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.
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.
- Do I need to replace my hot water cylinder to get a solar thermal panels installed?
- If your hot water cylinder is not large enough for a second heating coil it will need to be replaced with a larger 'solar cylinder' specially designed for use with solar thermal panels. The cylinder needs to be larger because it has to accommodate your boiler/immersion heater's heating coil as well as the heating coil from the solar thermal system.
- Do my solar panels need to be MCS approved?
- In order to be eligible for the RHI and RHI Premium Payment the panels need MCS approval. There are also other accreditation schemes such as the Solar Keymark.
- 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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