With more than 70% of a households energy consumption going towards space and water heating, many people are turning to solar energy as a renewable energy source. As well as a way of avoiding carbon and greenhouse gas emissions which cause ozone depletion, climate change and global warming, solar heating also helps to reduce fuel bills considerably. Solar heating is a popular choice of renewable energy as it offers a fast payback of between 7-15 years.
The system required consists of solar panelling and pump attachment. A roof space of 3-4 sq metres is required which is preferably southeast southwest facing. A new hot water tank is not required if the current one holds more than 80 litres. Most tanks hold 1200 litres. An extra hot water tank or replacement of an existing one with a larger tank may be required in order to accommodate the extra hot water. A traditional low pressure vented hot water system is required, although it is now possible to use a solar heating system with some combination boilers. For under £3,000 DIY solar heating kits are available and include a main solar panel, pipes and pump. Solar panels cost around £3650 including fitting and complete installation costs up to £5,000. Evacuated tube systems are more efficient and hence more expensive than flat panels. One solar panel is usually adequate for a household of up to 4 people. Solar heating systems are easily integrated into existing central heating systems.
Solar heating systems are robust and require little maintenance. They usually come with a 5 – 10 year guarantee. Installation of solar energy systems take around 3 to 5 days. Solar heating systems need to be checked by the installer every 3 to 5 years. There are therefore low ongoing costs involved, unlike conventional heating systems which require regular boiler servicing and can be prone to system break down. In England, planning permission is not required for stand alone or roof panel systems, as long as they respect particular size criteria, with the exception of world heritage sites, conservation areas and listed buildings. In Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, householders need to consult with their local authorities regarding planning permission, as this process is under review.
A solar heating system can provide you with up to 30% of your hot water requirements. Compared with gas usage, a saving of up to £65 per year can be made, and next to electricity usage, a saving of up to £95, with an oil usage comparison saving of around £85, and solid fuel of £55. With grants available solar heating is becoming a more favourable and economically beneficial option.