Solar Collector Design, Ratings, and Performance

Analysis tools to size and design solar collectors.

Includes references and tools for solar collector design, and information on the organizations that test and rate solar collector performance.


Solar Collector Design
CoDePro -- Flat Plate Collector Design Program

Program develops the efficiency curve given inputs on the collector glazing, absorber, insulation etc.
Active Solar Collectors and Their Application

Ari Rabl

A great engineering reference on solar collectors of almost all types.
Effects of Tilt and Azimuth On Annual Incident Solar Radiation For the United States Locations
Craig Christensen and Greg Barker


This paper provides a very simple set of contour plots that show optimum collector orientation, and the performance effect for deviations from optimal.
Covers only the US, but the general relationships would be useful elsewhere. 
Some limitations -- read the cautions in the paper.
Solar Collector Ratings and Performance
Solar Collector and Certification Corporation

The SRCC website homepage...

The SRCC Collector Ratings page...

Select a collector by criteria and getting ratings...
(this is an easy way to find a collector or type of collector
among the hundreds of tested collectors)

How to use the SRCC collector ratings ...

The SRCC provides independent certification, rating, and performance data for solar collectors and for solar water heating systems.  
This is (as far as I know) the only reliable way to get apples to apples numbers on collector performance.

To get the detailed report on a collector, use the "Collector Ratings Summaries" to find the collector you want, and then click on its link to get the detailed report.

Comparison Of Various Collectors,


Alan uses the SRCC ratings and collector price data to evaluate the price/performance for several flat plate and evacuated tube collectors for his latest solar water heating project.
It is a great example of how to use the SRCC data to make a good decision on which collector is best for a particular application.
Solar Thermal Collector Power Output Simulation,
Andy Schroder

Example of using the simulation to estimate energy, fuel, and CO2 savings for a collector array...

Using this tool to answer questions like "How much collector area do I need to heat my home"...

This is a very useful simulation tool for determining output from a solar collector for your location and weather.  It uses the your local weather in combination with the efficiency curve for the collector you select to estimate day by day performance for a full year.  It uses weather over the period from 1991 to 2005, and gives median year, best year, and worst year performance.  Output is provided both as a graph and as a downloadable csv file for further analysis by spreadsheet.

While Andy represents and sells a particular brand of collector, the method covers a wide range of flat plate and evacuated tube collectors.

How Much Collector Area Do I Need To Heat My House?

Or, Estimating Solar Heating Fraction

Details ...

This is a question I get asked a lot.  Its a tough question that depends on many things, but here is a method that you can use to get a pretty good idea what your solar faction is likely to be for your collector array...

Its fairly lengthy to use, but not difficult.

SPF -- Solar Collector Performance Tests



The SPF provides performance test data for a wide range of solar collectors.  Collector performance and performance of the collector in 3 kinds of systems are provided.  All in a very readable format.