Solar Water Heating
By Rob Hull on June 14, 2010
Solar water heating is regarded as one of the major alternative energy players for the future. It’s a sustainable energy source, will work for most homes and can provide your household with its required hot water for the majority of the year.
The system uses solar panels, referred to as collectors, which you have fitted to the roof of your home. These solar panels collect heat from the sun during the day to heat water which is then stored in a hot water cylinder.
There are currently two types of solar water heating collectors that you attach to the roof. Either a flat plate collector, which look like more traditional solar panels, or evacuated tube collectors which is a line of tubing attached together.
Benefits of Solar Water Heating
It’s currently not the cheapest technology, but there are sufficient benefits of installing a solar water heater.
Firstly, it will provide your household with hot water throughout the year. It won’t be a completely independent system though as it will need a boiler or immersion-heater through the winter months to guarantee you have hot water all year round.
But having a solar water heater installed will definitely cut the cost of your bills and reduce your carbon footprint. The cost of running the system is minimal, with maintenance checks being the only real cost after the price of the system itself and the installers work, because sunlight is of course free. You can also get grants for the systems and installation work that will cover some of the costs. And you get peace of mind that the system doesn’t release any CO2 emissions and is completely renewable making it a favourite for green enthusiasts. But there are considerations to look at before you think about opting for solar water heating.
Considerations of having a Solar Water Heating System
Firstly, you must have somewhere on the roof of your house that gets a lot of sunlight. You’ll need about five metres square of flat roof space which faces east to west through south and is subject to direct sunlight for the majority of the day. If this isn’t possible then you can have two separate panels attached to your home, one facing east and one facing west, but it would hike up the price of installation. The panels don’t necessarily have to be fitted directly onto a roof – they can be mounted on a frame.
Another consideration you have to take into mind is allocating space to a larger, or another, hot water cylinder in your home. When installing you’ll need to replace the existing cylinder you have for one with a solar heating coil or have an additional cylinder just for your solar heating system.
As well as having to think about the hot water cylinder, you should also check to see if your current boiler is compatible with solar water heating systems. Combi boilers where you don’t have a hot water tank may not be compatible, so you’ll need to look into this.
Finally, although it’s unlikely a modern home will have any issues with it, it’s worth consulting your local planning office to ensure you don’t need any sort of planning permission to go ahead with fitting a system.
Information on solar water heating is becoming more readily available with more UK installers and experts in solar power emerging into the market. And there are even DIY panel options that have appeared mainly from American sources – however, these are recommended to be avoided.