Vernier Software and Technology
Vernier Software & Technology

Exploring Solar Collectors

Figure from experiment 24 from Renewable Energy with Vernier


Using the sun to heat water is not a new idea. Humans have been harnessing the thermal energy of the sun for centuries. Today, solar thermal systems are found on rooftops around the world, providing affordable, pollution-free hot water for millions of people.

In most US homes, water is heated using electricity, natural gas, or oil. Since most of our electricity is generated from fossil fuels, it is safe to say that most water in the United States is heated using energy from fossil fuels. The burning of fossil fuels releases pollution into the environment and is believed to contribute to global climate change.

Since it takes a large amount of energy to heat water, it can be a significant portion of our energy bills. Replacing a traditional water heater with a device that can heat water using energy from the sun is not only good for the environment, it can also be a great way to save money on your energy bill.

Solar collectors take advantage of the greenhouse effect in order to heat water. Have you ever noticed how surprisingly warm it is inside a car that has been parked in the sun? Sunlight easily passes through the glass windows and is converted into heat when it hits the interior of the car. Some of that heat passes back through the glass, but a lot of it gets trapped inside. In a solar collector, this trapped heat warms the water that is circulating through the system.


  • Use a light sensor to measure reflected light.
  • Use a temperature sensor to measure changes in temperature.
  • Calculate percent reflectivity of various colors.
  • Use results to design and set up a solar collector.
  • Determine the temperature change of the water in a solar collector.

Sensors and Equipment

This experiment features the following Vernier sensors and equipment.

Option 1

Option 2

Additional Requirements

You may also need an interface and software for data collection. What do I need for data collection?

Renewable Energy with Vernier

See other experiments from the lab book.

1Renewable Energy: Why is it So Important?
2What is Energy?
3Project: Energy Audit
4Voltage and Circuits
5Current and Resistors
6Mechanical Power
8Exploring Wind Turbines
9Effect of Load on Wind Turbine Output
10Blade Variables and Power Output
12Turbine Efficiency
13Power Curves
14Power and Energy
15Project: Maximum Energy Output
16Project: Build a Wind Farm
17Exploring Solar Panels
18AEffect of Load on Solar Panel Output
18BFill Factor and IV Curve of a Solar Panel
19Variables Affecting Solar Panel Output
20Effect of Temperature on Solar Panel Output
21Project: Build a Solar Charger
22Exploring Passive Solar Heating
23Variables Affecting Passive Solar Heating
24Exploring Solar Collectors
25Variables Affecting Solar Collectors
26Project: Solar Cooker

Experiment 24 from Renewable Energy with Vernier Lab Book

<i>Renewable Energy with Vernier</i> book cover

Included in the Lab Book

Vernier lab books include word-processing files of the student instructions, essential teacher information, suggested answers, sample data and graphs, and more.

Buy the Book

Dev Reference: VST0684

Go to top