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# Thermal Analysis of Flat Plate Solar Collectors

## Basic Flat Plate Energy Equation

Emitted radiation by absorber
(Infrared range) Heat Loss to Ambient
Absorber Plate with
Incident radiation Selective Coating
Reflection Glazing
(visible range)
Casing

Fluid Carrying
Back and side
passage
Insulation

 When a certain amount of solar radiation falls on the surface of a collector, most of it is
absorbed and delivered to the transport fluid, and it is carried away as useful energy

 As in all thermal systems, Heat Losses to the environment by various modes of heat
transfer are inevitable

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Thermal Analysis of Flat Plate Solar Collectors

## Basic Flat Plate Energy Equation

Assumptions to simplify the Numerical Modeling and Calculations

##  Collector is in a steady state

 Collector is of the header and riser type
fixed on a sheet with parallel tubes
 Headers cover only a small area of the
collector and can be neglected
 Heaters provide uniform flow to the riser
tubes

dimensional

##  Temperature gradients around tubes are neglected

 Properties of materials are independent of temperature
 Heat flow through the cover is one dimensional
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## Basic Flat Plate Energy Equation

Assumptions to simplify the Numerical Modeling and Calculations

negligible

##  Covers are opaque to infrared radiation

 Same ambient temperature exists at the
front and back of the collector

##  Dust effects on the cover are negligible

 There is no shading of the absorber plate

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Thermal Analysis of Flat Plate Solar Collectors

## Basic Flat Plate Energy Equation

 Thermal performance of a collector can be calculated from a First-law Energy Balance.
according to the first law of thermodynamics, for a simple flat-plate collector an
instantaneous steady-state energy balance is
Useful energy = Energy Absorbed – Heat Loss To 4.1
Gain (Qu) By The Collector Surroundings

 Energy Absorbed By The Collector per unit area of absorber S is equal to the difference
between the incident solar radiation and the optical losses, as defined by the following Eq.
𝟏 + 𝒄𝒐𝒔𝜷 𝟏 − 𝒄𝒐𝒔𝜷
𝑺 = 𝑰𝒃 𝑹𝒃 𝝉𝜶 𝒃 + 𝑰𝒅 𝝉𝜶 𝒅 + 𝑰𝝆𝒈 𝝉𝜶 𝒈 4.2
𝟐 𝟐
 Thermal Energy Lost To Surroundings by
conduction, convection, and infrared radiation
can be represented as the product of a heat
transfer coefficient UL times the difference
between mean absorber plate temperature Tpm
and the ambient Temperature Ta

## QL = UL (Tpm - Ta) 4.3

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Thermal Analysis of Flat Plate Solar Collectors

## Basic Flat Plate Energy Equation

 In steady state the useful energy output Qu of a collector of area Ac is the difference
between absorbed solar radiation and thermal loss: combining Eqs. (4.1, 4.2 and 4.3):

## Qu = Ac [S - UL (Tpm - Ta)] 4.4

 Problem with Eq. (4.4) is that the mean absorber temperature Tpm is difficult to calculate or
measure since it is a function of the collector design, incident solar radiation, and the
entering fluid conditions. The Eq. will be reformulated so that useful energy gain can be
expressed in terms of fluid temperature Tf.

 Collector efficiency is defined as the ratio of the useful gain over some specified time
period to the incident solar energy over the same time period

4.5

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## Collector Energy Losses (U-value Estimation)

 As in all thermal systems, heat losses to the environment by various modes of heat
transfer are inevitable
 Thermal network is drawn for a
single-cover, flat-plate collector
in terms of conduction,
convection, and radiation and in
terms of the Resistance
Between Plates
 Temperature of the plate is Tp,
the collector back temperature is
Tb, and the absorbed solar
 Various thermal losses from the
collector can be combined into a
simple resistance, RL so that the
energy losses from the collector Fig. 4.1

