Solar water heating systems
Solar water heating systems work alongside your conventional water heater, using the heat from the sun to warm the hot water you use in your home. This essentially means that instead of sourcing this heat from your gas supply, you instead use the heat provided by natural resources, which, of course, has a multitude of benefits.
A solar water heating system can provide a heating source for almost all of your hot water during the summer months, and about 50% year-round; saving you a considerable amount of money on your gas bills.
Another core benefit of these systems is the limited impact they have on the wider environment. Because solar water heating systems necessitate less energy use in your home, you can reduce your home’s carbon dioxide emissions by around 400kg per year, which is a considerable benefit to the environment.
Different types of systems
The systems that best suits your needs depends on a range of factors, including the area of your south facing roof (solar water heating systems are installed on the roof of the home to gain the most access to the sun), your existing water heating system (i.e. some combi boilers aren't suitable), and your budget.
A competent, professional installer should assess your situation and discuss with you the best configuration to meet your needs.
Solar water heating and your home
For domestic hot water there are three main components: solar panels, a heat transfer system, and a hot water cylinder.
Solar panels - or collectors - are fitted to your roof in order to collect heat from the sun's radiation. The heat transfer system then simply uses the collected heat to warm the water supply contained in a hot water cylinder, which stores the hot water that is heated during the day and stores it for use later.
Is my property suitable?
Preferably you will need 2-4m2 of southeast to southwest facing roof receiving direct sunlight for the main part of the day. You'll also need space to locate an additional water cylinder, if required.
Cost and maintenance
The typical installation cost for a domestic flat plate collector system is £2,000 - £3,000. Evacuated tube systems will cost £3,500 - £4,500. You should discuss which options best suit your needs with a professional, experienced installer.
Solar hot water systems generally come with a 10-year warranty and require very little maintenance. An annual check by the householder and a more detailed check by a professional installer every 3-5 years should be sufficient (consult your system supplier for exact maintenance requirements) to maintain your system.
An easy way to be even greener
Conventional energy supply companies are now able to offer green energy tariffs, meaning that the energy provided is sourced from renewable sources - so you could switch to one of these and help the environment.
You can use an energy tariff comparison website to enter in your details, receive quotes, and then select a green option. The results are displayed in a table to make comparisons easy, and you may even be able to save money on your energy bills, too. Simply enter your postcode into the form on the right to get started.
Source: The Energy Saving Trust January 2007.
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