Your Guide to Solar Heating

Guide to Solar Heating

The chances are you may have heard of solar heating systems already. Many homeowners are thinking about the possibilities offered by such systems when it comes to running their homes in a more efficient and sustainable way. If you are thinking about getting a solar heating system in future, it is wise to find out as much as you can about them before you jump in.

Most of us are familiar with the idea of getting energy from solar panels fitted to the roof of our house. Even you don’t yet have a solar panel installation you might consider getting one in the near future if you want to make the most of generating some of your own energy instead of relying on the National Grid to supply it all. Regardless of the tariffs that are available to help you reap back the cost of getting the panels in the first place, this can be a good way to be a bit more self sufficient.

But have you ever thought about solar hot water and how you could benefit from having this in your property as well?

It’s probably true to say that solar hot water hasn’t received as much in the way of headlines as solar panels have. But this could change if more people find out about them and have such a system installed.

How can you get hot water from the sun?

It isn’t quite as simple as that, of course! But the basic principle behind the system is much the same as it is for getting energy from the sun. The idea is that you will need solar panels to take the heat from the sun. This heat is then used to heat the water you will use in your home, whether it is for showers, baths or washing up.

One thing you need to bear in mind is that you will get better results from your solar hot water system in the summer – when there is more sunshine – than you would in the winter. This is to be expected but it does mean you will need a boiler to heat the water in your water tank if it doesn’t reach the required temperature as a result of having a solar hot water system installed.

So you still need a boiler to heat up the water?

It all depends on the time of year and the heat provided by the sun. With a solar hot water system the water will go from your water tank up to where the solar panels are installed. They will heat the water and send it back down into the water tank where it will be kept warm until you need it. Think of your boiler as a backup that can provide additional heat or heat the water in the winter when it is cold.

There is every opportunity for these systems to become more popular in the future as they become more widespread. Just as we saw the price of solar panels decrease over time when used for solar energy, so we might see the same happen as more people consider using solar energy to heat their water too. Could you see yourself installing such a system in your home in the months or years to come? If you are staying in your property for the foreseeable future it could well be worth thinking about.

What do solar heating systems provide for the home?

The main benefit you will get from such a system is hot water that is heated through naturally by the heat from the sun. Obviously the amount of hot water you can get in this way depends directly on the weather.

During the summer when the days are long, hot and sunny, you could get the vast majority of the hot water you need in this way. But in the winter when the sun rarely makes an appearance on some days, you may get little if any hot water at all in this way. So it will be more effective at some times of the year rather than others.

Do you still have a water tank or boiler?

Yes you would do, primarily for those times when the sun is not able to provide the heat you need to warm up your water. In addition to this when the sun does heat the water sufficiently it will be stored and kept warm in a hot water tank, ready for when you need it.

The boiler also acts as a backup during the winter, when you will need to heat more of your water in the traditional way.

Can you use a solar heating system to provide under floor heating?

Yes you can. Indeed there are special systems that are designed specifically for this purpose. This can be ideal if you have a conservatory that has a stone floor, or another part of your home that has a cold floor and needs warming up at various times.

How much could you expect to spend on solar heating systems?

It all depends on what type of system you want. But in general it will cost a few thousand pounds, from £4,000 to £5,000 in most cases. There are savings to be made on the hot water you heat up after the system is installed though; on average a 50% saving every year is possible.

Will I be doing my bit for the environment if I get such a system installed?
Yes, solar heating systems are definitely very green and eco-friendly. They will help reduce the demands you have on the world around you, primarily because you can start heating some of your own water. This is true even if you don’t manage to heat all of it.

Can you use solar heating to get hot water?

You can, but it works slightly differently to getting solar energy from solar panels to change into electricity. The basic principle is the same though – you have a special panel that is placed on your roof and is used to trap the energy from the sun. That heat is then used to heat the water, so you can enjoy some of your hot water without paying to heat it through normal means.

However it is difficult to provide all the hot water you need in this way. You may enjoy around half of the hot water you would need though, and as such it can provide a significant monetary saving for you.

Is it true that the hot water resulting from this heating method can be used in more than one way?

Absolutely – wherever you need hot water, you can enjoy hot water with solar water heating systems. Many people install such systems to heat their swimming pools, or to provide a certain percentage of the hot water they use inside the home.

Will you get more benefit from the solar heating during the summer than you would in the winter?

Yes, typically you will be able to generate more heat from the panels during the summer. This is when the sun is more likely to be brighter and warmer and so you can reap the benefits of this.

However you can also generate energy to product hot water during the winter; you will just do so to a lesser extent. This is why the 50% figure is used, because this is taken as an average over a yearly period.

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