4.6
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4.6

## UL = Overall Heat Loss Coefficient

based on collector area Ac
(W/m2-K)
Tp = Plate Temperature (°C)
 UL isa complicated function of
the collector construction and
its operating conditions, given
by:
4.7

## Ut = Top loss coefficient (W/m2-K)

Ub= Bottom heat loss coefficient
(W/m2-K)
Ue= Heat loss coefficient form the Fig. 4.1
collector edges (W/m2-K)

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## Collector Energy Losses (U-value Estimation)

Top Heat Loss/Top loss coefficient, Ut (W/m2-K)

##  Heat transfer upward from the absorber plate

at temperature Tp to the glass cover at Tg and
from the glass cover at Tg to ambient at Ta is
by convection and infrared radiation

by
Qt,p-g

⇒qt,p-g 4.8

## Ac = collector area (m2)

hc, p-g = convection heat transfer coefficient between Fig. 4.1
the absorber plate and glass cover (W/m2-K)
hr, p-g = radiation heat transfer coefficient between
the absorber plate and glass cover (W/m2-K)
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## Collector Energy Losses (U-value Estimation)

Top Heat Loss/Top loss coefficient, Ut (W/m2-K)

##  Fortilt angles (β) up to 75°, the convective

heat transfer coefficient, hc,p-g is calculated
from Nusselt No. correlation, which is given
by: 𝟏.𝟔 +
𝟏𝟕𝟎𝟖(𝒔𝒊𝒏 𝟏. 𝟖𝜷) 𝟏𝟕𝟎𝟖
𝑵𝒖 = 𝟏 + 𝟏. 𝟒𝟒 𝟏 − 𝟏− Error! No
𝑹𝒂 𝒄𝒐𝒔𝜷 𝑹𝒂 𝒄𝒐𝒔𝜷 text of
+ specified
𝑹𝒂 𝒄𝒐𝒔𝜷 𝟏 style in
+ ( ) −𝟏
𝟑 4.9 document..1
𝟓𝟖𝟑𝟎
“Plus sign represents positive values only”
 Rayleigh value, Ra, is
4.10

## g = gravitational constant, = 9.81 m2/s

Fig. 4.1
β’ = volumetric coefficient of expansion; for ideal gas,
β’= 1/T
Pr = Prandtl number
L =absorber to glass cover distance (m)
ν = kinetic viscosity (m2/s)
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## Collector Energy Losses (U-value Estimation)

4.10

 Fluid
properties in Eq. (4.10) are evaluated at
the mean gap temperature (Tp + Tg)/2
 Radiation Heat Transfer Coefficient term in Eq.
(4.8) can be linearized to give:

4.11

## εp= Infrared emissivity of absorber plate

εg = Infrared emissivity of glass cover
Eq. 4.11 is for radiation heat exchange between two
flat and equal surfaces which is derived from the
general case of radiation heat exchange (Eq.
4.12)b/w any two surfaces: Fig. 4.1

4.12

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## Collector Energy Losses (U-value Estimation)

Top Heat Loss/Top loss coefficient, Ut (W/m2-K)

⇒ 4.14

by:
Qt,g-a

⇒qt,g-a 4.15

## hc,g-a = convection heat transfer coefficient

between the the glass cover and
ambient (W/m2-K)
Fig. 4.1
hr, g-a = radiation heat transfer coefficient
between the glass cover and ambient
(W/m2-K)
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## Collector Energy Losses (U-value Estimation)

Top Heat Loss/Top loss coefficient, Ut (W/m2-K)

4.16
hc,g-a = hw = Convective heat transfer coefficient
for wind blowing over the
2 o
collector.(W/m . C) = 5.7+3.8Vair
Vair = Average wind speed (m/sec)

⇒ 4.17

1 1
⇒ Ut   4.18
Rp g Rg a
Fig. 4.1
⇒ 4.19

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## Collector Energy Losses (U-value Estimation)

