Products & Services
Solar Thermal Water Heating

Solar thermal panels provide hot water by converting radiation from sunlight into heat energy that heats water stored in a tank. In appropriately-designed buildings, the panels can also provide hot water for heating.

Free solar thermal energy can provide around 50% of your annual hot water needs, 100% in summer, though you’ll need to heat the water further with a boiler or immersion heater during the winter months.

Solar panels in the UK perform best when facing south, south-west, or south-east, though you can get benefits from systems facing in other directions. Thermal panels can either be fixed to a roof or erected as a free-standing installation.

Backup water heating can be provided in a number of ways. The most popular is to have a second coil in the cylinder that connects to the boiler.

  • Solar thermal panels provide hot water throughout the whole year.

  • Reduce your energy bills and carbon footprint: sunlight is free.

  • A likely annual saving of £60 to £70 a year depending on your current heating system.

How it works, Costs & Savings
  • Costs & Savings

    The Energy Savings Trust estimate that a solar thermal system could provide most of your hot water in summer but less in the colder months, giving you a likely annual saving of £60 a year when replacing gas heating, and £70 a year when replacing electric immersion heating.

    A typical domestic solar thermal system will cut carbon dioxide emissions by around 230kg if replacing gas and around 510kg if replacing electric immersion heating.

    Rises in energy prices will increase the potential savings. For the last few years, prices have risen by about 10% every year.

  • The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI)

    The RHI is designed to reward households that move away from fossil fuels by paying them to heat water using a solar thermal system.

    It applies to both new installations and eligible installations completed since the 15th July 2009.

    The scheme is open to homeowners, private landlords, registered social housing providers and self- builders.

    The solar thermal tariff will pay 19.51p per kWh of the estimated renewable heat generated.

    The estimate below is based on the number of occupants in the home and the size of the system required.

    Based on a house with four occupants and currently uses a modern oil fired combi-boiler, a 4m2 solar thermal system installed on a south facing roof along with a twin coil hot water cylinder.

    The solar thermal system will make an estimated contribution towards water heating of 1,745 kWh per year over its 25 year lifespan.

    With the solar thermal tariff at 19.51p RHI payments to the household will be £340 per year or £2,380 over the 7 year period of the RHI.

    In addition the household will reduce its fuel costs saving an estimated £7,689 over the life of the system.

    If the home also uses an eligible space heating technology such as an air source heat pump it will receive two RHI payments.

    Installation must be carried out by a registered MCS installer and the home must have completed a full green deal assessment by an approved Green Deal Advisor.

    RHI payments are made on the properties estimated hot water requirements which are determined during the assessment.

    To minimise heat loss wherever possible there is a minimum requirement of 250mm of loft insulation and cavity wall insulation, where recommended in the green deal assessment.

    We always recommend that people insulate their homes properly, so you could save money from insulating, and then save the money from generating your own hot water from solar thermal too.

    There is funding and finance available for insulation and further energy saving home improvements through the government backed green deal and ECO schemes.

  • How solar water heating works

    Solar thermal panels provide hot water by converting radiation from sunlight into heat energy that heats water stored in a tank. In appropriately-designed buildings, the panels can also provide hot water for heating.

    Free solar thermal energy can provide around 50% of your annual hot water needs, 100% in summer, though you’ll need to heat the water further with a boiler or immersion heater during the winter months.

    Solar panels in the UK perform best when facing south, south-west, or south-east, though you can get benefits from systems facing in other directions. Thermal panels can either be fixed to a roof or erected as a free-standing installation.

    Solar thermal panel light collector surfaces are coated with aluminium oxide or a similar metal. Light falling on this coating makes the molecules within it vibrate. This causes friction, which in turn leads to heat. The heat is absorbed into the solar collector, where it warms anti-freeze fluid. This fluid is then pumped through closed heat transfer loop pipework to a heat store. In the case of solar water heating systems, this heat store is simply the hot water cylinder. The heating pipe connects either to an external heat exchanger or to an internal coil, through which it transfers the heat into the water. The hot water in the tank is then available for use as and when you need it.

    Backup water heating can be provided in a number of ways. The most popular is to have a second coil in the cylinder that connects to the boiler.

    There are two main types of solar thermal collector used in panels:

    Flat-plate collectors

    In a flat plate collector, the light-collecting surface is a series of plates attached to tubes carrying the anti-freeze fluid. The plates are fitted into a glazed, insulated box that helps keep the heat within the collector. Although the glass cuts down slightly on the amount of light reaching the plates, it reduces heat loss so more heat energy is available for use.

    Evacuated-tube collectors

    The light collecting surface in an evacuated tube collector is provided by rows of parallel glass tubes from which air has been evacuated. The vacuum cuts the amount of heat conducted away from the collector, so it can reach higher temperatures whatever the light level.

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Solar Water Heating FAQs
  • Where does solar thermal work best?

    For best results, solar thermal panels should be:

    • South, south-west or south-east facing.
    • Unshaded for most of the day.
    • Pitched at an angle of 30 – 45 degrees.

    Panels that don’t meet these criteria can still be cost effective. We will assess your particular location and advise what level of performance you can expect.

  • Can I run central heating as well as hot water from the panels?

    A solar heating system can be an attractive option when integrated into the design of a new building from the start. Combined with good insulation and a low-level heating system, such as underfloor heating, solar heating can contribute up to half of the space heating needed.

  • How well do solar thermal panels work for swimming pools?

    Very well. Once the pool is up to temperature at the start of the season, free solar energy will then keep it warm all summer, providing the pool has a cover. For a 10m by 5m pool, you could see payback in as little as three years.

    We can build the panels at the side of the pool rather than on the house roof, if required. You will need a pool house or shed to house the pump machinery.

    You can use the same system to provide both pool heating and household hot water.

  • How can I find out how effective solar panels are likely to be in my area?

    If you ask us to look at your site, we’ll prepare a detailed feasibility report so you can see exactly what to expect before you make a decision.

  • How much hot water do solar water heaters produce?

    You can expect solar thermal panels to provide all your hot water during the summer months, though you may want to heat the water further with an immersion heater. In winter, a solar thermal system still makes a significant contribution, but you’ll need to supplement the panels with either an immersion heater or boiler.

  • Can I connect a solar thermal system to a combi-boiler?

    If you have only a combi-boiler and no tank, it’s unlikely that your home will be suitable for solar thermal. We will need to do a property assessment to check what’s possib

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