A flat-plate collector consists of an absorber, a transparent cover, a frame, and insulation. Usually an iron-poor solar safety glass is used as a transparent cover, as it transmits a great amount of the short-wave light spectrum.

Simultaneously, only very little of the heat emitted by the absorber escapes the cover (greenhouse effect).

In addition, the transparent cover prevents wind and breezes from carrying the collected heat away (convection). Together with the frame, the cover protects the absorber from adverse weather conditions. Typical frame materials include aluminum and galvanized steel; sometimes fiberglass-reinforced plastic is used.

The insulation on the back of the absorber and on the side walls lessens the heat loss through conduction. Insulation is usually of polyurethane foam or mineral wool, though sometimes mineral fiber insulating materials like glass wool, rock wool, glass fiber or fiberglass are used.

Flat collectors demonstrate a good price-performance ratio, as well as a broad range of mounting possibilities (on the roof, in the roof itself, or unattached).