Top Heat Loss/Top loss coefficient, Ut (W/m2-K)
 In some cases, collectors are constructed
with two glass covers in an attempt to lower
heat losses
 Another resistance Rg1-g2 will be added to the
system shown to account for the heat transfer
from the lower to upper glass covers

##  By following a similar analysis, the heat

transfer from the lower glass at Tg2 to the
upper glass at Tg1 is given by

Qt,g1-g2
Fig. 4.1
⇒qt, g1-g2 4.20

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## Collector Energy Losses (U-value Estimation)

Top Heat Loss/Top loss coefficient, Ut (W/m2-K)

##  The convection heat transfer coefficient hc,g2-

g1 can be obtained by Eqs. 4.9 and 4.10

##  Radiationheat transfer coefficient can be

obtained again from Eq. (4.11) and is given
by

4.21

⇒ 4.22

##  Procedure of solving for the Ut using Eqs. Fig. 4.1

(4.8) through (4.20) is an iterative process
A guess is made for the unknown cover
temperature Tg
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## Collector Energy Losses (U-value Estimation)

Top Heat Loss/Top loss coefficient, Ut (W/m2-K)
A guess is made for the unknown cover
temperature Tg, from which the convective
and radiative heat transfer coefficients b/w
parallel surfaces are calculated

##  Since the energy exchange between pates

must be equal to the overall heat loss, a new
set of cover temperatures can be calculated:
U t (T p Ta )
T T  4.23
j i hc ,i  j  hr ,i  j
“i” and “j” refer to two adjacent flat
surfaces. E.g. absorber plate and glass
cover or glass cover-1 and 2. Fig. 4.1
 Iterative Process is repeated until the cover
temperatures do not change significantly
b/w successive iterations
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## Collector Energy Losses (U-value Estimation)

Top Heat Loss/Top loss coefficient, Ut (W/m2-K)
Example 4.1:

 Calculate the top loss coefficient for an absorber with a single glass cover having
following specifications:

## o Plate to cover spacing: 25 mm

o Plate Emittance: 0.95
o Ambient Air Temperature = 10 oC 𝟏𝟕𝟎𝟖(𝒔𝒊𝒏 𝟏. 𝟖𝜷)𝟏.𝟔 𝟏𝟕𝟎𝟖 +
𝑵𝒖 = 𝟏 + 𝟏. 𝟒𝟒 𝟏 − 𝟏−
o Wind Speed = 3 m/sec 𝑹𝒂 𝒄𝒐𝒔𝜷
+
𝑹𝒂 𝒄𝒐𝒔𝜷
𝑹𝒂 𝒄𝒐𝒔𝜷 𝟏
o Collector tilt = 45o + (
𝟓𝟖𝟑𝟎
)𝟑 − 𝟏

## o Glass Emittance = 0.88 U t (T p Ta )

T T 
j i hc ,i  j  hr ,i  j

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## Collector Energy Losses (U-value Estimation)

Top Heat Loss/Top loss coefficient, Ut (W/m2-K)

 Asthe iterations required are tedious and time consuming, especially for the case of
multiple-cover systems, straightforward evaluation of Ut is given by the following
empirical equation developed by Klein (1975) with sufficient accuracy for design purposes

4.23

Where;

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## Collector Energy Losses (U-value Estimation)

Top Heat Loss/Top loss coefficient, Ut (W/m2-K)
Example 4.2:

 Repeat Example 4.1 using the empirical Eq. 4.23 and compare the results.
Example 4.3:
 Estimate the top heat loss coefficient of a collector that has the following specifications:
Collector slope = 35°, Number of glass covers = 2,
Thickness of each glass cover = 4 mm, Thickness of absorbing plate = 0.5 mm, Space
between glass covers = 20 mm, Space between inner glass cover and absorber = 40 mm
Thickness of back insulation = 50 mm,
Back insulation thermal conductivity = 0.05 W/m-K.
Mean absorber temperature, Tp = 80°C = 353 K, Ambient air temperature = 15°C = 288 K.
Absorber plate emissivity, εp = 0.10, Glass emissivity, εg = 0.88.
Wind velocity = 2.5 m/s.

