There are two types of solar panel – photovoltaic (PV), for generating electricity, and thermal, for heating water – while you may think that solar panels might not be the ideal fit for the UK’s weather, both are good investments. This is because solar panels depend on daylight, not just on sunlight, allowing you to see the benefit all year round.
Solar water heating systems, or ‘solar thermal’ systems, use free heat from the sun to warm domestic hot water which is stored in a hot water cylinder. A conventional boiler or immersion heater can be used to make the water hotter, or to provide hot water when solar energy is limited.
The benefits of solar water heating are:
There are two types of solar water heating panels:
- Evacuated tubes – a bank of glass tubes mounted on the roof tiles.
- Flat plate collectors, which can be fixed on the roof tiles or integrated into the roof.
Is solar water heating right for your home?
Do you have a sunny place to put solar panels?
You’ll need around five square metres of roof space which faces East to West through South and receives direct sunlight for the main part of the day. The panels don’t have to be mounted on a roof however. They can be fixed to a frame on a flat roof or hang from a wall.
Do you have space for a larger, or an extra, hot water cylinder?
If a dedicated solar cylinder is not already installed then you will usually need to replace the existing cylinder, or add a dedicated cylinder with a solar heating coil.
Is your current boiler compatible with solar water heating?
Most conventional boiler and hot water cylinder systems are compatible with solar water heating. If your boiler is a combination boiler (combi) and you don’t currently have a hot water tank, a solar hot water system may not be compatible.