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Review and analysis of solar thermal facades

Article  in  Solar Energy · October 2016

DOI: 10.1016/j.solener.2016.06.006


10 347

3 authors:

Richard O'Hegarty Oliver Kinnane

Trinity College Dublin University College Dublin


S.J. McCormack
Trinity College Dublin


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Solar Energy 135 (2016) 408–422

Contents lists available at ScienceDirect

Solar Energy
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/solener

Review and analysis of solar thermal facades

Richard O’Hegarty a,⇑, Oliver Kinnane b, Sarah J. McCormack a
Dept of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland
Architecture at Queens University Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: Harnessing solar energy to provide for the thermal needs of buildings is one of the most promising solu-
Received 5 January 2016 tions to the global energy issue. Exploiting the additional surface area provided by the building’s façade
Received in revised form 31 May 2016 can significantly increase the solar energy output. Developing a range of integrated and adaptable prod-
Accepted 2 June 2016
ucts that do not significantly affect the building’s aesthetics is vital to enabling the building integrated
Available online 15 June 2016
solar thermal market to expand and prosper. This work reviews and evaluates solar thermal facades in
terms of the standard collector type, which they are based on, and their component make-up. Daily effi-
ciency models are presented, based on a combination of the Hottel Whillier Bliss model and finite ele-
Solar thermal collector
Solar thermal facades
ment simulation. Novel and market available solar thermal systems are also reviewed and evaluated
Facade integration using standard evaluation methods, based on experimentally determined parameters ISO 9806. Solar
thermal collectors integrated directly into the facade benefit from the additional wall insulation at the
back; displaying higher efficiencies then an identical collector offset from the facade. Unglazed solar ther-
mal facades with high capacitance absorbers (e.g. concrete) experience a shift in peak maximum energy
yield and display a lower sensitivity to ambient conditions than the traditional metallic based unglazed
collectors. Glazed solar thermal facades, used for high temperature applications (domestic hot water),
result in overheating of the building’s interior which can be reduced significantly through the inclusion
of high quality wall insulation. For low temperature applications (preheating systems), the cheaper
unglazed systems offer the most economic solution. The inclusion of brighter colour for the glazing
and darker colour for the absorber shows the lowest efficiency reductions (<4%). Novel solar thermal
façade solutions include solar collectors integrated into balcony rails, shading devices, louvers, windows
or gutters.
Ó 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction increasingly common (Shukla et al., 2012). Facade integration of

photovoltaic technologies is today commonplace and the state of
Over one third of all energy consumption is associated with the art is well documented (Cerón et al., 2013). Facade integrated
buildings, about half of this energy is used for space heating/cool- solar thermal collectors, hereafter, termed Solar Thermal Facades
ing and hot water preparation (IEA, 2013). These loads are primar- (STFs), are less common. Authors have reported a paucity of STF
ily served through the burning of fossil fuels resulting in concerns product options that are aesthetically pleasing or widely commer-
of climate change and environmental degradation. Alternative, cially available (Cappel et al., 2014; Farkas and Horvat, 2012;
sustainable methods of meeting these loads are required. The Probst and Roecker, 2012). STFs include STCs that are integrated
application of solar thermal technology can reduce or eliminate into the weather line of the building (DOMA Solartechnik, 2015;
fossil fuel requirement to provide for a building’s thermal needs S-solar, 2015; Winkler Solar, 2015) or are attached proud of the
(Peuser et al., 2010; Baños et al., 2011). façade as, for example, balcony rails (Ji et al., 2015; Schweizer
Traditionally Solar Thermal Collectors (STCs) are mounted on Energie, 2015; Yang et al., 2013b; Zhai et al., 2008) or louvers
frames that are attached to the roofs of buildings. Facade integra- (Abu-Zour et al., 2006; Palmero-Marrero and Oliveira, 2006; Zhai
tion of renewable technologies exploits a larger proportion of a et al., 2008). These solutions generally derive from common roof
building’s surface area for energy generation. Transpired solar attached solar thermal collectors, configured in alternative orienta-
collectors, based on heating air between layers of the facade are tion, colour, casings and forms.
Increasing the usable building surface area for energy produc-
⇑ Corresponding author. tion is particularly beneficial for buildings with low roof to envel-
E-mail address: ohegartr@tcd.ie (R. O’Hegarty).
ope ratios (Chow et al., 2006, 2005; O’Hegarty et al., 2015; Shi

0038-092X/Ó 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
R. O’Hegarty et al. / Solar Energy 135 (2016) 408–422 409

et al., 2013). Additionally, other components of building services insulation, and (5) fixings and framing systems). Components (1–
compete for roof space. STFs replace building cladding elements 4) are indicated in Fig. 2.
and their associated embodied energy (Greening and Azapagic, The standard roof attached technologies ((A), (B) and (D)) differ
2014; Lamnatou et al., 2015; Maurer et al., 2015a). However, in performance and appearance, but each follows a similar heat
vertically orientating the STCs reduces the annual solar yield per transfer process. Solar radiation incident on the collector is cap-
m2 of collector (by approximately 26% in Dublin) when compared tured by its absorber (2), this heat is then transferred to the piping
with an optimally tilted surface (Fig. 1). network (3) via conduction and finally to the working fluid by a
Locating the collectors vertically reduces solar gains in the sum- combination of conduction and convection. As the collector tem-
mer, which can reduce the risk of the system over heating and sub- perature exceeds the ambient temperature, heat is lost by conduc-
sequently damaging the collector, pump and expansion vessel tion, convection and radiation, and can be reduced by the inclusion
(DGS, 2010; Peuser et al., 2010). A brief introduction to STCs and of insulation backing (4) as well as a vacuum or air space between
their components is first presented to further understand STF cover (1) and absorber (2).
advantages and limitations. Individual collector components are labelled: (1) cover, (2)
absorber, (3) heat transfer fluid network (where light grey indi-
cates inlet and dark is outlet) and (4) insulation.
2. Solar thermal collectors and their components

This work categorises STCs into five core technology types, 2.1. Unglazed collectors
which most STFs derive from; (A) Unglazed Collectors (UC), (B)
Glazed Flat Plate Collectors (FPC), (C) Massive Solar Thermal Col- Unglazed Collectors (UC) (Fig. 2(A)) consist of a hydraulic piping
lectors (MSTC), (D) Evacuated Tube Collectors (ETC) and (E) Con- system connected to, or forming an integral part of, an absorber
centrated Solar Collectors. Simplified section cuts and plan layer that captures the solar radiation and transfers the heat to
drawings of each collector (A–E) are shown in Fig. 2. This classifi- the circulating fluid. The UC may also include insulation at the
cation aims to capture STFs that replicate standard roof attached back. High convective heat losses are characteristic of the UC due
solar thermal systems, as well as novel, and bespoke designs, that to the absence of a covering (Bonhôte et al., 2009;
are adapted from these technologies for façade integration. The Tripanagnostopoulos et al., 2000), which reduces the collector’s
collectors are reviewed with reference to five core components efficiency. Convective heat losses become proportionally signifi-
((1) cover, (2) absorber, (3) heat transfer fluid network, (4) cant when large temperature differences occur between ambient

6 18
Daily solar radiation (kWh/m2d)


Ambient temperature (°C)

4 12
2 6
Optimally tiled
1 Vertical
Ambient temperature (°C) 2
0 0



(a) (b) Month

Fig. 1. (a) Typical roof mounted installation (53° optimal tilt) and solar thermal façade installation (vertical) where (b) displays annual profiles for the average daily solar
radiation on the two surfaces in Dublin, Ireland (Latitude 53.35N; 6.26W). Data taken from (PVGIS, 2016).

