 1000 DC Current (ma) 6.0 9.0 90 500 1000

Electrical shock is painful and a potentially minor injury is often aggravated by the reflex reaction of jumping back away from the source of the shock. Anytime a PV array contains more than two PV modules, a shock hazard should be presumed to exist. To avoid shock, always measure the voltage from any wire to any other wires, and to ground. Use a clamp-on ammeter to measure the current flowing in the wires. Never disconnect a wire before you have checked the voltage and current. Do not presume everything is in perfect order. Do not trust switches to operate perfectly and do not trust that schematics will always tell everything you need to know. Use a voltmeter oftenit could save your life.

Back to Top

Roof: Select Installation Site

On the roof, the physical site for the PV array needs to be chosen and within this area, the rafters must be located. The composition of the roof will dictate how the mounting rails or rackwhich hold the modules in the arrayshould be installed. The mounting procedure is basically the same as for the solar water-heating installation. You have the choice of using lag screws into the center of the rafters; using the J-bolt next to the rafter; or using a spanner board, all thread, and compression block to mount the clips for holding the rack system which holds the modules securely in place. Locating the rafters and their centers from up on the roof could involve using a stud finder, tapping with a hammer, using the fascia board/rafter nail connection, or a combination of these methods. If you cannot locate the rafters from the roof, you will have to get into the attic space. Once you get oriented in the attic space, use a long 1/16th inch drill bit to drill a hole up through the roof right next to one of the rafters that you will be using to attach the mounting clips. If you do not have someone on the roof to note where the drill bit comes up through the roof, push a piece of wire up through the hole to allow you to easily see the hole when you go back up on the roof. Drill two holes, one at the upper level of the mounting racks location and one at the lower level of the rack. Be sure to measure the distance between the rafters at each level of the drilled holethis will allow you to locate the center of rafters, including those that were not installed parallel to each other. For a roof covered with masonry or ceramic tiles, the installation process needs some adjustments. The roof structure is commonly designed near the limit of the dead load of the tiles. In this case, the rafters must be enhanced to support the additional dead load of the PV system and the live load associated with the installation. An alternative is to remove the tiles where the PV system is to be installed and transition to a roof of asphalt or composition shingles. Doing this should allow the installation of the PV system without enhancing the roof structure. Install the mounting clips according to the manufacturers instructions. Use a sealant that is UV-resistant to prevent leaks when screwing down the mounting clips. If you had to drill up through the roof to locate the rafters, be sure to force sealant into those holes also. For an installation with the array installed parallel to the roof slope, the mounting clips should be such that the PV modules are situated 3 to 4 inches above the roof. This allows cooling air to circulate below the modules, allows rain to run off under the array, and helps prevent ice dams from forming during freezing conditions. Depending on the mounting equipment, rails are commonly attached to the mounting clips and serve as a secure structure for attachment of the modules and sub-arrays. Connect all dissimilar metals (such as steel and aluminum) using non-conductive washers to prevent galvanic corrosion. Make sure that all connections of the mounting clips and mounting rails are tightonce the modules or sub-arrays are attached, it might not be possible to get to the nuts and bolts. Visually check the modules for any cracked glazing, and check that the frame, wiring box, and the backs potting material are intact. Check the open circuit voltage and current of each module before hauling them up onto the roof. Depending on the mounting technique and the inverters input voltage, you may be able to assemble a group of modules into a sub-array on the ground. The modules can be connected with the proper size, color, and type of wiring to form the sub-array, and then the sub-arrays open circuit voltage and current can be checked before being moved to the roof as a unit. Label the each wire pair for connection in the junctionthis is used to document and identify the string and circuit going to the inverter and can be used for troubleshooting purposes at some point in the future. To prevent shocks, be sure to use wire nuts and/or electricians tape to cover the ends of wires coming off the modules or sub-array. When the modules are exposed to sunlight, they are electrically hot and are capable of providing the closed-circuit (normal) operating voltage and current levels to any material that can become a circuit. Before closing the electrical connector box on each module, check that the wiring connections are tight. Getting the modules or sub-array to the roof can be as simple as one man on a step-ladder lifting a module up to a second person on the roof of a single story building. In the case of a sub-array, two people could be on the roof using ropes or straps to pull the sub-array up a ladder or two with another person below stabilizing and pushing the sub-array upward. In the picture below, an articulated manlift is used to move sub-arrays to the roof of a three-story building. Note two points of interest: 1) there are two people on the left-facing roofthey are in harness and tied off and will move to the south roof to

attach the sub-array when it ispositioned near the mounting rails; and 2) the table to the right of the white truck is used to assemble the modules into sub-arrays.

