Solar Thermal as a renewable energy source for the home
Solar thermal panels are part of a system that uses energy from the sun to heat water, they are often known as collectors in this process. The system consists of thermal solar panels (the collectors), a heat transfer system and a hot water cylinder. There are two different types of solar water heating panel, evacuated tubes and flat plates.
Here you will find information about Solar Thermal and answers to the questions you are most likely to ask:
The solar thermal or solar heating panels are connected to the roof of your property and collect heat from the sunlight. That heat is used to heat the transfer liquid in the collector. Once this liquid it hot enough it is passed through the evacuated tubes or flat plates flowing through the copper coil in your hot water cylinder to heat the water, this is the heat transfer system. The liquid is then circulated back up to the collectors; the transfer liquid never comes into contact with household water. A boiler will also be connected to the system that can be used as a back up when there is no solar heated water available.
To install an alternative energy source such as solar heating in your home you will need either roof or wall space that faces in a southerly direction and receives sunlight for the main part of the day. A dedicated solar hot water cylinder will need to be installed, as this is a specialised cylinder with the required solar heating coil. Most conventional boilers will be compatible with the thermal solar water heating system, if you have a combination boiler and no hot water tank then a solar heating water system may not be the best route for you.
In England most solar water heating systems will not require planning permission, but it is important to always contact your local authority if you are unsure. If your property is listed or in a conservation area you will most likely be required to apply for planning permission, if you property is in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland you must contact your local authority.
A typical solar water heating system can cost between £3,000 and £6,000. In an average household with a standard system fitted it is likely to save the household between £50 and £85 a year. Maintenance costs for solar heating systems are low, most will come with up to a 10 year guarantee, the panels will need inspecting every few years, but you should check the advice with your installer for your particular thermal panels.
Like the Feed-in Tariff for photovoltaic solar panels there is a Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) available for solar hot water systems. This scheme is paid for by the treasury and guarantees a payment for the energy generated depending on the size and type of system.