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Online and paper magazine Voirvert recently published an article about the 3R solar tile. We hereby publish it in full.

A solar collector with an architectural coating made of aluminum tiles.

By Michel Bouchard

Capteur solaire pourvu d'un revêtement architectural en tuiles d'aluminium

Despite their proven effectiveness and reliability, thermal solar walls used for fresh air preheating of buildings are not always favoured by architecture and design professionals. These energy-saving solutions, usually “massive and dark,” are even considered a necessary evil when they have to be integrated into the design of an architectural project.

That is why 3R Tiles and Vachon Énergie Durable combined their respective skills to develop a solar collector built into a screen of architectural aluminum tiles. This innovative system allows the use of an inexhaustible renewable energy source, while offering attractive aesthetic design.

Stéphane D’Anjou, CEO of 3R Tiles, a manufacturer of customized metallic outdoor roofing and sidings, explains. “Usually, when it comes to solar walls, most people refer to the black panels that are never highlighted on buildings. They are often located behind factories or facilities, without concern for aestheticism. In fact, architects are not really interested in them.

“For this reason, he says, we decided to design and market this type of tile which stems from both architects input and the need to keep an aesthetic design more pleasing to the eye.”

Tuiles 3R mur solaire schéma

The Sainte-Catherine-de-Hatley’s entrepreneur emphasizes that the opportunity to disregard the large slender surfaces of traditional solar walls and replace them with aluminum tiles, whose geometrical shapes provide a more attractive design, becomes an exciting de facto selling point to architects.

“This product is primarily intended for the institutional sector and office buildings,” points out Christian Vachon, CEO of Durable Vachon Énergie, who was involved in the tiles’ design. With the new era of LEED buildings and green renewable energy, these tiles become an additional obvious choice for the architects.

He states that “installing a solar energy collector system in front of a gas powered system, for example, can result in a 15-20 degree gain before the warm-up phase of an air system kicks in. Also, the colder it is the better the performance, as the performance depends on direct solar radiation intensity, not the temperature.

“It’s possible to cut energy costs by a third, indicates Christian Vachon. In short, by cutting greenhouse gas emissions and energy expenses by a third, we obtain a perfect combination of energy efficiency and architectural aestheticism.”

“The road ahead is now paved, concludes Stéphane D’Anjou. We are giving presentations to architects; we have readily-integrated solutions showing environmental benefits. We are currently working on expanding our market to Quebec, Ontario and the United States.”

The technology

The system consists of a set of perforated mural solar tiles that can be mounted in a horizontal, vertical, in-line or staggered arrangement, leaving a gap from the wall to ensure heat flow between the two surfaces and thus creating a pre-heating path.

The openings in the profiled aluminum sheet maximize the absorption of solar thermal energy at negative pressure and their tilt angle provides good wind protection. Because aluminum is an excellent conductor, performance is further increased.

At the top, a ventilation system is used to suck the preheated air in the plenum, the thermal mass being added to the heating system inside the building.