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 ready for use.
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
Reduce your energy bills
A solar thermal system 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 enough water all year round. Despite this, having a solar water heater installed will definitely cut the cost of your household bills.
Minimal running costs
The cost of running a solar water heating system is low, with maintenance checks being the only real cost after the price of the system itself and the installation work, because sunlight is of course free.
Using renewable energy
You get peace of mind knowing that the system doesn’t release any CO2 emissions and is completely renewable – making it a favourite for green enthusiasts.
Benefit from the Renewable Heat incentive (RHI)
Flat plate or evacuated tube solar thermal system owners can benefit from the government’s Renewable Heat Incentive. Under this scheme you can earn payments over a number of years just for installing a renewable heating technology!
Considerations of having a solar water heating system
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.
Adding a new hot water cylinder
One 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.
You should check to see if your current boiler is compatible with solar water heating systems. Combi boiler systems where you don’t have a hot water tank may not be compatible, so you’ll need to look into this.
You may need planning permission
Whilst it’s unlikely that a modern home will have any issues, 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.
Although there are a few considerations you need to make when it comes to the installation of solar water heating, a qualified solar installer will be able to advise you on the best options so that you can make the most of your new system.