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

How much space do I need on my roof for a solar thermal installation?
Typical installations have panels occupying 4.6 - 6.9m2 of roof area.
Are solar thermal collectors or panels fragile?
Not typically - they are designed to withstand the elements so they should be quite robust. All MCS accredited products should last their predicted 20 year lifetime.
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.
What is the heat output of a solar thermal system in kWh?
Outputs from a domestic solar water heating system typically range from 1000 - 2500kWh per year.
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