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Things you should know about thermodynamic panels

Last edited: 18/02/21

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Things you should know about thermodynamic panels

Last edited: 18/02/21

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If someone came to you and said, ‘there is a new solar panel that could heat your water 24/7, throughout the year come snow, shine, or rain’ would you believe them? While sounding too good to be true, this is exactly what the evangelists for thermodynamic solar panels claim.

What are thermodynamic panels?

In spite of being panels, they are closer to an air source heat pump than they are to a solar thermal panel. Basically, they are a freezer in reverse. Refrigerant enters the panel, absorbing heat from the atmosphere and becoming a gas as it passes through it.

Subsequently, the gas passes through a compressor that increases the temperature. Finally, it passes through a heat exchange coil inside the hot water cylinder. This heats the water within the cylinder to 55 degrees. It is approximated that roughly a quarter of the energy absorbed by a panel comes from the solar irradiation, the remaining from rain and air.

How much hot water do these panels produce?

They believe that they offer 100% of the hot water requirements for commercial and domestic premises, underfloor heating, swimming pools, and can make a contribution to conventional central heating. To avoid any risk of legionella, they come with a built-in immersion that uses electricity to boost the water to 60 degrees every now and then.

How do they compare with solar thermal?

Thermodynamic panels heat a refrigerant, where solar thermal panels heat water in the panels. This allows the thermodynamic panels to extract heat from the atmosphere, whereas solar panels are highly dependent on heat from the sun. At -22 degrees centigrade, the refrigerant enters the panel, so that relative warmth from the air can be absorbed even on cold winter days.

Solar thermal panels offer the best performance on roofs that face between southwest and southeast. Thermodynamic panels can be placed on the roof or a wall. It is best not to have them facing northwest or north, but they don’t have to face south.

How much hot water do these panels produce?

They believe that they offer 100% of the hot water requirements for commercial and domestic premises, underfloor heating, swimming pools, and can make a contribution to conventional central heating. To avoid any risk of legionella, they come with a built-in immersion that uses electricity to boost the water to 60 degrees every now and then.

How do they compare with solar thermal?

Thermodynamic panels heat a refrigerant, where solar thermal panels heat water in the panels. This allows the thermodynamic panels to extract heat from the atmosphere, whereas solar panels are highly dependent on heat from the sun. At -22 degrees centigrade, the refrigerant enters the panel, so that relative warmth from the air can be absorbed even on cold winter days.

Solar thermal panels offer the best performance on roofs that face between southwest and southeast. Thermodynamic panels can be placed on the roof or a wall. It is best not to have them facing northwest or north, but they don’t have to face south.

Are thermodynamic systems similar to air source heat pumps?

Air source heat pumps have a fan that runs continuously. This fan requires more electricity than the compressor in a thermodynamic system. Consequently, the thermodynamic manufacturers claim a substantially higher coefficient of performance (or COP) in the range of 3.5 and 4 – that’s 3.5 to 4 units of heat produced for every unit of electricity put into the system.

If I’m on mains gas, is it worth it?

It depends on whether you’re looking at it from a financial perspective. Heat with gas is less expensive than with electricity. However, if you’re worried about carbon emissions or energy security, then it might make sense.

air source heat pump
Michael

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