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I am building an insulated cover to go around a plastic stock watering tank for the winter. I have no electricity in the pasture and don't want to axe ice in the tank all winter. I am building 3 sides and the top with 3/4" plywood that has 1" insulation board attached. The top will have an 18" diameter hole for access. I want one side to absorb heat from a southern exposure. I have a choice of a clear polycarbonite material or a black polycarbonite material. I have been told that the black surface will absorb heat better or at least allow a better rate of heat transfer. Anyone know which is the most efficient way to heat up the water?

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  • $\begingroup$ Hi and welcome to Physics Stack Exchange. However, I think this question might this question be better-suited for Engineering SE: engineering.stackexchange.com $\endgroup$
    – Time4Tea
    Aug 16, 2018 at 2:18

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I would use the clear polycarbonite material, and then paint the side of the tank underneath it black. This lets the light get through to the inside of the insulating box, where it is then directly absorbed by the tank. If the clear polycarbonite is fairly good at blocking IR radiation, then it should absorb most of the energy radiated by the black surface.

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Material which is a good absorber is also a good reflector of heat. Insulation depends more on thickness of insulating material rather than surface characteristics. Better way to absorb external heat is to have black plated metal. But during night /cold temperature it throws out all heat. So you cannot use same material for both absorbing heat and insulating to prevent heat dissipation.
Best solution is to have thick insulation and separate solar panel separately and pass heated tubes surround the rank inside layer of insulation.

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