Before the module or sub-array is attached to the mounting rack on the roof, the frame ground wire needs to be attached. Modules have a designated spot to attach the equipment ground wire. Youll need to procure the correct type of stainless steel fastener and connector (sometimes supplied with the module). The wire for the equipment ground shall be bare copper. The ground needs to be continued to the common DC equipment ground bus. This can be accomplished by transitioning to a green THHN ground wire in the roof junction box which is carried thru the steel conduit to the PV DC disconnect or inverter. The bare copper wire can be run outside the conduit to the junction box, then the combiner box and on to the inverter or other disconnect means where it is connected to a equipmentgrounding screw. The size of the equipment grounding wire is dictated by the rating of the overcurrent device (breaker/fuse) protecting the circuit. If for example the overcurrent breaker is rated at 30 amps, the grounding conductor should be AWG #10 copper. Check the tightness of the equipment ground connection and tighten as necessary you probably will not be able to reach all of them later when the modules or sub-arrays are mounted securely on the rails. The locations for the junction box(es) and combiner box(es) were determined during the initial site survey. Re-evaluate the sites, install the hardware, and connect the pieces of equipment with conduit. The combiner box is basically a device that connects the input PV strings in parallel to produce one circuit. Remember that paralleling electric circuits increases the current flow in the downstream circuit. The combiner box output wire must be sized larger for the higher current and to minimize voltage drop and line losses of the PV generated DC power going to the inverter. The conduit between the junction box(es) and the combiner box(es) must be sized to safely hold the number of module or sub-array wire pairs passing through.
Note: steel conduit is recommended for PV source circuits and

required per National Electric Code section 690.xx.

In the fused combiner box(es), the fuses should be removed and the appropriate number of properly sized wire pairs should be fished from the combiner box(es) to the junction box(es). Each wire pair should be labeled at each end for connection in the combiner and junction boxes. Connect the wire pairs in the combiner box(es) first and then connect them to the wires from modules or sub-arrays in the junction box(es). CAUTION: When making PV source circuit electrical connections in junction and combiner boxes, make absolutely sure that each source circuit is broken by keeping a series connection disconnected for each source circuit (typically made with MC style plugs). Back to Top The very last connection should be the plugging together these series connections. In this way, you will never be exposed to the lethal voltages involved. The junction box(es) should be sized larger than required for the number of wire pairs to be connected in them. Over sizing allows safe connection of the wire pairs outside the box and then the long leads are coiled neatly inside the box. The combiner box above has 10 input strings (this box is installed in an attic space - note the green equipment ground wires). Before you close up the junction box(es) make sure that the wire connections between the PV strings and the extension wires to the combiner box(es) are tight. The conduits between the combiner box(es), DC disconnect switch, and the inverter must be sized to accommodate the size and number of wires passing through them. With the fuses out of the combiner box(es), the inverter and the DC disconnect switch in the off position, and the appropriate wires can be pulled through the conduit and connected to the combiner box(es), disconnect switch, and the appropriate inverter inputs. Note that only the positive wire is switched by the disconnect. The equipment ground wire can also be connected at the combiner box(es), the DC disconnect switch, and the inverter. A DC grounding electrode should be installed that connects with the equipment ground at the inverter. This ground should in turn be connected to the existing AC grounding system in the buildings electric panel. The size of this equipment grounding should be #8 Copper minimum. Conductor size for the DC output is determined by the amp rating of the circuit protection from the combiner box(es) and the DC disconnect switch. The grounding wire size for the AC side of the inverter to the buildings electric panel is determined by the amp rating of the circuit breaker and must be #8 copper at a minimum. If the installation crew is large enough, the inverter and disconnect switches can be installed in the building while the modules are being installed on the roof. The meter that looks like a utility meter is the building owners way of keeping track of the number of kWhs produced by the PV system installed on the roof. This inverter does not have the capability to display the number of kWhs produced by the PV system.

