The energy that comes from the sun cannot be harnessed unless it is gathered and converted to a usable form. This conversion of solar energy into heat or electricity can be achieved by the use of solar collectors. As devices, solar collectors can range in form from small installations for gathering solar heat, to big and complicated units that can produce voltage in power plants.
The various designs for solar collectors are based upon the method it employs to absorb sunlight and the materials it is produced from. The most conventional design for the solar collector is the flat plate design. It is used in many applications and by people with even a basic knowledge of solar energy and practical electrical circuitry. In domestic power generation, flat plate collectors are put up in house roofs to gather sunlight for electrical power or heating. They are also installed into mobile phones and calculators to provide extra power or recharge for batteries. Flat plate collectors are composed of absorbent silicon rods between two plates. It is the rods that take in and convert the sun’s rays into heat or voltage. This is a technology that is still constantly improving, as it is important that the panels must also keep working in extreme conditions, such as in winter time.
Another type of solar collector is the evacuated tube collector. These collectors are more efficient than its flat counterpart when it comes to reducing heat loss either by convection or conduction. Tube collectors are more suited in areas or places with a cold climate and can produce or retain more heat than flat plate solar collectors. However, this type of solar collector is more expensive and there is still the question of its durability and life span.
The various designs for solar collectors have their own pros and cons; consumers would choose a certain type based on efficiency and their current energy needs. However, there is no single solar collector design that is best for all electrical or heating applications. Hence, it is necessary for the consumer to do some research before choosing and installing a solar energy system. One should base one’s choice on variables like home climate, availability of sunlight, energy consumption of house or building, and the very cost of the collector devices themselves.