Fixed tilt flat-plate solar thermal collectors, popularly known as solar water heaters, still remain as one of the most interesting technologies for utilization of solar energy. The system performance deteriorates due to scaling because of the continuous use of hard water as feed water. The present study deals with the experimental and analytical approach to determine the variation of Hottel–Whillier–Bliss (H–W–B) constants (which compactly represent the efficiency characteristics of a solar water heater) due to variation in solar power input and degree of scaling in case of forced circulation system (FCS) without considering the variation of input power to the circulating pump. Indoor tests are performed with a copper tube to investigate the flow characteristics. This forms a part of conventional FCS, in place of the usual nine-fin tube array in a full-fledged collector. In indoor tests, electrical heating is favored to simulate solar radiation level. Various energy parameters are determined and compared by incorporating the developed numerical code FLATSCALE. Variation between experimental and analytical mass flow rate, overall heat loss coefficient, and H–W–B constants with simulated solar radiation level is plotted. In scaled condition, the drop in instantaneous efficiency is due to both scale thickness and reduced water flow rate. Scale thickness acts as an additional thermal conductive resistance between absorber plate and flowing water. Overall heat loss coefficient increases as absorber plate temperature is high during reduced flow rate. The maximum deviation observed is 21.68% in mass flow rate, 14.64% in absorber plate mean temperature, 7.86% in overall heat loss coefficient, and 12.04% in instantaneous efficiency. Compared to a clean tube, a highly scaled tube of 3.7 mm scale thickness indicates a drop of 4.76% in instantaneous efficiency and 40.28% in mass flow rate. It is concluded that the growth of scale in FCS does not affect the instantaneous efficiency significantly because of the margin in heat carrying capacity of water in spite of high drop in the flow rate.

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