This picture shows the inverter mounted on a board. The AC disconnect switch is mounted to the left of the inverter and the DC disconnect switches are mounted to the inverters right. This is a clean arrangement and having critical switches near each other to be easily shutdown in an emergency or whenever work has to be done on the solar electric system is ideal. Assembling the board with the inverter and disconnect switches already mounted saves install time in the building. Mounting the inverter board close to the combiner box(es) reduces the amount of large gauge wire needed between the combiner box(es) and the inverter. Thus the longer run is smaller gauge wire for the AC circuit from the inverter to the buildings electric panel. A note here, if the inverter has multispeed cooling fans, the noise when the fans operate on high is often too loud to hold a meeting in the same room. It is best to install the inverter board on a wall in a room that is not normally occupied. The AC output from the inverter must be connected to an overcurrent device that is rated at 1.25 times the maximum continuous output current of the inverter. Run conduit from the inverter to the AC disconnect switch and to the buildings electric panel. The utility may require a separate, lockable utility disconnect switch be installed near the utilitys meter. This disconnect switch is for utility personnel use to take the PV system off line when utility work is done in the area. The wire size for these runs is determined by the inverters AC current output and the distance to the breaker being back-fed in the electric panel. Turn the electric panel breaker(s) to the off position, check the disconnect switches to be sure they are in the off position, then fish the appropriate wires to each device back to the inverter. Connect the wires securely to the panel breakers, switches, and the inverter. The installation is ready for a final check before the system is turned on. Although it is probably not possible to check the rooftop connections, check the tightness of all electrical connections and tighten as necessary. In the process of checking the electrical connections, check that the conduit runs are supported according to code, and check the tightness of all mounting screws and bolts used to mount the inverter, disconnect switches, conduit, and the equipment grounding connections. Use the voltmeter to check the polarity and the open circuit voltage and current of each string coming into the combiner box(es). Write down the open circuit volt and current values for each string. These will be used as reference numbers to check the performance of each string and help in the troubleshooting process. Check the open circuit DC voltage at the inverter when the DC disconnect switch is closed. The open circuit current in this circuit is probably more than can be checked with a digital voltmeter (they usually max out at 10 amps), so use a DC ammeter to determine the current level. Record this value for future reference. Check the utilities line-to-line-and line toground voltage at the breakers in the electric panel and label the front of the electric panel and the breakers to identify the solar circuits. Once the final physical and electrical inspections are complete, follow the inverter manufacturers instructions to get the inverter turned on. If all is installed correctly, the PV system should start to produce power. Turn off the inverter, the panel breakers, and all the disconnect switches and contact the inspector to schedule the final system inspection. Finally, you will need to prepare a general electrical schematic to give to the building owner (and the electrical inspector), along with copies of the equipment descriptions, operating and troubleshooting instructions, and warranties. On the electrical schematic, include a drawing of the PV array layout with the specific circuits going to the combiner box(es) labeled.



Why is the equipment ground necessary between the modules and the inverter? Can the same reason be used for installing the equipment ground between the inverter and the electric panel?


Why is low-voltage power dangerous?


Does a PV module with an open circuit voltage and amperage of 27 and 3.5 respectively under full sun conditions, present a shock hazard for someone who comes in contact with the wires? Explain your answer.


What is the function of the combiner box?


Why is there disconnect switch between the inverter and the PV array?


Why is there a disconnect switch between the inverter and the buildings electric panel?


What are the two factors used to determine the size of wire to install in the PV system?


Why is it important to evaluate the voltage drop in DC circuits?


What three methods are commonly used to locate the rafter centers when on the roof?

10. Why mount the PV array at a level 3 to 4 inches above the roof?

Lesson 8 PV System Maintenance

Maintenance Steps 1. At the inverter 2. On the Roof 3. At the Combiner Box(es) 4. Inside 5. Back at the Inverter System Troubleshooting 1. Load Problem

2. Inverter Problem 3. Array Problem Questions Answers

Schedule maintenance twice a year. Around noon on a sunny day is an ideal time to perform maintenance. A homeowner with neither the necessary instrumentation nor the electrical knowledge might consider contracting with an electrician to perform maintenance and inspection of the PV system.

