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.

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Options

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?

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Requirements

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.

Installer

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.

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FAQs

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.
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.
What guarantees should I expect with solar thermal panels?
These will vary between makes, but typically solar thermal collectors should be guaranteed for around 10 years. Other components and labour are usually guaranteed for 5 years.
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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