Solar panels for hot tubs

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Besides creating affordable electricity for your house, solar panels can heat your hot tub. Using solar collectors that either circulate sun-heated water to your hot tub or capture the sun's energy and use the electricity to run your pool heater, make heating your hot tub more energy-efficient and can save money. Solar panels convert 14 to 22 per cent of the sun's energy.

Solar Panel

Photovoltaic cells combined in modules, contained in a structure or frame, make up a solar panel. These cells collect the sun's energy and convert it into electricity. Material inside the panels creates electrons, and an inverter turns the electrons into DC electricity. This sun-created electricity can provide energy to offset the cost of heating your hot tub with an electric heater. These panels can also provide general reductions in your overall electricity costs.

Solar Panel Water Heater

Powered by a pool filter or an additional pump, this system heats water by having it pass through solar energy collectors and back into the hot tub, creating a direct system. Some systems, used in colder or windier areas, use an indirect system, meaning the water does not pass through solar energy collectors but instead uses a heat exchange that transfers solar heat to the water. Some systems can store the heated water in an attached holding tank until needed or allow the system, again if needed, to also use a conventional heater. The solar collectors heat the water using the sun's energy, saving on energy costs and providing a hot tub you can use more months out of the year.

You will need an area approximately one-half the size of your hot tub or more to install the solar collector panels. Mount the panels either on the roof, in a frame or on the ground next to the hot tub -- anywhere that receives the most sunlight daily. The tilt and orientation to the sun will affect your solar collectors' performance. A typical system will reduce the need for conventional water heating by 2/3.

Flat-Plate Collectors

Weatherproof flat boxes containing a dark sun absorber plate or connected tubes, contained under a plate of glass with a plastic cover, create what is called a flat-plate solar collector. The covers often have a coating to maximise the absorption of the sun's heat. Connecting tubes hold the water and the solar energy taken in by the absorber plate heats the fluid. The tubes are available in a glazed or unglazed finish. Most outdoor pools and hot tubs use unglazed tubes. Flat plate collectors are also available without a cover. This works fine in sunny, dry climates.

Integral Collector-Storage System

An integral collector-storage system, also called ICS, is a water tank or tubes that sit in an insulated glazed box. Cold water passes over the tubes and preheats. The double insulation dramatically lowers the amount of heat lost back into the environment. Water heats rapidly due to solar heat retained in the system, as well as heat generated by the enclosed heated water. The hot water may be stored in a holding tank or conventional backup system for later use. This system is reliable, but not recommended in areas where freezing temperatures occur -- the outdoor pipes could freeze and break.

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