There is a technology which is becoming more and more readily available, that can help out with your heating bills. You may (or may not) have heard about these before, they’re called ‘Solar Water Heating Panels’.
These panels are placed on the south facing side of your roof, or if you have a flat roof, they are placed on a frame at a 20-50 degree angle to make the most of the suns rays, which are then used to heat stored water in a tank. These systems are so useful because they can generate around a third of your hot water needs throughout the year. Here’s the best bit though – you wouldn’t need to continuously pay for this water to be heated! Some home owners have been known to reduce their annual energy bills by anything between 30-70%.
The savings which are made depends on the size of your property, the size of the heating installation and the amount of sunlight in your area. Your panel would be doing most of the heating, the only thing you would have to pay for would be the cost of running the small electrical pump, and the occasional running of the backup immersion heater or boiler you may have chosen to add to the system to heat the water further, or as a backup for days when there isn’t so much sunlight to power the system. When compared to using a conventional heater alone, this is a very small margin of cost. Sure, the initial cost of installing the system is a lot higher than getting a conventional heating system fitted, but you would definitely get this money back through the savings you will make on your heating bills.
These panels also reduce your carbon footprint as well as your bills as they are a sustainable and renewable source of energy. You can use a boiler, or an immersion heater as a backup for when there isn’t so much sunlight to power the system, or to heat the water coming through the system even further. Even though this would use electricity, it would be a substantial amount lower than current overall heating bills.
There are two main types of solar water heating panels – flat plate panels and evacuated tubes. Evacuated tube panels are much more efficient than the flat plate panels because even though they are smaller, they can create the same amount of hot water. You could also add a drain-back system to these panels, which would then drain the water from the panel when it is switched off to prevent it from boiling or freezing whilst inside the panel.
Solar water heating panels can provide you with around a third of your hot water needs whilst saving you between £55 (if you have gas powered central heating) and £80 (if you have electric central heating) a year on heating bills. The maintenance costs for this system are relatively low and most systems come with a minimum of 5-10 years guaruntee, but they usually need very little maintenance. These panels can be very heavy, so consequently, your roof needs to be strong enough to hold the weight of them.
Written by Jade Turney – Building Tectonics.