Fig. 2. Simplified section and plan drawings of example solar collectors: (A) Unglazed Collector, (B) Glazed Flat Plate Collector, (C) Massive Solar Thermal Collector, (D)
Evacuated Tube Collector and (E) Concentrated Solar Collector.
410 R. O’Hegarty et al. / Solar Energy 135 (2016) 408–422

temperature and the absorber temperature. For this reason they to reduce heat loss. However these inclusions come with a cost
are commonly used in lower temperature applications, such as (Hazami et al., 2010, 2005).
swimming pool heating (Energie Solarie SA, 2015; IEA, 2012) and MSTCs have yet to make a notable impact on the commercial
water preheating for DHW or space heating (Bonhôte et al., market (E-hub, 2015).
2009). An advantage of the unglazed system is its lower cost rela-
tive to other collectors. 2.4. Evacuated tube collectors
UCs account for 8.4% of the global installed solar thermal capac-
ity and 4.5% of the European installed capacity (Weiss and Evacuated Tube Collectors (ETC) (Fig. 2(D)) are composed of an
Mauthner, 2014). UC technology is the foundation for many STF array of evacuated glass tubes. The heat transfer network is
products (Energie Solarie SA, 2015; Rheinzink, 2015). attached to an absorber contained within the evacuated tubes.
ETCs can achieve the highest temperature and efficiency of the
2.2. Flat plate collectors standard technologies discussed. Temperatures can reach over
95 °C (Wang et al., 2015) because of the vacuum-sealed absorber.
Flat Plate Collectors (FPC) (Fig. 2(B)) develops the UC design to Advancements in ETC technology include geometrical enhance-
include glazing on the front of the panel, offset by an air gap from ments of the absorber (Kim and Seo, 2007; Perez et al., 1995)
the absorber, which reduces convective heat losses to the exterior. and coating of tubular surfaces (Joly et al., 2013).
The piping system is bonded to the front or back of the absorber ETCs account for 64.6% of the global installed solar thermal
plate, or forms an integral part of the plate (Duffie and Beckman, capacity and 9% of the European installed capacity (Weiss and
2013). Insulation is located behind the piping system to reduce Mauthner, 2014). UCs and FPCs are most suitable for systemised
conductive heat losses through the back and edges. Water temper- façade integration because of their inherently flat geometry
atures of up to 80 °C can be achieved with standard FPCs (Wang (Yang and Yu, 2011). But ETCs have been integrated in bespoke
et al., 2015). designs such as on balcony guardrails (Behling, 2015; Schweizer
FPC technology has seen significant advancement in recent Energie, 2015).
years (Sadhishkumar and Balusamy, 2014; Shukla et al., 2013).
The addition of selective coatings has decreased absorber emit- 2.5. Concentrating solar thermal collectors
tance, enhancing performance (Wijewardane and Goswami,
2012). Other innovations include; increasing the cover efficiency Concentrating solar thermal collectors are used to generate hot
via selective coatings for glazing (Ehrmann and Reineke-Koch, water or steam, generally in large industrial installations. These are
2012), reducing heat loss through improved insulation and evacu- commonly realised as line-focus collectors or point-focused collec-
ated systems (Beikircher et al., 2014) and improving the heat trans- tors (Wang et al., 2015). The sunlight is concentrated, using mirrors
fer, via geometrical optimization of the piping network (Jaisankar or lenses, to heat fluid to high temperatures.
et al., 2009; Kumar and Prasad, 2000). These progressions have Concentration techniques are also used for smaller scale appli-
resulted in increased efficiency and product choice. cations (Fig. 2(E)) to boost the collector’s efficiency. Compound
FPCs account for 26.4% of the global installed solar thermal parabolic collectors (CPC) are stationary concentrating systems
capacity and 84.9% of the European installed capacity (Weiss and which have an optimised double parabolic trough geometry
Mauthner, 2014). Most STF products derive from the FPC (DOMA (Norton et al., 1994). They are typically applied in conjunction with
Solartechnik, 2015; H+S Solar, 2015; S-solar, 2015; Winkler Solar, ETCs to provide for DHW or space heating applications (Kalogirou,
2015). 2004). Concentrating solar thermal collectors are not commonly
integrated into buildings, however, the geometry and concentra-
2.3. Massive solar thermal collectors tion technology have inspired some novel research (Behling,
2015; CASE, 2015; Tanaka, 2011).
Massive solar thermal collectors (MSTC) (Fig. 2(C)) are opaque
solar collectors that use high capacitance materials in place of 3. Evaluating solar thermal collector efficiency
highly conductive metals (D’Antoni and Saro, 2012). They have a
similar configuration to under-floor heating or thermally active Adapting STC technologies for façade integration affect the effi-
building systems (TABS) but rather than transfer heat from a ciency. STC efficiency is defined as the ratio of useful energy gain,
heated fluid to a massive material such as concrete, they instead Qu, over some specific time period, t, to the solar irradiance, G, over
aim to extract heat from the sunlight exposed material and transfer that same time period (Duffie and Beckman, 2013).
it to a circulating fluid (D’Antoni and Saro, 2012; Lehmann et al., R
Q dt
2007). The high-capacitance properties of the absorber material g¼ R u ð1Þ
means the useful heat gain continues in the absence of solar
Ac G dt
radiation. This work includes STFs with non-negligible storage effects,
Asphalt and sand have been used in large scale MSTCs, however, therefore STF efficiencies are evaluated over a day, gd, using hourly
concrete is primarily used for building applications; also known as radiation data (PVGIS, 2016). A model to calculate the useful
Concrete Solar Collectors (CSCs). They have a lower thermal out- energy gain, Qu, of an FPC is outlined (Hottel and Whillier, 1954)
put, than the standard FPC, however, they are simpler to develop and subsequently modified for evaluating the efficiencies of an
and have a lower cost (D’Antoni and Saro, 2012). Additionally, their UC (with and without back insulation), MSTC and ETC. The useful
inherent durability, structural strength and resistance to outdoor energy gain of an FPC is defined as:
conditions means building integration can be achieved with fewer
maintenance issues (D’Antoni and Saro, 2013; Kuhn, 2012;
Qu ¼ Qi  Ql ð2Þ
Sarachitti et al., 2011). where Qi is the total instantaneous energy gain and Ql is the
More recent research has focused on the material and geometric instantaneous energy loss. Based on this energy balance, the Hot
optimization of CSCs. Increasing the conductivity of the concrete tel–Whillier–Bliss relationship for the useful energy gain, Qu, is
by incorporating metallic material into the concrete matrix defined as:
improves the thermal performance (Keste and Patil, 2012;  
Krishnavel et al., 2014). Glazing and insulation can also be included Q u ¼ Ac F R GðsaÞ  U l ðT f ;i  T a Þ ð3Þ
R. O’Hegarty et al. / Solar Energy 135 (2016) 408–422 411

