Solar Thermal Heating

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Solar Thermal Heating

Many people will already be familiar with solar photovoltaic (PV) panels and the idea of using the sun’s energy to generate electricity. Solar thermal panels capture heat from the sun and convert this into heat for hot water, working in conjunction with conventional water heaters.

Solar thermal panels are relatively straightforward to install, require very little maintenance and are long lasting but they need to be correctly positioned on a south facing roof in order to work effectively. Solar hot water systems do not work as well when it is cloudy and are unlikely to fulfil peak demand for heating and hot water all the time, so you might need another heating system as back-up.

How does it work?

A solar thermal system consists of three main parts; solar panels, a heat transfer system and a hot water cylinder.

The solar panels, known as collectors, are fitted to your roof and collect heat from the sun. There are two types of solar water heating panels; flat plate collectors, which are most commonly used, and evacuated tubes.

To achieve maximum efficiency in the UK, solar panels should face south at an angle of between 30° and 50° and be situated well away from surrounding buildings, chimneys and trees. It is possible to install larger solar panels that will provide some heating but the amount of heat generated is usually too small to make this worthwhile.

The heat transfer system transfers the heat collected from the sun to a dedicated solar hot water cylinder where the water stored in the cylinder is heated up and stored for late use. You will need to install a hot water cylinder that is suitable for solar water heating but this should work alongside your current boiler and heating system.

The two main types of solar water heating systems available are active and passive. With an active solar water heating system, electric pumps are required to circulate water or other heat transfer fluid through the collectors whilst a passive solar water system relies on gravity. Passive systems are less expensive and tend to be more reliable and easier to maintain than active systems but are generally less efficient.

Advantages of a Solar Thermal Water Heating System

  • Solar heating is a green, environmentally friendly form of energy.
  • Solar energy is freely available.
  • Low maintenance costs.
  • Fewer running costs compared to fossil fuels.
  • No fuel costs.


Costs and potential savings

Once installed maintenance costs are minimal. Solar water heating systems generally come with a five or ten year warranty but panels should be checked annually and inspected by an accredited solar thermal installer on a regular basis (as specified by your installer).

Installing a solar water heating system can save you money on your energy bills but the amount will vary according to the time of year. A solar heating system may be able to meet most of your hot water requirements during the summer months but much less in the winter when the weather is colder.

Renewable Heat Premium Payment

The Renewable Heat Premium Payment is the forerunner to the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) for householders. It is a government backed scheme to help domestic users pay for renewable energy technologies in the home and the payment amount varies according to which technology you are applying for. The solar thermal grant is £300 for installation of a solar hot water system.

Green energy

Financial benefits are only one aspect of solar energy savings. A solar hot water heating system emits much less carbon dioxide than a traditional fossil fuel heating system and is therefore a very green form of energy. If you are replacing a gas heating system with a solar water heater you can expect carbon savings of around 230kg CO2 per year and this increases to 510kg CO2 per year when replacing electric immersion heating.

Solar Thermal Case Study*

A retired couple living in Sussex, Mr and Mrs Murrell, bought a three-bedroomed bungalow with loft and cavity wall insulation. The bungalow was retrofitted with solar thermal and solar photovoltaic (PV) systems with the aim of reducing the couple’s energy bills.

The solar thermal system can now supply up to 100% of their hot water requirements during the summer months. The solar thermal and PV systems have both proved successful and the couple feel that each technology has fulfilled its intended role. Mr and Mrs Murrell have immediately noticed a reduction in their bills and say that they would happily recommend both solar hot water and solar PV systems. They may, in the future, consider investing in another renewable energy system such as a heat pump.

*Source: Energy Savings Trustsolar-thermal

What are the benefits of using Solar Thermal technology?

1, The system can produce as much as 100% of your hot water between March – October. From November -February between 60-80% depending on how the Thermal Collectors are facing.

2, The government renewable heat incentive will give you a grant towards the cost ( Renewable Heat Premium Payment scheme) of installation and then pay you each quarter for generating your own hot water!

3, Maintained properly costs are very low and little service work is necessary.

you can calculate what type and size of system would suit your home using this link

You can find out more about the available grants and book a Free Energy Assessment, so that we can help you to decide what’s right for your needs.

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