Solar energy is about as renewable as it gets. For millions of years to come, the Sun will continue providing heat and light that can be harnessed to meet the energy demands of human activities. Although solar water heaters have become more common in recent years, it is time for modernisation and enhanced efficiency to achieve significant market penetration. Updating the architecture while improving efficiency was the goal of the EU-funded project 'A novel heat pump assisted solar facade loop heat pipe water heating system' (HP-LP-SOLAR-FACADE). The target was maintenance of water at 40 to 55 degrees Celsius for general domestic use. Scientists developed a module that minimises the length of piping, enabling creation of a modern wall or balcony facade with integrated heat-absorbing pipes that are part of the loop heat pipe. The HP-LP-SOLAR-FACADE technology consists of outdoor and indoor parts connected by conduits to transport the heat-transfer fluid. Researchers developed a computer model to enable optimisation of parameters and prediction of performance under a variety of operating conditions. It will be equally useful in future studies. The technology provides a modernised version of the solar water heater. Integrated into a wall or balcony facade, it eliminates the external piping and bulk, resulting in a less expensive and more aesthetically pleasing design. Sunny southern European climates such as that of Madrid stand to benefit most in terms of both cost and performance. HP-LP-SOLAR-FACADE makes an important contribution to the EU's renewable energy agenda while helping place it at the forefront of solar heating technology. Thus, the project has strengthened Europe's competitive position in a market poised for important growth.
Solar, solar heating, heating systems, outdoor walls, water heaters, balcony facades, solar energy, heat pump, solar facade, loop heat pipe, water heating, renewable energy