EME 811
Solar Thermal Energy for Utilities and Industry

3.0 Introduction

I take great pleasure in saying that after a thorough trial extending over a year and a half, our solar heater continues to give just as much satisfaction as when first installed. I am ready to admit that [at first] we were unreasonably prejudiced against the heater, and feel that refusing to let you install one in my house for so long a time after you first approached me upon the subject, we lost a great deal of comfort and convenience.

— J.J. Backus
Los Angeles Superintendent of Buildings, 1907,
to the Climax Solar (Flat Plate) Water Heater.

Flat plate collector systems are a very robust technology. With no moving parts, the conversion of solar radiation to heat in a working fluid can be very reliable with simple heat exchanger technology and, essentially, plumbing. Some systems that are configured at higher pressures than what is near ambient pressure can be at risk for leaks at joints in and between the system components due to the pressure difference and, in general, system leaks are the most common mode of failure. Performance and efficiency of various collectors, collector types, and system types can impact capital and operating costs that would be different in different locations based on climate and the subsequent energy losses associated with different technologies in different environments.

Learning Objectives

  • Recognize the main components and layers of flat plate collectors.
  • Define the main parameters used to characterize the flat plate collectors
  • Apply efficiency, performance, and energy balance equations to a flat plate system
  • Understand how the flat plate collector performance is tested in practice

What is due for Lesson 3?

This lesson will take us one week to complete. The list of assignments for this lesson is provided in the table below.  More detailed instructions are given on respective pages of this lesson and in Canvas modules.

Tasks Assignment Details Access/Directions


  • D&B Sections 5.9, 6.0--6.4, 6.7, 6.16--6.18, 6.23 (45 pages)


  • D&B all of Chapter 6
Registered students can use the following link to access the online textbook through the University Library.
Assignment Problem set from D&B - Calculation of Flat Plate Collector parameters Specific directions for the assignment are provided on the respective page of this lesson.
Quiz 10 multiple choice questions based on lesson readings Registered students can access the quiz in the Lesson 3 Module in Canvas.
Discussion  Cover and absorber materials review Read directions to this discussion  and post you reflection in Lesson 3 Module in Canvas.

Please refer to the Course Calendar in Canvas for specific time frames and due dates.


If you have any questions, please post them to our Questions and Answers discussion forum in Canvas. I will check that discussion forum daily to respond. While you are there, feel free to post your own responses if you, too, are able to help out a classmate.