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## Collector Energy Losses (U-value Estimation)

Bottom Heat Loss Coefficient, Ut (W/m2-K)

##  Energy loss from the bottom of the collector

is first conducted through the insulation and
then by a combined convection and infrared
radiation transfer to the surrounding
ambient air
 Magnitudes of Rp-b and Rb-a are such that it is
usually possible to assume Rb-a is zero and
all resistance to heat flow is due to the
insulation 1
 Back loss coefficient is: 4.24

## tb = thickness of back insulation (m)

kb = conductivity of back insulation (W/m-K)
Fig. 4.1
 heat loss from the back of the plate rarely
exceeds 10% of the upward loss
 Typical values of the back surface heat loss
coefficient are 0.3–0.6 W/m2-K
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## Collector Energy Losses (U-value Estimation)

Edge Heat Loss Coefficient, Ue (W/m2-K)
 Heat transfer coefficient for the heat loss from the collector edges can be obtained from
4.25

Where,
te = thickness of edge insulation (m)
ke = conductivity of edge insulation (W/m-K)
hc,e-a = convection heat loss coefficient from edge to ambient (W/m2-K)
Typical values of the edge heat loss coefficient are 1.5–2.0 (W/m2-K)
 Evaluation of edge losses is complicated, therefore in a well-designed system, the edge
loss should be small so that it is not necessary to predict it with great accuracy
 Losses through the edge should be referenced to the collector area, If the edge loss
coefficient area product is (UA)edge then edge loss coefficient
(UA)edge
Ue  4.25A
Ac
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## Collector Energy Losses (U-value Estimation)

Overall Heat Loss Coefficient, Ue (W/m2-K)
 Collector’s overall heat loss coefficient is:
U= Ut +Ub + Ue 4.25B

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Thermal Analysis of Flat Plate Solar Collectors

## Temperature Distribution in Flat-Plate

Collectors and Collector Efficiency Factor

##  Itis desirable to have an understanding of

the temperature distribution that exists in a
solar collector (As in Fig. 4.2)
 Some of the solar energy absorbed on the
plate must be conducted along the plate to
the region of tubes
 Temperature midway between the tubes will Fig. 4.2
be higher than the temperature in the
vicinity of the tubes

Fig. 4.3
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## Temperature Distribution in Flat-Plate

Collectors and Collector Efficiency Factor
 Energy transferred to fluid will heat the fluid, causing a temperature gradient to exist in the
direction of flow

Fig. 4.3

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## Temperature Distribution in Flat-Plate

Collectors and Collector Efficiency Factor
 Temperature difference b/w tubes can be derived if we assume the temperature gradient in
the flow direction is negligible
 Analysis can be performed by considering the sheet-tube configuration, where the
distance between the tubes is W, the tube diameter is D, and the sheet thickness is tab

 Region between the center line separating the tubes and the tube base can be considered
as a classical Fin Problem
 Length of the fin is (W-D)/2
 An elemental region of width, dx, and length L in the flow direction are shown
dx
tab
tab

Fig. 4.4
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## Temperature Distribution in Flat-Plate

Collectors and Collector Efficiency Factor
 By solving energy balance on this element
4.26 dqc

qx qx+dx Tb
Eq. (4.26) gives the
temperature distribution in the dx
x direction at any given y Fig. 4.5
tab
 Energy conducted to the region
of tube per unit length in the flow (W-D)/2
direction is: x

4.27
or with the help of Fin Efficiency, F
F = Standard Fin Efficiency for straight fins with a
4.28 rectangular profile

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## Temperature Distribution in Flat-Plate