Maintenance Steps
Step 1: At the Inverter Use a voltmeter and a DC ammeter to check and record the inverters operating DC input voltage and current level and on the AC side, and the inverters output voltage and current levels. Check that the appropriate LEDs are lit up to indicate proper operation of the inverter. If the inverter can display the total kWh produced since it first started up, record the amount. Use this number to compare the PV systems production since the last inspection. Step 2: On the Roof Note and record the condition of the modules. Look for signs of degradation (for example, color changes, fogged glazing, delamination, warping, or water leaks), cracked glazing, and bent frames on the modules. Tighten all loose nuts and bolts, holding the modules to the mounting rack and to the mounting clips. Secure any loose wiring under the modules. Check the wiring for signs of chewing by squirrels, and look for cuts, gashes, or worn spots in the wirings insulation. Replace any damaged wire runs. Check the frame ground connections between modules and from the modules to the junction box(es). Check to see that the sealants around all building penetrations are in good condition and repair if necessary. Open the junction box(es) and look for and correct any dirty, loose, or broken connections. Test the tightness of each connection and tighten all loose ones. Note any problems that can be corrected at a later time or at the next scheduled inspection time. Close the junctions box(es) and check that all

Rinse the PV array to remove debris. Image: NREL/PIX 00180

conduit connections are tight. Remove all sources of shade on the array and rinse the array to remove the accumulated dust, dirt, and other debris. Some debris, such as bird droppings, may need to soak a bit to fully remove it. Step 3: At the Combiner Box(es) Open the combiner box(es) and look for any dirty, loose, or broken connections, and correct as necessary. Use a voltmeter and DC ammeter to measure and record the arrays operating voltage and current level on the output side of the combiner box(es). Note the relative sun conditions at the time (i.e., full sun, partly cloudy, heavy overcast). Remove the fuses and then check and record each strings open circuit voltage and current levels. Note any deviation between strings for future correction. You can also use the open circuit measurements to determine if the arrays output is degrading over time. Return the fuses and close the combiner box(es). Step 4: Inside Open all disconnect switches. Use the ohmmeter section of the voltmeter to check the grounding system connections. Greater than 25 ohms indicates that corrosion or a poor connection is present, which must be located and corrected. If opening the disconnect switch breaks the ground, you need to rewire the switch to correct the problem. Check each of the disconnected sections for a ground-fault condition any that are found.

Step 5: Back at the Inverter Turn the inverter off and check for dirty, loose, or broken wires and connections. Check for and repair any ground faults. Power the system up. Check for normal start up operation and that the inverter produces AC electricity. Back to Top

System Troubleshooting
Troubleshooting a PV system usually means: 1. 2. 3. A load does not operate properly or not at all; The inverter does not operate properly or not at all; or The array has low or no voltage or current.

A qualified electrician should check and correct electrical problems in a PV system, since homeowners are unlikely to be qualified to perform such work. Troubleshooting: Load Problem The first step is to check all switches. Are they turned off, or in the wrong position? If so, turn them on or put them in the correct position. Also check to see that the load is plugged in. With a voltmeter, check to see that the proper voltage is present at the loads connection. Next check the fuses and circuit breakers. Are there blown fuses or tripped breakers? If so, locate the cause and fix or replace the faulty component. If there are no blown fuses or tripped breakers and the load is a motor, an internal thermal breaker may be tripped or there may be an open circuit in the motor. Plug in another load and note its operation. Check for broken wires and any loose connections. Clean all dirty connections and replace all bad wiring. With the power off, check for and repair any ground faults. Replace the fuses and reset the switches. If they blow or trip again, there is a problem short, which must be located and repaired. If the load does not operate properly, check the systems voltage at the loads connection. Low voltage could mean that the wire feeding the circuit is too small and too long and needs to be upgraded to reduce the voltage drop. The load also could be too large for the wire size in the circuit. Reduce the load on the circuit or run larger wire that is sized for the current load. Troubleshooting: Inverter Problem A lack of power output from the inverter could be caused by a blown fuse, tripped breaker, a broken wire, a ground fault, or any of the inverters internal disconnects (high and low voltage and current). The load on the inverter may have too high of a current demand. Reduce the loads or replace the inverter with one with a larger output. With the power off, check for and repair any ground faults before starting the inverter again. The utilitys voltage and frequency are sensed by the inverter, which normally produces AC electricity at the same voltage and frequency. The AC current output from the inverter fluctuates with the level of solar insolation on the array. Low or high utility voltage sensed by the internal disconnects will cause the inverter to shut down. Contact the utility to correct the problem on its side. Inverter problems could also be caused by a problem on the array side of inverter that trips one of the internal disconnects. Troubleshooting: Array Problem Prior to getting on the roof, check and record the inverters input voltage and current level from the array. If the array is not producing DC electricity, check all switches, fuses, and circuit breakers. Replace blown fuses and reset the breakers and switches. A spurious surge may have passed through, tripping or blowing the protective devices. Check for broken wires and loose or dirty connections in the inverter. Replace all damaged wires and clean and tighten all connections.

