Solar thermal

Heat from the sun can be captured and used to warm domestic hot water for use in heating systems and as hot water.

Solar thermal is similar to Solar Electricity (PV) except that the sun’s energy is not converted to electricity but used to heat water instead, saving you energy and money. Collectors fixed to a roof absorb the sun’s heat and transfer this heat to the water in your system.

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The Basics

Solar water heating systems use solar panels called collectors, which are fitted to your roof. These collect heat from the sun and use it to warm water, which is stored in a hot water cylinder. A conventional boiler or immersion heater is then used to make the water hotter, or to provide hot water when solar energy is unavailable.

By installing a solar thermal system you will be able to reduce your heating bill by between £55 and £80 per year according to the Energy Saving Trust and Which suggests that if you are replacing electric central heating you could save £90 a year on your water heating costs

Solar thermal systems are also eligible for the Renewable Heat Incentive and the Renewable Heat Premium Payment scheme which currently offers a £300 grant towards the cost of solar water heating installations. If you would have difficulty paying for the installation costs, you can get a loan to cover this through the government’s Green Deal scheme. This scheme collects your loan payments from the savings you make on your monthly energy bill. Your payments should never be more than your savings, which means that the installation doesn’t cost you money you wouldn’t have spent anyway. For more information on the Green Deal scheme take a look at our Green Deal page.

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FAQs

Do I need planning permission to install solar thermal panels?
Roof mounted solar thermal systems do not usually need planning permission unless they exceed a certain height, or if the property is listed or in a conservation area. However, it is best to check your local authority's information. Take a look at our Planning Permissions page for further information on the permissions in your area.
How much do solar thermal collectors weigh?
It depends on the make, but in they usually weigh in the region of about 20kg per square metre. Typical panels can measure around 2m x 1m or 2m x 2m, with 5m2 needed for the average installation.
How hot does solar heated water get?
Very hot! The water can easily exceed 100°C, therefore it is important that the components are able to withstand these temperatures. All MCS certified products will be able to do so.
Do I need permission from Building Control to install solar thermal panels?
A buildings notice is usually not required for solar thermal panels as long as the units are below a certain height when installed. This will depend on your local authority, and whether your building is listed or in a conservation area, so you should contact your local office to confirm. You can find more information about Planning permission for solar panels here.
Can I heat my house and my hot water using solar thermal?
Currently no solar thermal system installed in the UK will be able to fully meet your heating and hot water needs. Aside from the fact that the UK is generally a less sunny country, during the winter months when sunshine is minimal you will definitely need a back up source of water heating such as an immersion heater.
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