Collectors and Collector Efficiency Factor
 Useful gain of the collector
also includes the energy
collected above the tube
region: tab
4.29
 useful energy gain per unit length
in the direction of the fluid flow is:

4.30
 This energy ultimately must be transferred to the fluid, which can be expressed in terms of
two resistances as
Cb is the bond conductance, which can be estimated from
4.31 knowledge of the bond thermal conductivity, kb, the
average bond thickness, ϒ, and the bond width, b

hfi = heat transfer coefficient between the fluid and the tube wall

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## Temperature Distribution in Flat-Plate

Collectors and Collector Efficiency Factor

 Solving Eq. (4.31) for Tb, substituting it into Eq. (4.30), and solving the resultant equation
for the useful Heat Gain of the Collector in terms of local fluid temperature is:

4.32
where F’ is the Collector Efficiency Factor, given by

4.33

oF’ represents the ratio of the actual useful energy gain to the useful energy gain that
would result if the collector absorbing surface had been at the local fluid temperature
oF’ represents the effect of the temperature drop between the absorber plate Tp and the
fluid in the pipe Tf
oThe numerator of Eq. (4.32) is the heat transfer resistance from absorber plate to
ambient and denominator is the heat transfer resistance from the fluid to the ambient
air.
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## Temperature Distribution in Flat-Plate

Collectors and Collector Efficiency Factor

4.34

oF’ considers the heat transfer resistance from absorber to fluid in the pipe
•due to fin conduction,
•due to the conduction through the contact bond between absorber and pipe, and
•due to the forced convection between the pipe inner wall and the flowing fluid
oF’ decreases with increased tube center-to-center distances and increases with increase
in both material thicknesses and thermal conductivity

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## Temperature Distribution in Flat-Plate

Collectors and Collector Efficiency Factor

Example 4.4:

For a collector having the following characteristics and ignoring the bond resistance,
calculate the fin efficiency and the collector efficiency factor:
Overall loss coefficient = 6.9 W/m2-°C
Tube spacing = 120 mm
Tube outside diameter = 15 mm
Tube inside diameter = 13.5 mm
Plate thickness = 0.4 mm
Plate material = copper
Heat transfer coefficient inside the tubes = 320 W/m2-°C

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## Temperature Distribution in Flow Direction

 Fluid enters the collector at temperature Tfi and increases in temperature until at the exit it
is Tfo
 Consider an infinitesimal length δy of the tube as shown in Figure. Useful energy
delivered to the fluid is q’u δy

Fig. 4.6
 By solving energy balance on this element
T f  Ta  S / U L  
 U L nWF y 
'

 exp   4.33A
T fi  Ta  S / U L 
.

 m C p 

4.33B

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## Collector Heat Removal Factor, Flow Factor , and Thermal

Efficiency
 It is usually desirable to express the collector total useful energy gain Qu in terms of the
fluid inlet temperature, Tfi

 Heat Removal Factor FR represents the ratio of the actual useful energy gain that would
result if the collector-absorbing surface had been at the inlet fluid temperature, Tfi

4.34

4.34

Rearranging yields:

4.35

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## Collector Heat Removal Factor, Flow Factor, and Thermal

Efficiency

4.35

 Another parameter usually used in the analysis of collectors is the Flow Factor F’’, which
is defined as the ratio of FR to F’

4.36

collector flow factor F’’ is a function of only a single variable, the dimensionless
collector capacitance rate, mcp /AcULF’
 FR is equivalent to the Effectiveness of a Conventional Heat Exchanger which is defined as
the ratio of the actual heat transfer to the maximum possible heat transfer

 Maximum possible useful energy gain in a solar collector occurs when the whole collector
is at the inlet fluid temperature, Tfi; heat losses to the ambient are then at a minimum

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Thermal Analysis of Flat Plate Solar Collectors

