Installation of Solar Thermal Panels
Because solar water heating systems are now so popular there are plenty of knowledgeable tradesmen qualified to install your system. The installer must be accredited by the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) for you to qualify for the Renewable Heat Incentive and RHPP.
You will need to decide whether to use flat collectors, which can be fitted more flush with the roof, or evacuated tubes, which are more efficient. For more details on the different types of collectors take a look at How do solar water heating systems work?
You will need to ensure the following:
- Location – You will need suitable space (around 5m2) on a south facing roof which is in direct sunlight for the vast majority of the day. Ideally the collectors should be angled at a 30 degree angle of incidence. The collectors can be fitted to a flat roof if they are attached to a frame to allow them to be angled correctly.
- Roof durability – You will need to check with your installer that the installation will not damage the integrity of your roof and that your roof is strong enough to bear the collectors as they can be heavy.
- Space for a solar cylinder – A large hot water cylinder will be required to store your heated water; this is typically between 30 and 60 litres. This can either be a dedicated solar cylinder or it might be possible to add a solar heating coil to your existing cylinder if it is large enough.
- Compatibility with your boiler – Most boilers are compatible, however a Combi (Combination) boiler doesn’t normally have a hot water cylinder and therefore may not be compatible.
- Planning Permission – On the whole you will not need planning permission if the collectors aren’t more than 20cm taller than your roof. However, if you live in a Listed Building, a building in a Conservation Area or a World Heritage Site, it is a good idea to consult your local authority.
Time to install
The time it takes to install a solar thermal system will depend on the size of the system and the roof’s integrity, as well as how the system is going to link into the existing water system.
We only recommend installers that are MCS accredited: Always use an MCS accredited installer. Only MCS accredited installers are able to sign off installations that will comply with the government’s Renewable Heat Incentive scheme.
- Are there grants available for solar thermal installations?
- Currently the Renewable Heat Incentive Premium Payment scheme pays a £300 grant for the installation of solar water heating panels installed by an MCS accredited installer. This grant scheme is expected to be replaced with the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) in Summer 2013.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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