Costs, savings and maintenance
Solar water heating can be an effective and economical way of heating your water if it is installed properly and in the correct location. The Renewable Heat Incentive and RHPP also help to make the relatively modest returns more attractive. If you can’t afford to pay for the installation costs you can get these covered using a loan provided by the Green Deal scheme.
Estimates for a domestic solar water heating system can vary widely (from around £3,000-£5,000) but according the Energy Saving Trust costs lie in the region of £4,800 (inc VAT at 5%). Typically the higher the heat generation capacity of the system, the more it costs but the more it could save you on your energy bills.
You will be eligible for a grant of £300 towards your costs through the Renewable Heat Premium Payments Scheme. You may also be eligible for regular payments for generating heat, through the Renewable Heat Incentive, a scheme due to be launched in summer 2013. If you cannot afford the upfront costs of installing a solar thermal system, you can get these covered with a loan from the Green Deal scheme. This scheme recoups the loan through the savings on your energy bill – for more details visit our Green Deal pages.
Maintenance costs for solar thermal systems are very low. Most solar water heating systems come with a 5-10 year warranty and require little maintenance. Your installer should leave details of any regular checks you need to carry out. The most important thing to look out for is whether the collectors are leaking carrier fluid, which will have a noticeable smell. You should have your system checked more thoroughly by an accredited installer every 3-7 years, or as specified by your installer. Your carrier fluid degrades over the years, and will need to be topped up or replaced around every 5 years at a cost of £100. Your pump may need to be replaced every 10 years at a cost of £90.
Solar water-heating can save you between £60 (if you have gas central heating) and £90 (if you have electric central heating) a year on your water heating costs. The corresponding carbon savings are between 250kg and 570kg of CO2 per year.
- Does my roof need to face south to be suitable for solar thermal?
- A south facing roofs at a 30° angle offers the best annual output for a solar thermal system. However, east or west facing roofs can function very well as the available solar radiation only reduces by about 20% in these orientations. The size of the panels can be increased to compensate for this reduction.
- 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.
- 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 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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