## Collector Heat Removal Factor, Flow Factor, and Thermal

Efficiency
 FR times this maximum possible useful energy is the actual useful energy:
Qu = Ac FR [S - UL (Tfi - Ta)] 4.37 Qu = Ac [S - UL (Tpm - Ta)] 4.4

o This is same as Eq. (4.4), with the difference that the inlet fluid temperature (Tfi)
replaces the average plate temperature (Tp) with the use of the FR

o Eq. (4.37), is a convenient representation when analyzing the solar energy systems,
since the inlet fluid temperature (Tfi) is usually known

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## Collector Heat Removal Factor, Flow Factor, and Thermal Efficiency

Example 4.5:
Calculate the useful gain and efficiency of an
array of 10 solar collector modules installed
in parallel, at a slope of 60o and a surface
azimuth of 0o. The hourly radiation on the
plane of the plane of the collector IT, the
hourly radiation absorbed by the absorber
plate S, and the hourly ambient temperature
Ta, are given in the table. For the collector
assume UL to be 8.0 W/m2 oC, and the plate
efficiency factor F’ to be 0.841. The water flow
rate through each 1 ⨯ 2-m collector panel is
0.03 kg/s and the inlet water temperature
remains constant at 40 oC. Assume a
controller turns off the water flow whenever
the outlet temperature is less than the inlet
temperature.
Qu = Ac FR [S - UL (Tfi - Ta)]

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## Collector Heat Removal Factor, Flow Factor, and Thermal Efficiency

Example 4.5:--contd--

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## Collector Heat Removal Factor, Flow Factor, and Thermal Efficiency

Mean Fluid and Plate Temperature
 To evaluate Collector performance, It is necessary to know UL and hfi
 Both UL and hfi are to some degree functions of temperatures
 Mean Fluid Temperature can be found by integrating Eq. 4.33A from zero to L

4.38

 Solving this integration and substituting FR from Eq. (4.35), Tfm is:
4.39

 Solving Eqs. (4.37) and (4.4), for the mean Plate Temp. (Tpm):
Qu = Ac FR [S - UL (Tfi - Ta)] Qu = Ac [S - UL (Tpm - Ta)]

⇒ 4.40

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## Liquid Heater Plate Geometries

 There are many designs of Flat-plate Collectors
 Here only one basic collector design “Sheet and tube solar water heater with parallel tubes
on the back of the plate” is analyzed
 Fortunately, it is not necessary to develop a completely new analysis for each situation
 Generalized relationships for the tube and sheet case apply to most collector designs
 It is necessary to derive the appropriate form of the Collector Efficiency Factor F’ and Eqs.
(4.35 - 4.37) then can be used to predict the thermal performance

##  Under some circumstances, UL will

have to be modified slightly

Fig. 4.7a

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##  In Figs. 4.7d, e, narrow, flat absorbers

are mounted inside evacuated glass
tubes

Fig. 4.7d
 Configuration of Fig. 4.7d is similar to
type a but with a single riser
 Type e collecor is “down and back”
with a U-tube joining the two conduits

Fig. 4.7e

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## Collector Heat Removal Factor, Flow Factor , and Thermal

Efficiency
 Radiation level where the absorbed solar radiation and loss term are equal
This is obtained by setting the term in the right-hand side of Eq. (4.37) equal to 0

## Qu = Ac FR [GT(τα) - UL (Tfi - Ta)] 4.37

Critical Radiation Level, Gtc, is given by
Collector can provide useful output only when the
4.38 available radiation Gav is higher than the critical
one Gtc
 Collector output can be written in terms of the critical radiation level:
Qu = Ac FR (τα)av(GT – GTc)+ 4.39
o Eq. 4.39 indicate that for the collector to produce useful out put, i.e, Qu > 0, absorbed
radiation must exceed the thermal losses and GT must be greater than GTC
oThis implies that there is a Controller on the collector that shutts off the flow of fluid
when the value in parentheses is not positive
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