where FR is the heat removal factor; included to compensate for the complex problem the unit cell method is used (Abbott, 2004;
assumption that the average collector temperature is represented Bopshetty et al., 1992; Sokolov and Reshef, 1992), assuming:
by the fluid inlet temperature, Tf,i. Ta is the ambient temperature.
The transmittance-absorptance product, (sa), is based on the opti- (1) The same temperature distribution exists for each of the par-
cal properties of the cover and absorber of the collector (Fig. 2(1) allel tubes in the collector, and an insulation boundary layer
& (2)). The total thermal transmittance, Ul, is the sum of thermal can be applied to each side of the unit cell.
transmittance through the front (Uf), back (Ub) and edges (Ue) of (2) The temperature gradient parallel to the flow direction is
the collector. The thickness of the back, Lb, and edge, Le, and the con- smaller than the temperature gradient perpendicular to it
ductivity, ki, of the insulation layer (Fig. 2(4)) affect the heat trans- and is assumed negligible.
mittance through the back (Eq. (4)) and edges (Eq. (5)). The front
heat loss of an FPC (Eq. (6)) is affected by the convective and radia- The heat conduction equation is reduced to a two dimensional
tive heat transfer between the absorber and the cover (hc,abs-c and problem. The heat transfer in the 2D geometry is developed in
hr,abs-c); and the convective and radiative heat transfer between COMSOL Multiphysics 4.3, in which the 3D domain is split into a
the cover and the ambient (hc,c-a and hr,c-a). number of meshed slices (Fig. 3).
The outlet fluid temperature of one slice becomes the inlet tem-
U b ¼ ki =Lb ð4Þ
perature of the following slice. Further details of this numerical
solution are reported in Sokolov and Reshef (1992).
ðedge perimeterÞðcollector thicknessÞ ETC and CPC: Eq. (3) can be adapted for the ETC and CPC tech-
Ue ¼ ð5Þ
A nologies, as shown by Ma et al. (2010). The convective heat transfer
coefficient between the absorber plate and the cover, hc,abs-c, is
1 1 omitted from Eq. (6) because of the vacuum between the absorber
Uf ¼ þ ð6Þ and glass. Given the tubular forms of ETCs the heat transmittance
hc;absc þ hr;absc hc;ca þ hr;ca
area is the area of the tube summed with additional edge transmit-
Each STC typology requires modifications to account for their tance, Ue, from the header tubes. Adaption of ETCs for façade inte-
respective unique characteristics, listed below. gration does not typically result in any physical parameters being
UC: The omission of a cover plate results in the omission of the changed as they are most commonly attached proud of the facade
optical transmittance coefficient, s, from Eq. (3). For UC, the ther- as balconies or shading devices. Also the absorber can be optimally
mal transmittance through the front, Uf, is found by the sum of inclined within the tubes, further reducing the impact of façade
the convective, hc,abs-a, and radiative, hr,abs-a, heat loss coefficients integration on ETC and CPC efficiency.
from the absorber to the ambient: STF fixing and framing systems: The efficiency of an STF is
influenced by the fixing system used to attach the STC to the build-
U f ¼ hc;absa þ hr;absa ð7Þ
ing. STCs replace cladding element that are typically fixed back to
The convective heat transfer coefficients are evaluated using rela- the wall (Fig. 4(A)) or offset from the wall and subsequently venti-
tionships outlined by D’Antoni and Saro (2013), where lated behind (Fig. 4(B)).
 0:38 The ventilated space behind the collector of fixing system (B) is
2:66 2:66
hc;absa ¼ hc;w þ hc;n ð8Þ similar to that of a roof-attached system. For the fully integrated
design (A), the heat is no longer lost to the environment at the back
but transmitted to the interior of the building; Eq. (3) becomes:
hc;w ¼ 7ðL0:2 Þðv 0:75 Þ ð9Þ  
Q u ¼ Ac F R GðsaÞ  U t ðT f ;i  T a Þ  U b ðT f ;i  T int Þ ð13Þ
hc;n ¼ 1:5jT abs  T a j0:33 ð10Þ
The forced convective heat transfer coefficient, hc,w, is a function
of the length of the collector L and the wind speed v. The natural
convective heat transfer coefficient, hc,n, is a function of absorber
temperature, Tabs and the ambient temperature Ta.
The radiative heat transfer coefficient is expressed in terms of
the emittance, e, the absorber’s temperature, Tabs, and the sky tem-
perature, Ts.

hr;absa ¼ reðT 2abs þ T 2s ÞðT abs þ T s Þ ð11Þ

where r is the Stefan boltzmann constant.

MSTC:MSTCs, exhibit non-negligible storage effects. An addi-
tional storage term, Qs, is added to Eq. (2) to account for these
effects, to become:

Qu ¼ Qi  Ql  Qs ð12Þ
The positive/negative influence of the stored energy, Qs, on the
useful energy gain, Qu, changes throughout the day depending on
associated external conditions. Using the daily efficiency, gd, as
the key performance indicator captures the influence of these stor-
age effects in the evaluation.
The heat transfer problem for an MSTC may be described as a
one dimensional time dependent problem for the working fluid,
coupled with a three dimensional time dependent problem for Fig. 3. Schematic of the 2D model for massive solar thermal collectors (adapted
the massive absorber (D’Antoni and Saro, 2013). To simplify this from Abbott (2004)).
412 R. O’Hegarty et al. / Solar Energy 135 (2016) 408–422

Fig. 4. Two fixing systems of an FPC based STF with associated thermal resistivity diagrams for the back heat transmittance.

Ub, is changed as a result of the additional insulation layer from 4.1. Cover
the building wall. And the temperature difference is given as the
difference between fluid temperature and the interior room tem- The cover (Fig. 2(1)), typically made from glass, is an essential
perature, Tint. The same theory can be applied to UCs and MSTCs part of FPC and ETC technology and may also be used with MSTCs.
for different fixing systems. A wall U-value of 0.21 W/m2 K is used The cover reduces thermal losses through the front, Uf, but also
here, which is the current standards for domestic buildings in the reduces the optical efficiency, to an extent depending on the trans-
UK and Ireland. The change in efficiency, gd,change, is used to present mittance value, s.
the difference between the fully integrated and offset fixing Research related to the cover of STFs focuses predominately on
systems, given by: colour, and achieving this through the use of thin film technology.
Producing a colour that has a high transmittance s in the solar
gd;change ¼ gd;integrated  gd;offset ð14Þ spectrum but a narrow peak reflectance in the visible spectrum,
STF system applications: STF daily efficiencies are evaluated Rv, is the objective of researchers in the area. Thin films with these
for low-medium temperature applications (preheating bivalent characteristics were initially proposed by Schüler et al. (2004) for
systems). For the comparison between STF types the inlet water solar thermal applications, then succeeded by simulation and
temperature is kept equal to a temperature of 12 °C (approximate experimental studies using different film deposition methods
water mains temperature) in all assessments. The energy output is including reactive magnetron sputtering (Boudaden et al., 2004,
calculated directly at the output of the collector. High temperature 2005; Mertin et al., 2013), sol–gel dip coating (Schüler et al.,
applications (domestic hot water) are also considered when evalu- 2006) and spray pyrolysis deposition (Dudita et al., 2014). The
ating the risks associated with STF over-heating. sol–gel dip coating technique is most suited to large scale applica-
Façade specific considerations: It should be noted that as in tions, such as solar collector glazing (Schüler et al., 2006).
Fig. 1(b) the solar irradiance, G, changes for STFs when compared These thin film coatings are characterised using M, a figure of
with standard roof mounted solar collectors (Eq. (3)). As will be merit; which is defined as the visible reflectance, divided by the
outlined in subsequent sections adaptations to ensure aesthetic solar reflectance. In general, the results showed that lighter colours
requirements and standards of the façade also influence the (e.g. yellow) achieved a greater figure of merit, M, than darker col-
performance. ours (e.g. blue) when applied to the cover of solar thermal collec-
tors (Schüler et al., 2005a,b, 2006). However, the figure of merit
is not truly indicative because the solar reflectance of the glazing
4. Review of solar thermal façade components is the important parameter in terms of efficiency. A coloured film
with a high M may also have a lower efficiency. The daily effi-
The façade is the public and prominent image of the building. ciency, gd, is used in this work to evaluate STFs with and without
STCs need to be considered early in the design process and in rela- coloured thin films.
tion to other façade components to ensure a seamless design. Cur-
rent STCs are often criticised for their appendage to roof and
envelope and disunity with the building architecture. The wide- 4.2. Absorber
range of architectural facades also necessitates a greater diversity
of STF products. Providing options, in terms of colour, texture An alternative approach to altering the colour of the collector is
and dimension is key to the success of STFs as architectural compo- to change the colour of the absorber. The absorber (Fig. 2(2)) is a
nents (Munari Probst and Roecker, 2007; Probst and Roecker, critical component of all STCs. To maximise solar energy capture
2012). Current research on STFs focuses primarily on expanding the collector’s absorber is typically given a dark coating with high
the range of colours applicable to the cover or absorber. Other absorptance, a. Applying colour to the absorber of an STF, reduces
components of STFs, including the framing and fixing to the facade the absorptance and subsequently reduces the efficiency
have received less academic research focus. (Kalogirou et al., 2005). A reduction in the emittance, e, is also
R. O’Hegarty et al. / Solar Energy 135 (2016) 408–422 413