Visually check the array for obvious damage to the modules and wiring. Repair as needed and replace all damaged wiring. Having a fused combiner box can save a lot of time when checking each module or sub-array string. Remove the fuses and then check and record the open-circuit voltage and current reading for each circuit string. If the output voltage is low, it could indicate that some modules in the series string are defective or disconnected and need to be replaced. Defective blocking or bypass diodes in the modules may need to be replaced. Low voltage also could be caused by the wrong wiring connecting the modules in the string to the junction box or combiner box or the inverter. The wiring could be either sized too small or the wire run is too long for the strings output current level. Upgrading the wire size for the current level should correct this problem. Low current output could be caused by cloudy conditions, a defective blocking or bypass diode, a damaged module, one or more parallel connection between modules in the string is broken, loose, or dirty, or some parallel connections the module are broken, loose, or dirty. Replace a damaged module or one with internal parallel connection problems. Replace defective diodes and clean and tighten all connections. Some of the array may be shaded, significantly reducing the arrays current output. Remove the shade source to regain the strings full current output. Dirty modules also could cause reduced current output. Wash the modules to restore the arrays current output.

1. What are the two instruments needed to properly perform the maintenance and troubleshooting tasks for a PV system?


During routine maintenance why is it important to check the voltage and current level at various points in the PV system?


Where is a good place to check the open-circuit electrical characteristics of the strings in the PV array?


What are the characteristics that should be measured and recorded in Question 3 and how are they determined?


If you open a disconnect switch while checking the continuity of the grounding system and the ground is broken, what needs to be done and why?


Give three sources or causes of damage to roof top components of a PV system.


During maintenance you discover that one string in the combiner box has a much lower open-circuit current level compared to the other strings from the PV array. Give what could be two causes and how do you fix the problems?


When checking the array string open-circuit voltages, what are two conditions that would cause a low voltage reading compared to the other strings from the array?


If you were measuring the open-circuit current level of a string and the level dropped suddenly, stayed low for 10 seconds or so and then jumped back to the level you first measured, what is the most probable explanation for the event?

10. Why should you wash the PV modules whenever maintenance is scheduled?

Lesson 9 Economics

Solar Domestic Water-Heating Systems Photovoltaic Systems Questions Answers

Both solar electric and solar water-heating systems provide useful forms of energy for consumption in the home, but at a different cost. This lesson provides simple economic comparison between the systems the amount of time required to payback the cost of the system and its installation.

Solar Domestic Water-Heating Systems

To make economic calculations, well use the same example we used in Lesson 3: a family of four consuming 80 gallons of hot water a day. The hot water temperature is set at 120 degrees F, the cold water inlet temperature is 55 degrees F, and the hot water tank has a heat loss of 2,147 Btus a day. The total daily heat energy demand was calculated in Lesson 3 to be 45,081 Btus. Given that the energy in 3,413 Btus of heat is equal to the energy in 1 kWh of electricity, we can compare the cost of using fuel oil, natural gas, or electricity as the energy source to heat the daily hot water demand in this example. Fuel oil is sold by the gallon and on average contains 139,000 Btus per gallon. Natural gas is sold sometimes by the MCF (thousand cubic feet) and sometimes by DekaTherm (DKT). For the purposes of this example, both are 1,000,000 Btus. Keep in mind that the efficiency of converting from one source of energy to another is not usually 100%. For this example, the use of electricity to heat water can be considered to be 100% efficient because all of the energy from electric resistance heating goes into heating the water, so there are no losses. Fuel-burning appliances must be vented, and some of the energy from burning the fuel carries the products of combustion out of the house. About 70% of the energy content of both natural gas and fuel oil is used to heat the water in the water tank, and the remaining 30% escapes up the flue. Because some energy is lost up the flue, more Btus of gas or oil must be purchased than Btus of electricity. The following table shows the annual cost of providing the example hot water demand for various fuel prices. The annual Btu demand for heating the hot water in the example is 16,454,565 Btus.

