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 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.
How are solar thermal panels fixed to the roof?
If you have a typical roof, solar thermal panels are usually fixed to your roof using rigid stainless steel brackets that are fixed directly to your roof rafters. The only roof type that can't have solar thermal panels fitted is a thatched roof.
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.
Can I power my solar thermal water circulation pump with a solar photovoltaic (PV) panel?
It is possible to do this, but these systems end up being less efficient as there will be times when there isn't enough sunshine for the solar PV panel to work, but there is a need for heating from your solar thermal system which will require the circulation pump to work.
Can I heat my swimming pool with solar thermal panels?
Yes, Solar thermal water heating can be a very effective for pools.
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