associated with colour inclusion. A reduction in e results in 2010), offering U-values of between 0.75 W/m2 K and 0.42 W/m2 K
reduced radiant heat loss through the front of the collector, Uf, for an insulation conductivity of 0.03 W/m K. In many countries, a
which in turn increases the collector’s efficiency at greater temper- thicker insulation layer is required for STFs to ensure the envelope
ature differences. For optimum performance, the absorber would abides by building regulation specified U-values. An insulation
have high conductivity, k, high solar absorptance, a, and a low ther- thickness of between 100 and 140 mm, depending on insulation
mal emittance, e. conductivity, is required to achieve a wall U-value of 0.21 W/m2 K.
For a higher optical efficiency, spectrally selective coatings are On the other hand, considering the high temperature reached
applied (Orel and Gunde, 2001). These coatings have a high absorp- by the absorber plate, heat radiating to the interior space of the
tance, a, between 0.3 and 2.5 lm and a low thermal emittance, e, building can promote overheating if not appropriately insulated
above 2.5 lm. While research has been conducted on spectrally (Ji et al., 2011; Matuska and Sourek, 2006; Salem and Pierre,
selective coatings since the 1970 s (Hutchins, 1979), coloured spec- 2007). This is particularly pertinent in the context of climate
trally selective coatings are a topic of more recent research (Orel change where building overheating is widely expected (Kinnane
et al., 2005, 2007a,b; Wu et al., 2013; Zhu et al., 2012; Zhu and et al., 2015). Heat transfer from the collector to the building inte-
Zhao, 2010). rior is dependent on the variable exterior and interior conditions,
The absorber is generally manufactured from highly conductive as captured in simplified models by Maurer et al. (2015b).
metals including copper (380 W/m K), aluminium (160 W/m K) When integrated directly into the building façade, the insula-
and steel (50 W/m K), (BS ISO 10456, 2009). Ceramics have also tion contained in the STF can offset insulation that would other-
been investigated as a cheaper absorber material, suitable for wise be added to the façade. The embodied energy of insulation
facade integration (Sun et al., 2014; Xu et al., 2014; Yang et al., is high (Hammond and Jones, 2008) and offsetting this can facili-
2013a,b). They have a lower thermal conductance (2.3 W/m K) tate the energy payback of the solar collectors.
but also have a lower cost (Sun et al., 2014). Polymers have also
been considered as an absorber material because of their lighter
4.5. Fixing and framing
weight and lower cost (Tsilingiris, 1999) and have led to the devel-
opment of polymer absorbers for facade integration (Aventa Solar,
The range of fixing and framing systems for STFs is wide and
2015). However they exhibit a low conductivity (0.2 W/m K),
varied, and dependent on the collector and façade typology, as well
(BS ISO 10456, 2009). Concrete is typically used as the absorber
as the building construction and structural system. Some novel STF
material for MSTCs. As with ceramics and polymers, the thermal
products, particularly those meant for domestic use, continue to be
conductivity (2 W/m K) and price is lower. However, an advan-
attached proud of the façade, incorporating discrete fixing systems
tage of concrete is that it is already used as a precast cladding com-
relative to many standard roof fixing systems (SolaCatcher, 2015).
ponent for facades.
The aim for STFs is often for discrete integration in line with the
It has been highlighted by Aventa Solar (2015) that many exte-
building façade (Winkler Solar, 2015). Fixing solutions of commer-
rior and insulation finishing systems which are installed are nega-
cial STF products are often proprietary and not commonly dis-
tively affected by the high temperatures of the absorber (when
closed. Given the bespoke requirements for individual building
used for higher temperature applications), making a case for
applications, two general cases are considered here (Fig. 4).
cheaper, less conductive materials.
FPCs are typically encased in metal, commonly aluminium
housing. In the context of curtain wall systems aluminium mul-
4.3. Heat transfer network
lions and transoms are common, allowing for good matching of
the collector frame with the facade framing system. A product
The heat transfer network can refer to both the pipes within the
range with varied material and geometrical casings allows for
solar thermal collectors, and those running from the collector to
greatest adaptation to a wider range of framing systems. Nasov
the tank and subsequently to the user. The heat transfer network
et al. (2014) developed a STF which can be installed in the existing
within the collectors refers to the pipes, tubes or channels that
frames of building windows.
transfer the fluid (Fig. 2(3)).
With regard to façade systems STFs may be installed as curtain
The hydraulic resistance of solar thermal collectors is reduced
wall or rainscreen skins wrapping the building structure. A curtain
by using heat pipes, which use a combination of phase transition
wall detailing, as approximately shown in Fig. 4(A) for a single
and conductivity to transfer the heat from the heat pipes to the
panel, requires gaskets and/or face sealing between panels. Alter-
exterior network while avoiding fluid mixing. This is particularly
natively, the STF may be installed as a rainscreen offset and venti-
beneficial for facade integration where damaged piping is more
lated (Fig. 4(B)) in which case moisture ingress through the skin
difficult to access. Rassamakin et al. (2013) developed a novel
can be evacuated via the cavity. Although the rainscreen system
STF where the heat pipe forms an integral part of a flat absorber.
reduces the pressure on the outer face to deal with weather condi-
The versatility, scalability and adaptability of the system make it
tions, the performance of the STF is reduced due to the reduction in
ideal for facade integration.
insulation. In both cases the STFs are installed on a secondary
The length of the external hydraulic loop, connecting the heat
structure attached to the primary of mullions and transoms or
transfer network within the panels to the point of use in the build-
rails. For seamless aesthetic integration, façade elements that are
ing, for an installed STF is generally shorter in comparison to roof
non-active should match with or complement STF elements, as
mounted collectors, particularly in medium to high-rise buildings.
outlined by Munari Probst and Roecker (2007) following extensive
Reduced external piping implies reduced heat loss (Cuadros et al.,
surveying of architects. In the design of a full façade system these
2007; He et al., 2014), and limited requirement for anti-freeze as
authors developed both STF and dummy elements that allow for
risk of liquid freezing in the pipes is reduced, (Wang et al., 2015).
the practical understanding of STF implementation in a well con-
sidered overall façade design.
4.4. Insulation