16,454,565 Btu / 3413 Btu per KWh = 4,821 KWh 16,454,565 Btu/70% Efficiency = 23,506,521 Btu input of natural gas, propane, or fuel oil. Electricity (4,821 kWh needed) Purchased at $0.10/kWh Purchased at $0.15/kWh Purchased at $0.20/kWh Cost Natural Gas (16.5 Mcf needed) 23.5 purchased at $10/Mcf 23.5 purchased at $13/Mcf 23.5 purchased at $16/Mcf Cost Fuel Oil (118 gallons needed) 169 purchased at $2.50/gal. 169 purchased at $2.75/gal. 169 purchased at $3.00/gal. Cost

$482 $723 $964

$235 $306 $376

$423 $465 $507

In Lesson 3s example, the solar energy system provides 3.54 MWh per year to the hot water. 3.54 MWh*3413000 Btu per MWh is 12.08 million Btu per year, which provides 12.08/16.5 or 73 percent of the heating fuel on an annual basis. The following table provides the savings for each fuel and the calculated simple payback for a solar waterheating system that costs $5,200 to install. The simple payback is calculated as the cost of the solar system divided by the cost savings per year.

Electric example: Annual Savings = 12,080,000 Btu/3413 Btu per KWh*$0.10 per KWh = $353.94 savings per year. $5200.00 installed cost /$353.94 annual savings = 14.7 years simple payback Natural gas example: Annual Savings = 12,080,000 Btu * $10.00 per DKT/1,000,000 Btu per DKT * .70 Efficiency = $172.57 savings per year. $5200.00 installed cost /$172.57 annual savings = 30.1 years simple payback. Fuel oil example: Annual Savings = 12,080,000 Btu * $2.50 per gallon of fuel oil/130,000 Btu per gallon of fuel oil * .70 Efficiency = $331.86 savings per year. $5200.00 installed cost /$331.87 annual savings = 15.7 years simple payback

Electricity $0.10/kWh $0.15/kWh $0.20/kWh

Savings $354 $531 $708

Payback 14.7 yr 9.8 yr 7.34 yr

Natural Gas Savings $10/Mcf $13/Mcf $16/Mcf $173 $224 $276

Payback 30.0 yr 23.2 yr 18.8 yr

Fuel Oil $2.50/gal $2.75/gal $3.00/gal

Savings $331 $365 $398

Payback 15.7 yr 14.2 yr 13.1 yr

A federal tax credit of 30% of the system cost (up to a limit of $2,000) is available to homeowners or businesses installing a solar water-heating system. For this example, the federal tax credit reduces the cost of the system by $1,560. The table below reflects the after-tax paybacks using the cost for the solar water-heating system as $3,640. Electricity $0.10/kWh $0.15/kWh $0.20/kWh Savings $354 $531 $708 Payback 10.3 yr 6.9yr 5.1 yr Natural Gas Savings $10/Mcf $13/Mcf $16/Mcf $173 $224 $276 Payback 21.0 yr 16.3 yr 13.2 yr Fuel Oil $2.50/gal $2.75/gal $3.00/gal Savings $331 $365 $398 Payback 10.9 yr 9.97 yr 9.1 yr

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Photovoltaic Systems
Calculating the simple payback for a solar electric system is less complicated than running the numbers for a solar water-heating system. If a 2-kilowatt (peak) DC system is installed and it produces 2,300 kWh a year for consumption in the building, the simple payback is calculated as follows: Simple Payback = (Cost of the PV system installation) divided by (the cost of electricity times the number of kWh produced by the system) The installed cost of a PV system ranges from $8 to $10 per DC watt of capacity. For a 2-kilowatt system, the cost ranges from $16,000 to $20,000. Using electricity costs of $0.10, $0.15, and $0.20 per kilowatt-hour, the annual savings from producing 2,300 kWh is $230, $345, and $460 respectively. $16,000.00 system cost/ 2300KWh per year*$0.10 per KWh = 69.6 years simple payback With the federal tax credit: $14,000.00 system cost/2300KWh per year*$0.10 per KWh = 60.9 years simple payback There are other reasons that people install solar energy systems, such as reducing greenhouse gases, reducing the need for more power plants, reducing consumption fossil fuels, and reducing environmental destruction. There are other economic analysis methods that can tell you more about the value of installing a solar energy system, but the final analyses are only as good as the input data. For example, it is difficult, if not impossible, to estimate what the future cost for fuels and interest rates will be. In the long run, the simple payback comparison is a quick, easy way to compare between systems using present day costs for fuel and equipment.

1. Would a solar water-heating system be more cost-effective for a homeowner with electric resistance heat, or a homeowner with natural gas heat?


What is the payback period range for the 2 kW PV system example (given above) that is connected to a utility that charges $0.08 per kWh? For $0.25/kWh?


What are the payback period changes for the conditions given in question 2 when the federal tax credits are factored into the calculations?


How does switching from electricity to natural gas or fuel oil change the simple payback for a solar waterheating system?