Solar Panels for Central Heating

On average, our heating and hot water systems account for about 70% of our energy bills. Imagine if you could generate your own hot water for free and reduce how much you need to buy from a supplier? With solar central heating systems that's exactly what you can do.

Solar thermal panels produce heat for hot water production and solar PV panels produce electricity, but what's important is that both use the natural energy from the sun to provide us with free and renewable energy in our home. If we embrace solar technology, we can lower our energy costs and limit our impact on the environment. Here's how it works.

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Using Solar Thermal Panels for Heating

Solar thermal panels for central heating use the natural heat given off by the sun to heat water in a storage cylinder which you can then use in your home. The panels are installed on the roof where they are exposed to sunlight. The panels include tubes filled with liquid which absorbs the heat and passes it down to a solar compatible hot water cylinder in your home. This heat is free and renewable and will enable you to reduce how much gas, oil and/or electricity you buy to power the cylinder

Take a look at our article on solar water heating for more detail on solar thermal panels.

solar thermal diagram

Using Solar PV Panels for Heating

Solar photovoltaic or solar PV panels use the sun's energy to produce electricity for your home appliances and possibly an electric car. The electricity the panels produce is not only free, but is also better for the environment as, unlike the electricity most suppliers provide, no carbon is emitted during the production process.

This means that if you have an electric heating system you could be powering it with free electricity. In fact, even if your heating system does not run entirely on electricity, solar PV panels can be beneficial. Even a gas or oil boiler will have electrical components which need powering. What's more if you have a hot water cylinder with an immersion heater, this will be powered by electricity.

Many homeowners already take advantage of solar PV by diverting surplus electricity to their immersion heater via a solar power diverter. For more information take a look at Solar PV with immersion heaters.

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Solar Photovoltaic Thermal (PVT)

If you are interested in the best of both worlds, you might want to consider a solar photovoltaic thermal (PVT) system. This is a hybrid of solar thermal and PV and so can use the sun's energy to provide both electricity and heat for hot water production. The solar PV panels produce heat as a byproduct and in the PVT system a separate unit which takes this residual heat (which would otherwise have been wasted) and uses it to heat a hot water cylinder. By doing this it also enables the solar PV panels to maintain a lower and therefore more efficient operating temperature.

What about solar-assisted heat pumps?

A solar-assisted heat pump (SAHP) is a combination of solar thermal and heat pump technology. It is also referred to thermodynamic solar panels which are installed externally where they are exposed to heat from the sun and, via a refrigerant fluid, can convert the heat into gas. This gas then passes through a thermodynamic unit, turned back into a liquid and passed through a heat exchanger so it can heat water stored in a hot water cylinder.

Incentives for Solar Heating

While there is an upfront cost involved in getting the solar panels installed, the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme could recoup a lot of that investment. The RHI is a government scheme which pays owners of renewable heating technology for the heat generated by their system. It is available for several technologies including solar thermal panels and heat pumps.

Find out more about the Renewable Heat Incentive for solar thermal panels.

If you choose to install solar PV panels to generate electricity, you may be eligible to apply for the government's Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) scheme. This scheme replaced the Feed-in Tariff and enables owners of solar PV panels to sell the electricity they do not use in the home to an energy supplier.

Find out more about the Smart Export Guarantee for solar PV panels.

How much does solar central heating cost to install?

The cost of installing solar thermal panels or solar PV panels on your home will vary depending on several factors. Different sizes of homes will require a different size system to ensure it can cope with the heating or electricity consumption of the household. Prices will also be impacted by the manufacturer you buy from and the installer you use to put the panels on your roof.

Having said that, there are some average costs which may help in terms of a 'ballpark' figure. On average, a solar thermal system could cost between £3,000-£5,000 for a 4 bed home, but this could rise to £6,000 if the demand for hot water is higher. Industry recommendations suggest that you will need around 1m2 of panel per person living in the home.

Existing Heating System Potential Fuel Bill Savings per year Potential CO2 Savings per year
Gas £50 270kg
Oil £55 350kg
Coal £65 5450kg
Electricity £80 390kg
LPG £95 310kg

The cost will also be impacted by the complexity of the installation, i.e. how simply the solar technology will integrate into your existing plumbing and whether or not scaffolding is needed. You will also need to install a solar hot water cylinder (unless you already have a cylinder which is solar compatible such as Megaflo Eco Solar) which will add to the cost.

Get free solar heating quotes

If you think a solar water heating system could be the right choice for your home, your next step is to get multiple quotes for installation. This is the best way to compare prices and professional advice ensuring you get the right size and type of system.

We can put you in touch with up to 3 of the UK's leading solar installation professionals for free, no obligation quotes. Use our simple online form and get solar thermal quotes from trusted traders in your area.

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