University of Malta

Study-Unit Description
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TITLE Technical Guidance on Solar Heating Systems Installations

LEVEL 02 - Years 2, 3 in Modular Undergraduate Course


DEPARTMENT Institute for Sustainable Energy

DESCRIPTION The CPD course will introduce the relevant EU Energy Directives together with Malta’s energy regulations. The course will explain the fundamental principles of solar energy, including terminology, symbols and units; Malta’s solar potential; the determination of the position of the sun using sun-path diagrams; solar radiation; solar tracking; optimisation of azimuth angle and tilt for a solar heating system and calculation of shadow lengths.

The course will cover solar component technologies including flat-plate and evacuated-tube collectors; types of storage tanks; piping and pipe insulation; heat exchangers; primary fluids; expansion tanks, valves and mixing devices. The following solar heating system technologies will then be presented: direct and indirect heating systems; thermosiphon systems; open-loop systems; drain-down systems; drain back systems; closed-loop antifreeze systems; pumped systems; integrated systems and options for back-up heating.

Methods for sizing a solar water heating system will be explained. These will include an explanation of how to calculate the determination of the hot water needs, tank size, collector area required and heat losses in pipework.

Finally, various aspects involving the solar system installation, commissioning and maintenance will be treated. These will include site inspection, types of roofs and mounting techniques, calculation of the effect of unavoidable shading, system plumbing, water quality and its impact on the solar heater; system testing (including pressure testing, etc.); health and safety, security issues; impact of overheating on installed under-floor pipe work; control of Legionella Disease; user’s manual and commissioning; handover procedure and custom information requirements; trouble shooting and reporting of potential problems/failures.

Study-unit Aims:

The main scope of this unit is:
1. To deliver the necessary knowledge required to understand fully all the aspects connected with solar thermal technologies;
2. To deliver sufficient technical and practical skills so that the student will be able to carry out proper installation and maintenance of solar heating systems, independently and without supervision;
3. To teach the necessary tools required to design and size solar heating systems for real-life projects;
4. To provide information on prevailing legal commitments and training on health and safety that a solar thermal installer would need to know;
5. To produce well-trained, responsible and informed solar thermal installers for the local market, who would be eligible to acquire the required authorisation from the Malta Resources Authority, thus enabling them to work in the field, according to the EU Directive 2009/28/EC.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:
1. Explain the existing European and National Directives and Legal Frameworks dealing with renewable energy and energy use in buildings
2. Explain the basic terms and units of solar radiation and solar systems
3. Calculate the apparent motion of the sun across the sky (solar path) and know how it affects different collectors placed at different positions
4. Distinguish between the different types of solar thermal systems, their characteristics, availability, efficiency and typical applications
5. Explain the use different materials and interpret specifications.
6. Utilise of software applications for sizing solar thermal systems.
7. Prepare the installation requirements for a domestic solar water heating system.
8. Become acquainted with the proper methodologies for installation, maintenance and troubleshooting of solar heating systems.
9. Ensure full understanding of all aspects of health and safety connected with solar thermal installation and maintenance.
10. Provide important recommendations, conveyed correctly and accurately, to customers on commissioning of their installation.

2. Skills:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:
1. Correctly interpret relevant EU Directives and national legal notices concerning solar thermal systems.
2. Calculate shadow lengths of obstacles to be able to correctly choose a suitable location for a solar heating system.
3. Be able to choose and match the proper type and size of solar collectors with other balance of system components (solar tank, pipes, pumps, switches, controls) for a particular project.
4. Size and design solar heating systems to match a particular demand.
5. Prepare and execute a plan for installing and commissioning solar heating systems, independently and without supervision.
6. Prepare and execute a maintenance schedule for a solar thermal system.
7. Prepare and explain user instructions manual to end-users during commissioning.
8. Responsibly use all safety equipment correctly.
9. Carry out basic electrical connections for the back-up heater, in accordance with the prevailing network code.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

• EN Standards 12975 and 12976
• Solar Water Heating: A Comprehensive Guide to Solar Water and Space Heating Systems, Bob Ramlow with Benjamin Nusz, New Society Publishers, 2006, ISBN 13: 978-0-86571-561-5
• Planning and Installing Solar Thermal Systems: A Guide for Installers, Architects and Engineers, ECOFYS, Earthscan James and James, 2005, ISBN 1-84407-125-1

ADDITIONAL NOTES Pre-requisite Qualifications: National Qualification Framework (NQF) LEVEL 4, as defined by the Malta Qualifications Council Level 4, and specifically applied to 3-year Educational Training (VET) Higher Diploma Courses, that would be relevant to the field of study. This must include training in plumbing as applied in typical Maltese water systems, as well as basic knowledge in electrical wiring. Upon successful completion, the students will be automatically certified to install solar thermal systems for a period of five (5) years, following which they will be required to take a separate refreshers course to renew their certification, as stipulated in Government Notice No. 404 published in Govt. Gazette No. 19,087 of the 14th May 2013.

STUDY-UNIT TYPE Lecture, Independent Study & Practicum

Assessment Component/s Resit Availability Weighting
Assignment No 30%
Examination (3 Hours) No 70%


The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the study-unit description above applies to the academic year 2017/8, if study-unit is available during this academic year, and may be subject to change in subsequent years.
Refresher Courses in Renewable Energy
More information here.

MSc time tables for semester 1
More information is found here.

ThermHCB Project
2012 MCST R&I Programme.

Training Courses in Renewable Energy

Please click here for more information.

Solar Heating Technical Visits
The Institute for Sustainable Energy is offering technical inspection of installed domestic solar water heating systems. 


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