Despite being a little slower to take off in the UK than its electricity-generating counterpart, solar thermal panels are an effective way to slash hot water bills. Using only free energy from the sun, this microgeneration technology can provide up to 60% of your annual domestic hot water needs. What’s more, they don’t produce any carbon emissions in the process, they’re fully automated, and they have typical working lifespans of over 25 years.

How do solar thermal panels work?

Energy from the sun warms the solar collectors fixed onto your roof. The liquid inside these collectors (a mixture of water and glycol) is heated to a suitable temperature, before it’s passed through a heat exchanger coil inside your solar hot water cylinder.

Once it’s transferred heat to the water inside your cylinder, the liquid mixture returns to the solar collector on your roof to be heated by the sun once again.

Are they suitable for my home?

Similar to solar PV, solar thermal systems don’t need direct sunlight to work, and are still capable of providing a large amount of hot water even on cloudy days. While they won’t be able to meet your entire annual hot water demand, they’ll certainly make a difference.

The amount of hot water a solar thermal system will produce depends on the following factors:

1. The roof’s aspect: Anywhere between south-east and south-west are ideal.

2. The roof’s tilt: While solar thermal collectors can be installed onto a wall, the optimal tilt for solar thermal panels in the UK is between 30° and 40°. If you have a flat roof, we can include mounts to your proposal, which perfectly angle the solar thermal panels.

3. Geographical location: In the UK, there’s approximately a 32% difference in irradiance between Land’s End and John O’Groats.

4. Shading: The less shadows from nearby trees or buildings that cover your solar collectors during the peak generation window (10am – 3pm depending on the time of year), the greater the amount of hot water your solar thermal system will deliver.

5. Number of residents: As a rule of thumb, you’ll need one square meter of solar thermal panel for every resident in your home.

Benefits of solar thermal panels

  • Generate a passive income from the government’s Renewable Heat Incentive (7 years tax-free)
  • Cut your annual hot water bills by approximately 60% annually (100% over the summer)
  • Environmentally friendly hot water production
  • Long lifespan of up to 25 years
  • Relatively low upfront cost
  • On-roof, in-roof and flat roof mounted setups available for a wide variety of applications
  • Reasonably quick to install
  • Usually easy to integrate with your existing heating system
  • Very little maintenance required

Additionally, solar thermal panels come with a significant bonus to renewable energy systems. By significantly reducing the hot water demand placed on the heat pump, the whole system will run more efficiently and more cost-effectively at a lower temperature.

If you’d like to know more about how solar thermal panels can benefit your renewable energy system, email us at [email protected] with a brief description of your project and a daytime telephone number. Alternatively, take a look at the articles below for more information.

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