Thermal insulation (Fig. 2(4)) can be included in FPCs, UCs and 5. Analysis of solar thermal façade components
MSTCs to reduce the heat losses from the back and edges of the
collector. Back insulation thickness of a standard solar thermal The impact of adapting collector components for façade integra-
collector commonly ranges from 0.04–0.075 m (Peuser et al., tion is evaluated here for three European climates (Dublin,
414 R. O’Hegarty et al. / Solar Energy 135 (2016) 408–422

Barcelona and Oslo) and for all seasons, using daily efficiency mod- a (Eq. (3)) and emittance, e (Eq. (11)). Typically, STCs have dark
els, outlined in Section 3, for the UC (with and without insulation), absorbers (a  0.95; e  0.95 as in Table 1) to maximise the
FPC and MSTC. The reference parameters defining the STFs are absorptance. State of the art absorber coatings are reviewed in
shown in Table 1. The average daily solar irradiance profile and Section 4.2. Zhu and Zhao (2010) used spectrally selective coat-
associated ambient temperature for the month of March in Dublin ings to achieved yellow (a  0.81; e  0.06) and blue (a  0.86;
is used as the reference time and location (Table 1). e  0.08) colour absorbers respectively. Such adaptations to the
To maintain consistency for daily efficiency comparison of absorber result in daily efficiency drops of 3% (darker blue coat-
collector types, only the parameters that are the focus of the anal- ing) and 7% (yellow coating) for the FPC based STF, and 4%
ysis are changed. The models are computed for both the fixing (yellow coating) and 0% (blue coating) for the UC based STF when
types displayed in Fig. 4 and the difference in daily efficiency, compared with the reference case. The small reductions are due to
gd,change, is calculated. Unless otherwise mentioned all results refer the spectral selectivity of the blue and yellow coatings, character-
to the fully integrated fixing system (Fig. 4(A)). ized by low emittance in the thermal spectrum. This effect is more
apparent for unglazed collectors, whose heat losses are greater. A
5.1. Cover spectrally selective black coating would increase the efficiency of
the reference case by 4% for the FPC and 8% for the UC.
The daily efficiency, gd, of FPC based STFs are 22% greater than Material alterations are also observed for STF absorbers. While
the unglazed STF technologies (UC and MSTC) for an average March highly conductive absorbers are typical of traditional roof attached
day in Dublin. This increased efficiency is due to the cover plate STCs, alternative materials such as ceramic, polymer or concrete
reducing the heat loss through the front of the collector, Uf, offer advantages for STF construction. The thermal conductivity
(Eq. (3)). However, the additional layer of transmittance, s, through of the absorber positively influences the heat transfer from the
the cover slightly reduces the optical efficiency. Typically, FPCs absorber plate to the fluid, but simultaneously increases the heat
have clear glazing (s  0.94, as in Table 1) to maximise the trans- loss to the surroundings Ul (Eq. (3)). An UC with a copper absorber
mittance through the cover. However, for STFs, providing a choice is compared with an MSTC with a concrete absorber for both fixing
of colour is one of the main collector adaptations, and applying systems to address this issue. In the case of the offset ventilated
colour to the cover is one method of achieving this. State of the system (Fig. 4(B)) daily efficiency drops of 22% and 14% are
art FPC colour coatings for the cover are reviewed in Section 4.1. observed for the UCni and MSTC respectively. The sensitivity of
Schüler et al. (2005a) achieved s values of 0.9 and 0.84 for yellow the MSTC to ambient conditions is lower than that of the UCni. This
and blue colour coatings respectively. Such adaptations to the is due to the absorber’s material inheriting a lower conductivity
cover result in daily efficiency drops of 4% (yellow coating) and and higher heat capacity. Similarly, when the ambient temperature
9% (darker blue coating) for the FPC based STF considered here. is greater than the absorber temperature the efficiency increases
The thin films applied to achieve both colours and their associated (by 38% for the UCni and 27% MSTC for a June day in Barcelona)
s values are made up of silicon and titanium oxide layers with for the ventilated system (Fig. 4(B)).
different thicknesses and number of layers to achieve peak reflec- The higher heat capacity of these collectors also results in the
tance at wavelengths of 0.577–0.597 lm for yellow and 0.455– maximum outlet temperature of the MSTC occurring approxi-
0.492 lm for blue (Hecht, 1987). While the daily efficiency of the mately an hour after peak irradiance for the reference case consid-
FPC based STF drops by up to 9% (for darker colours) with the inclu- ered. This storage effect (shift in peak output) is positively affected
sion of colour, they still outperform other unglazed STFs by more by an increase in the specific heat capacity and decrease in the con-
than 13%. ductivity of the concrete, but also reduces the maximum energy
output, as displayed in Fig. 5.
5.2. Absorber Where a shift in energy output is desirable, a balance exists
between having a high conductivity and high thermal capacitance
Alternatively, the STF’s absorber colour may be changed. This for MSTC based STFs. And is dependent on location and system
adaptation is applicable to all STC types affecting the absorptance, application.

Table 1
Reference parameter values for a solar collector.

Parameter FPC UC UC (nia) MSTC Daily solar irradiance profile for a March day in Dublin (Ta = 6.18 °C)
W (distance between tubes) [m] 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 horizontal
D (tube diameter inside) [m] 0.01 0.01 0.01 0.01
d (sheet thickness) [m] 0.0005 0.0005 0.0005 0.08
Solar Irradiance, G (W/m2)

ka (absorber conductivity) [W m1 K1] 385 385 385 2

hf (convective heat transfer) [W m2 K1] 2000 2000 2000 2000
_ (flow rate) [kg s1]
m 0.03 0.03 0.03 0.03
Cf (heat capacity fluid) [J kg1 K1] 4190 4190 4190 4190
s (cover transmittance) 0.94 NA NA NA
a (absorber absorptance) 0.95 0.95 0.95 0.95
e (emittance of absorber) 0.95 0.95 0.95 0.95
b (tilt angle) 90 90 90 90
Lb (back insulation thickness) [m] 0.04 0.04 NA Na
ki (Insulation conductivity) [W m1K1] 0.04 0.04 NA Na 0
vw (wind speed) [m s1] 2 2 2 2 00:00:00 12:00:00 00:00:00
Ti (Inlet temperature) [K] 285.15 285.15 285.15 285.15 Solar time of day
ni stands for no insulation at the back.
R. O’Hegarty et al. / Solar Energy 135 (2016) 408–422 415

500 Integrating the STF directly in the wall (Fig. 4(A)) increases the
daily efficiency, gd, for all instances other than for the UCni and
Irradiance; energy output (W/m2)

