What is a Solar Thermal Installation & how does it work

Solar Thermal:
Solar Hot Water Systems

Solar Hot Water Systems

What Is A Solar Hot Water System

Solar hot water systems use the energy from the sun and convert it in to heat. Solar water heating systems collect the heat from the sun with the use of solar collectors. Collectors are generally fitted to the roof (pitched or flat), where they receive the most sunlight. They can also be mounted at ground level or even on a south-facing wall, but the best option will always be the location where the collectors are most exposed to the sun. 

A standard solar water heating system will contain the following components:

Solar Thermal Installation

Installing a Solar Thermal

A Solar Thermal installation is a relatively straightforward installation that works alongside your existing heating system. By mounting solar collectives on your roof (ideally south facing), the heat generated from the panels can be used to keep your hot water topped up during the day. When more heat is required, your boiler will kick-in to top up your water heat, which will be stored in a solar cylinder.

Benefits of Solar Thermal

The Benefits of An Solar Hot Water Installation

Up until the end of August 2021, you could apply to the Green Homes Grant Scheme to fund the full cost of a Solar Hot Water installation. If you install a system before the end of March 2022, you will be eligible to receive income from the RHI (Renewable Heat Incentive).

Installing a solar hot water system will help towards reducing your carbon footprint. Similar to Heats Pumps, Solar PV, Ground Source and Biomass systems, a solar thermal installation is a renewable energy technology.

It is very possible that a solar thermal system could last as long as twenty years or more and they have been known to last up to thirty years without replacing any parts. This makes is a fit and forget renewable energy system.

Low Carbon Heating

Installing a solar hot water system can save you around £90 a year on your hot water bills.

Disadvantages of Solar Thermal

Disadvantages of a Solar Thermal Installation

A solar thermal installation can cost up to £7500 for a twin panel collector making it quite an expensive investment. Financial return is slow due to the low savings on your utility bills. Furthermore, as the RHI closes in March 2022, you will no longer receive payments for installations after this period.

You will need to install a solar cylinder or replace your existing hot water cylinder. Often , smaller houses do not have hot water cylinders due to them using combi boilers so finding the space for a cylinder may be tricky.

SOlar Thermal

How Does Solar Hot Water Work?

The main source of heat generation is through roof mounted solar panels which are used in conjunction with a boiler, collector or immersion heater. The solar collector will use the sun’s rays to heat a transfer fluid which is generally a combination of water and glycol (antifreeze) which prevents the water from freezing. The warm water from the collectors is pumped to a heat exchanger inside the water tank in your home. The heat from the exchanger will then heat the water inside the tank. After the liquid rolls out its heat, the water will sail behind to the collectors for reheating. A controller will make sure that the fluid will circulate to the collector when over there is sufficient heat accessible.

What Is The Cost of A Solar Hot Water System?

The cost of installing an ASHP really does depend on a number of factors including the size of the system, number of panels and the property

A solar hot water system can range from £5000 to £7000.

  • A bespoke design, tailored to the property
  • Installation schematics
  • Lifetime technical support
  • MCS support to successfully apply for the RHI (if applicable)
  • Control and timer setup and monitoring
Solar Hot Water System

Solar Thermal Reality Check

Is A Solar Thermal Installation Right For My Property?

Air Source Heat Pumps (ASHP’s) have had a bad press recently, largely stoked up by a lack of understanding of the technology and some unfortunate homeowner experiences. Two key factors are vital to ensuring they work effectively. Firstly, homeowners need to maximise the amount of insulation in their lofts and cavity walls before investing in heat pump technology. An Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) is a good way of prioritising your investments to optimise your home’s energy efficiency and there are grants available that can support householders and business. You can search for your properties EPC here

To see if your property is suitable for an ASHP installation, please take our ‘ASHP Reality Check’ on the left hand-side of the page. Please answer the questions as accurately as possible.

Reality Check

We are currently making a few tweaks to this form. Please check back a bit later. 

Grants and Incentives

From April 2022, homeowners who want to install low-carbon heating measures in their properties in England and Wales could receive a £5000 grant from the Government to help fund some of the costs

So what does this mean for homeowners – When The Clean Heat Grant (Boiler Upgrade Scheme) is launched in April 2022, customers will need to contact an MCS (Micro Generation Certification) accredited organisation to carry out the installation. If you are interested in finding out more information about renewable energy technologies or how Renuvo can support you to ‘go green’, please follow the links.

Frequently Asked Questions

Questions about Solar Thermal Installations

Yes, solar thermal can work with you existing central heating system. The solar thermal collectors will work in conjunction with a gas boiler central heating system. 

No, it is unlikely that you will need to replace your current central heating system. You will however need to install a solar hot water cylinder in either a loft, airing cupboard or suitable place. The nearer to the solar panels – the better.

You may still have time to apply for the RHI (Renewable Heat Incentive). This schemes runs until the end of March 2022. Most recently, funding of up to £5000 was available from the Green Homes Grant scheme. This has now ended.

Yes, the size of the system depends on your roof space and your heating requirements.


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