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.

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Costs

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

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.

Savings

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.

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FAQs

Are solar thermal panels eligible for the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI)?
The Renewable Heat Incentive is scheduled to be launched in the Summer of 2013, but systems installed before then will be eligible to receive payments through the scheme as long as an MCS accredited installer carries out the work. MCS accredited installations are also eligible for a £300 grant through the Renewable Heat Premium Payment scheme, available now.
Can I use solar thermal panels with an existing combi boiler?
Yes, there are specially designed systems that work very well with most combi boilers. It will requires the installation of a storage cylinder and possibly some enhanced controls for the boiler.
Will my roof be strong enough to take solar thermal panels?
Most roofs are strong enough to take a solar thermal installation without any reinforcement. Your installer will be able to advise you further; you can find out more about the Installation of Solar Thermal Panels here.
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.
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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