MSTC for the month of June. The decrease in daily efficiency for
400 these collectors is due to ambient temperatures exceeding the
values absorber temperature for this particular month; as this occurs
300 the influence of the thermal transmittance, Ul, is reversed from a
high heat heat loss to a heat gain. STFs with high thermal transmittances
capacity; low (e.g. unglazed collectors) display the greatest sensitivity to ambi-
200 conductivity ent temperature (positive or negative).
low heat For low temperature applications the daily efficiency is either
capcity; high increased or decreased by integrating the STFs to the wall and
conductivity the subsequent inclusion of more insulation; the magnitude of
which is dependent on the thermal transmittance of the collector
0 in the offset case. In Barcelona where the ambient temperature is
12:00:00 AM 12:00:00 PM 12:00:00 AM higher throughout the year, when compared with Dublin, the
Solar time of day decrease in efficiency is observed for all collector types for both
June and September. For a cooler climate (Oslo) the additional wall
Fig. 5. Solar profile and energy output of three MSTCs with varying heat capacity
(J/kg K).
insulation result in higher efficiency for all collector types and
months. For higher temperature applications, the STF with addi-
tional wall insulation outperforms the offset system for all cases
5.3. Heat transfer fluid network since the operating temperatures are higher than ambient
All STFs are compared for a mass flow rate of 0.03 kg/s; a higher
flow rate results in a higher energy output. A lower mass flow rate 5.5. Fixing and framing
reduces the hydraulic resistance, reducing the risk of leaks, which
are more difficult to maintain in STFs. For STF designs integrated in the wall (Fig. 4(A)) a thermal cou-
Changing the mass flow rate affects the heat removal factor, Fr, pling between the interior of the building and the collector exists
(Eq. (3)). Reducing the mass flow rate for the FPC based STF located (Eq. (13)) which may promote over-heating of the building’s inte-
in Dublin in March from 0.03 kg/s to 0.01 kg/s resulted in a 3% daily rior. The heat flux to the interior is dependent on the transmittance
efficiency reduction (not including pumping power). But, the max- out the back of the collector, Ub, as well as the temperature of the
imum temperature difference between the inlet and outlet almost collector. The offset fixing system (Fig. 4(B)), is ventilated by ambi-
triples. A balance exists between the quantity of energy and the ent conditions at the back and has a negligible influence on the
maximum achievable temperature and is dependent on the overall building’s interior, similar system to that of a roof-attached
solar thermal system and its application. For the low-medium tem- system.
perature system considered in this study, with a constant inlet For low temperature systems, STFs do not reach a high enough
temperature of 12 °C, a lower mass flow rate is more beneficial. temperature to have any significant impact on the overheating of
the building. For high-temperature systems, the FPC based STF
5.4. Insulation can achieve temperatures of up to 90 °C on a September day in Bar-
celona (worst case scenario considered here) due to their lower
Insulation reduces the heat transmittance through the back of heat losses. An FPC based STF operating at this temperature pro-
the collector, Ub, (Eq. (4)), to an extent depending on the insula- duces a peak heat flux to the interior of approximately 14 W/m2
tion’s thickness and conductivity. The daily efficiency, gd, of the at solar noon for a building with a wall U-value of 0.21 W/m2 K.
UCni (33%) is lower than the UC (52%) for the offset ventilated fix- For an STF in Barcelona with no wall insulation the heat flux to
ing system (Fig. 4(B)) and for the reference climate and time. This the interior rises to 64 W/m2. While FPC typologies present the
lower efficiency is due to the omission of back insulation and sub- greatest risk of overheating, achieving U-values of less than
sequent increase in the overall heat transmittance, Ul. The change 0.21 W/m2 K results in STFs having a low impact on the building’s
in daily efficiency between the offset ventilated fixing system and interior environment.
the fully integrated fixing system with additional wall insulation
(Eq. (14)) is displayed in Fig. 6 for each technology type. 6. Novel solar thermal facades

STFs also include novel solar thermal collectors that are inte-
30% grated into areas of the façade other than the wall. 8 STF types
25% are displayed and summarised in Table 2, providing examples for
the commercially available STFs (i–iv), along with presenting the
advantages and disadvantages of each. Commercial examples
Change in efficiency (

15% FPC
include System (i) Winkler Solar’s VarioSol E, System (ii) Schweizer
10% UC Energie’s Swisspipe Balkone, System (iii) Robin Sun solar thermal
UC-ni glass and System (iv) Energie Solaire’s AS collector.
6.1. Unglazed collectors
-10% STFs that enable varied form (shape, size and jointing of the
Mar Jun Sep Dec
individual modules) and material (surface texture, finish and col-
Fig. 6. Change in efficiency between integrated and offset systems, gd,change, for STFs our) are adaptable with a multitude of façade designs. The SOLABS
located in Dublin. unglazed STF, which is inspired by existing façade metal claddings,
416 R. O’Hegarty et al. / Solar Energy 135 (2016) 408–422

Table 2
Solar thermal facade types (Winkler Solar, 2015; Schweizer Energie, 2015; Robin Sun, 2015; Energie Solarie SA, 2015).

i) ii) iii) iv)

Location Opaque Facade Area Balcony Transparent Facade Area Opaque Facade Area
Advantages • Range of colours • Adjustable absorber • Disguised in facade • Range of colours
• Geometric flexibility inclination • Multi-functional • Cost
• Material offsetting • Material offsetting • Ease of fabrication
• Inherent flat surface • Multi-functional • Inherent flat surfaces

Dis- • Access difficulties • Connection difficulties • Access difficulties • Performance reduction

advantages • Connection difficulties • Connection difficulties
• Performance reduction • Performance reduction

(Winkler Solar, 2015) (Schweizer Energie, 2015) (Robin Sun, 2015) (Energie Solarie SA,
System (i) Winkler System (ii) Schweizer System (iii) The Robin System (iv) Energie
VarioSol E has flexibility Energie’s, Swisspipe Sun solar thermal glass Solaire’s AS collector can
in terms of module sizes. Balkone are installed onto
provides insulation, be fitted to the facade as
balcony railing veneers of
buildings shading and hot water. well as roofs.

v) vi) vii) viii)

Location Louvre Gutter Opaque Facade Area Balcony
Advantages • Adjustable absorber • Disguised • Cost • Inherent flat surface
inclination • Multi-functional • Disguised • Material off setting
• Multi-functional • Inherent flat surface • Multi-functional
• Material offsetting
• Storage benefits
Dis- • Access difficulties • Access difficulties • Access difficulties • Connection difficulties
advantages • Connection difficulties • Connection difficulties • Connection difficulties • Performance reduction
• Performance reduction

is one such UC based STF that offers a range of options in terms of conceptual STF, based on the UC, uses aluminium profiled heat
form and material (Munari Probst and Roecker, 2007). Another pipes to form a layer of the facade (Rassamakin et al., 2013). The
R. O’Hegarty et al. / Solar Energy 135 (2016) 408–422 417

benefit of this system is that a series of heat pipes can be joined on another louvre replacing collector, showed that increasing the
with the piping within the building without the need to fabricate number of heat pipes within the louver increased the efficiency
an entire collector. Rodríguez-Sánchez et al. (2014) developed a without significantly affecting the cost (Abu-Zour et al., 2006).
novel UC based STF with curved geometry. This enabled their inte-
gration on facades with curvaceous profiles, which are becoming 6.5. Concentrating collectors
increasingly common in contemporary architecture.
Concentrating solar thermal collectors are not commonly inte-
6.2. Flat plate collectors grated into buildings, however, the geometry and concentration
technology have inspired some novel research. A novel concentrat-
A number of novel FPC based STFs have been designed. Nasov ing solar thermal collector, which uses partially perforated com-
et al. (2014) have developed an STF, based on the FPC, which can pound parabolic reflecting mirrors, has been developed for
be installed in existing window frames. A gutter-integrated solar transparent facade integration (Behling, 2015). The perforation
thermal collector (Table 2(vi)) is another example of where STFs allows light into the building while only reducing the solar gains
have been developed based on the FPC technology. The product of the collector by 10%.
is designed and a model is derived and validated experimentally At a larger scale, facade integration of a vertical heliostat field
(Motte et al., 2013a,b; Notton et al., 2013). FPC based STFs have on the south facing facade has been considered, and is at a concep-
also been considered as replacements for balcony railings (Table 2 tual stage (González-Pardo et al., 2013). The array of mirrors
(viii)) (Ji et al., 2015; Yang et al., 2013b). located on the facade reflects solar energy onto a receiver tower;
Triangular modules are the basis of many faceted façade types, the dimensions of which depends on the final energy application.
enabling undulating and curved façade geometries. Visa et al.
6.6. Partially transparent solar thermal facades
(2014) presented a new concept of FPC arrays based on triangular
shaped modules, in an effort to produce more options from a geo-
Rather than developing an STF from the standard solar thermal
metric point of view for implementation on a variety of building
technologies, the opposite design process may be adopted,
types. An optimised module of this kind reached an efficiency of
whereby, an element of a facade is developed to harvest solar
62% under indoor testing (Visa et al., 2015).
energy. These STFs are typical for the transparent section of a
building’s facade. These partially-transparent STFs can also provide
6.3. Massive solar thermal collectors
shading and insulation (Table 2(iii)). A novel transparent solar
thermal collector has been installed on a pilot building in Ljubljana,
MSTCs are of many types and are varied in their application.
Slovenia (Hermann et al., 2008; Maurer et al., 2012). Initial results
With regard to the building façade, concrete solar collectors (CSC)
from this field study showed that solar gain did not vary signifi-
are the most applicable. CSCs, in the form of precast concrete façade
cantly over the year. A model for transparent solar thermal facades
panels, may be configured as single skin panels anchored to the
has also been developed by Maurer and Kuhn (2012) which can
building structure, or incorporated in a sandwich panel configura-
predict their performance and can also be integrated with whole
tion where the inner leaf of the concrete panel is load bearing. CSCs
building system simulation.
offer a cheaper alternative to other expensive STFs primarily
because of their bulk mono-material makeup. Complex framing is
7. Market available Solar Thermal Facades
not necessary and off-the-shelf precast fixing systems may be used.
To date most CSCs have been used for roof attached installa-
For commercially available STFs the physical characteristics are
tions (Al-Saad et al., 1994; Bopshetty et al., 1992; Hazami et al.,
not typically available, instead performance parameters calculated
2010, 2005; Jubran et al., 1994; Keste and Patil, 2012; Krishnavel
by curve fitting are provided by the manufacturers, tested under
et al., 2014; Nayak et al., 1989), as well as horizontal roof inte-
standard conditions (BS EN ISO 9806, 2013). The performance
grated installations (Kumar et al., 1981; Sarachitti et al., 2011).
parameters are applicable to instantaneous efficiency calculations,
Wall integrated CSCs (Table 2(vii)) have also been investigated;
gi, for which the time t in Eq. (1) is one second. Instantaneous effi-
both theoretically (D’Antoni and Saro, 2013) and experimentally
ciency curves are plotted over a range of temperature differences
(Chaurasia, 2000). Results from the latter study showed that at noon,
and are limited only to collectors that have negligible heat capac-
on a typical day in November (in India), outlet hot water tempera-
itance effects, therefore excluding MSTC based STFs.
ture reached 42 °C, approximately 7 °C higher than an identical hor-
In accordance with ISO 9806, (Tf,i  Ta) is replaced in Eq. (3) with
izontally installed collector for the same time and location.
(Tf,m  Ta), where Tf,m is the mean of the inlet and outlet tempera-
A paucity of research and commercially available products
tures. The performance of market available ETC and FPC based STFs
exists for this type of STF. But, they provide a unique solution for
are simulated using Eq. (15) in place of Eqs. (1) and (3).
the integration of solar thermal technology into precast concrete
facades, where pipes are disguised in the concrete matrix. T f ;m  T a T f ;m  T a
gi ¼ g0  a1  a2 G ð15Þ
6.4. Evacuated tube collectors
where g0 (the zero heat loss efficiency), a1 (the linear heat loss coef-
The tubular nature of the ETC restricts the potential integration ficient) and a2 (the quadratic heat loss coefficient) are the standard-
of this technology into flat building facades. A number of alterna- ised performance parameters. The quadratic form results from the
tive locations for this collector type are feasible, as presented in temperature dependency of the cover plate on the front heat loss
Table 2. One location for the building integration of ETCs is the bal- coefficient, Uf, as referred to in Eq. (6). For unglazed collectors, the
cony (Table 2(ii)), (Ji et al., 2015; Li et al., 2015; Shi et al., 2013; absence of a cover results in a linear form of the efficiency equation,
Zhai et al., 2008; Zhai and Wang, 2008). given by Eq. (16).  
T f ;m  T a
Another location investigated for STFs, based on the ETC geom- gi ¼ g0 ð1  ubu Þ  ðb1 þ b2 uÞ ð16Þ
etry, is the louvre or awning above windows (Table 2(v)) (Abu- G
Zour et al., 2006; Palmero-Marrero and Oliveira, 2006) where a where g0, b1, b2 and bu are performance parameters for the UC. The
payback period of approximately 6 years is observed in Iberia, different form is due to the absence of a cover, hence greater heat
(Palmero-Marrero and Oliveira, 2006). Indoor experimental results, loss.
418 R. O’Hegarty et al. / Solar Energy 135 (2016) 408–422

Instantaneous efficiency curves are produced for a constant STFs have between a 150% and 333% higher initial investment cost
irradiance (G = 1000 W/m2) and ambient temperature (Ta = 15 °C) when compared with standard walls. They also noted that the area
using Eqs. (15) and (16), as specified in ISO 9806. This standard of an STF would need to be increased by a factor of between 1.5 and
method is useful for the comparison between STFs where novel 2.0 when compared with tilted solar thermal collectors. Therefore,
designs are more common. But is limited to those collectors which it could be concluded that the cost of a façade located system
have been standardised and made available on the market. would be 1.5–2.0 times the cost of a roof located system. Zhang
The performance of four commercially available STFs (i–iv) et al. (2015) refer to the cost payback time method for economi-
using this standard method are displayed in Fig. 7. The perfor- cally assessing a solar thermal façade. The payback period is
mance of a typical FPC is included in Fig. 7 as a reference. dependent on the initial investment (manufacturing, materials
System (i), which is based on the FPC, has a similar performance and installation) and the cost of alternative energy. Knowledge
to the standard FPC. This particular STF provides many module can also be taken from the building integrated photovoltaic ther-
choices making it suitable for a variety of facades. Other than a mal (BIPVT) field, for which payback periods of between 11 years
reduction in solar gain as a result of inclining the facade vertically for southern European climates and 20 years for Northern Euro-
the physical performance of the collector is not changed pean climates were observed (Buonomano et al., 2016).
significantly. For the low temperature, application considered in this work
The performance plots show that System (ii) has the greatest the cheaper absorber materials (e.g. concrete) have an advantage
efficiency due to the ETC technology exhibiting the lowest heat over the metal based absorbers (e.g. copper). In the analysis con-
loss, particularly for large temperature differences associated with ducted in Section 5 based on the models from Section 3, the refer-
high temperature applications (>50 °C e.g. DHW preparation). ence parameters for the UC and MSTC are the same other than
Another advantage of this collector type is the ability to tilt the absorber material and thickness. Depending on the scale of the
absorber plate within the vacuum tube to optimise the solar gain. project in question the cost of an 80 mm thick concrete wall would
STFs offer other advantages such as aesthetical preservation and range between €(4–6)/m2, whereas a 0.5 mm thick copper wall
multi-functionality. While System (iii) showed a comparatively could range between €(30–100)/m2. Assuming the piping system
low performance, it also provides solar shading and insulation for both systems is the same, the cost of an UC is approximately
advantages for the building. This STF allows sun to enter in the 10 times that of an MSTC. An additional glazing layer would add
winter, but minimises internal solar gains in the summer and an extra €(4–20)/m2 onto the cost, making FPCs approximately
offers a product U-value of 1.1 W/m2 K which is lower than a typ- 13 times the cost of MSTCs.
ical double glazed window. Energy is not just saved from active hot For FPC and UCs, applied to aluminium clad facades, offsetting
water provision but also for space conditioning. the 40 mm insulation at the back of a collector €(4–14)/m2 and
From Fig. 7 it can be seen that (iv), which is based on the UC, has replacing aluminium cladding elements €(5–18)/m2 with the STF
the lowest efficiency at greater temperature differences due to the result in savings of between (5–32)/m2. For MSTCs the structure
absence of a cover. However, this type of STF is cheaper to manu- remains the same with the addition of a piping coil embedded in
facture and can offer a greater range of sizes and geometries since a the precast cladding elements €(2–4)/m length of 10 mm diameter
casing is not necessary. Solar collectors that do not require a casing copper pipe or €(1–1.5)/m length of plastic pipe. Prices fluctuate
can replace cladding systems with greater ease. This particular depending on scale of application while the cost of alternative
benefit is also evident for MSTC based STFs. This UC based STF energy also varies. Comparing the relative cost of materials gives
competes with the FPC and ETC technologies at lower temperature insight into the most economic options for STFs and the savings
difference associated with low-temperature applications (e.g. pre- associated with material offsetting.
heating, swimming pool heating). Choosing between STFs depend
on the façade type, the solar thermal application and the cost.
8. Conclusion

7.1. Solar thermal facade economics This work reviews solar thermal collectors and their compo-
nents modified for facade integration. These solar thermal facades
Since most STFs are prototypes it is difficult to get reliable data replace cladding elements to form the weather line and combine
on the payback period for such systems. Cappel et al. found that with the thermal insulation of the building. They are the promi-
nent image of the building.

1 System (i) FPC - Opaque Façade  A strong research focus on providing colour has been
System (ii) ETC - Balcony
System (iii) FPC - Transparent façade highlighted.
System (iv) UC - Opaque façade  State of the art colour coatings have been developed to improve
Instantaneous efficiency, ηi

Standard FPC the optical efficiency when colouring the cover (using thin film
technology) or absorber (using spectrally selective coatings).
0.6  Alternative absorber materials (e.g. ceramic, polymer, concrete)
to the traditional metallic absorber materials (e.g. copper,
aluminium, steel) have gained research focus in the area of
 A portion of the STF literature has looked at reducing hydraulic
0.2 resistance in the solar thermal facades to prevent leaks and
make maintenance easier.
 The fixing system of the STF to the building is important for
0 0.02 0.04 0.06 0.08 0.1 0.12 0.14 both the level of insulation to be included in the efficiency eval-
uation of the collector, as well as the influence of the STF on the
Reduced temperature differnce (Tf,m - Ta)/G
interior space. The range of fixing and framing systems for STFs
Fig. 7. Theoretical efficiency for four commercially available facade adapted solar is wide and varied, and dependent on the collector and façade
thermal collectors. typology.
R. O’Hegarty et al. / Solar Energy 135 (2016) 408–422 419

The daily efficiency changes of these adaptations for STFs, high- tor and ambient. While this assessment is not applicable to mas-
lighted in the literature, have been evaluated using hotel whillier sive solar collectors, it provides a good reference case for other
bliss and finite element simulation models for three European loca- STFs that have reached the market.
tions (Barcelona, Dublin, Oslo). Standard practice is to compare
STCs using Instantaneous efficiency curves. While standard com-  ETC (e.g. Schweizer Energie’s, Swisspipe Balkone) and FPC (e.g.
parison is valuable for market available STFs it limits the analysis Winkler VarioSol E) based STFs have the greatest performance
to absorber materials with negligible heat capacitance effects. In and are suitable for high temperature systems. These technolo-
this work the daily efficiency, gd, is used which captures the stor- gies are also more expensive. ETC technologies generally
age effects of STFs with high heat capacity. The daily efficiency of require the building to have louvers or balcony rails so they
a low temperature system for Dublin in March is used as the refer- can be integrated into the building. FPCs are applicable to the
ence time and location for comparing STFs. opaque area of the façade.
 UC (e.g. Energie Solaire’s AS collector) based STFs have lower per-
 The FPC based STFs produce 22% higher daily efficiencies then formance and are more suitable to lower temperature applica-
any of the unglazed STFs for this reference case. As a result of tions. Their versatility, scalability and lower cost make them a
the cover reducing the heat losses through the front. good match for most façade types.
 The daily efficiency is reduced by approximately 4% for lighter  For novel partially transparent solar thermal facades (e.g. The
colours (yellow) and 9% for darker colours (blue) by applying Robin Sun solar thermal glass) the performance is again lower,
thin film technology to include colour for FPC covers. but are the ideal match for transparent façade sections, multi-
 Colour coating the absorber is applicable to all STFs. Using spec- functioning as shading devices within a glazed layer.
trally selective properties, for a and e obtained in the literature,  For low temperature systems an economic analysis of building
daily efficiency reduction of 7% for lighter colour (yellow) and materials revealed unglazed concrete collectors as one of the
3% for darker colours (blue) for the FPC based STF. most promising solutions in terms low initial cost.
 As a rule of thumb if a darker colour is desirable, one should col-
our the absorber, while if a lighter colour is desirable one should For each application, location and facade typology a specific
colour the cover if possible. solution is best suited. A review and evaluation of the state of
 Highly conductive absorbers portray greater sensitivity to the art of STFs and their components provides a reference value
ambient temperatures when compared with concrete absor- for designers when selecting a solar thermal technology to adopt.
bers. Additionally, the storage effects of the concrete absorber As a rule of thumb for low temperature applications unglazed STFs
materials shifts the time of peak temperature output by an that match the buildings architecture should be selected. For high
amount of time depending on the heat capacitance of the mate- temperature applications FPC and ETC based STFs are the only STFs
rial. Approximately one hour for the MSTC assessed here. able to reach these required temperatures and for buildings with
 Reducing the mass flow rate slightly reduces the energy output large glazed areas the partially transparent solar thermal facades
but also almost trebles the maximum temperature output. For should be considered. The importance of market available STF
low temperature applications, a lower mass flow rate is more options is key to the progress of the industry, and is highlighted
suitable for STFs. by a scenario where renewable thermal energy is required but
 Two general fixing systems are considered in this study, one the façade type has already been selected.
fully integrated in the building’s wall and the second offset from
the building’s insulation layer (similar to that of a roof attached
Conflit of interest
system). Integrating the collector directly to the walls insulation
reduces the heat loss through the back of the collector resulting
I, Richard O’Hegarty, certify that there is no conflict of interest
in efficiency increases for any time and location where the tem-
in the submission of this manuscript.
perature of the collector is greater than the ambient
 Overheating risks are primarily associated with FPC based STFs Acknowledgments
integrated into the building’s insulation. For high-temperature
applications an FPC based STF at 90 °C on a September day in This work is partial fulfilment of a funded research project sup-
Barcelona results in heat flux to the interior of 64 W/m2 if inte- ported by the Irish Research Council with industry partner Firebird
grated into a façade with no wall insulation (only the 40 mm of Heating Solutions (EPGS/2013/649). The authors would also like to
insulation included in the FPC). acknowledge COST actions TU1205 (Building integration of solar
thermal systems) and TU1104 (Smart energy regions).
A review of novel solar thermal facades has highlighted some of
the advantages and disadvantages associated with alternative
designs. References

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