Solar Thermal Collectors

What are Solar Thermal Collectors?

Solar Thermal Collectors are solar panels which are designed to harness the heat from the sun and transfer it into usable heat which can be used for your hot water system. There are two types of solar thermal collectors known as flat plate collectors and evacuated tube collectors. The flat plate collectors look similar to traditional solar panels as they are simply flat glass covered panels, whereas the evacuated tube collectors consist of a collection of tubes. Both function in a similar way as they contain a heat absorber which collects the heat then transfers it to your system.

The method of transfer is different in the evacuated tube collectors as this involves an evaporation process being carried out in a vacuum. The panels are usually fitted onto a roof as they need to be installed at a certain angle to work at an optimum level. The evacuated tube collectors require a slightly steeper angle than the flat plate collectors. Once the heat is collected you will need somewhere to store the water it has heated so you will require a hot water cylinder too.

Costs of Installation

The cost of installing thermal solar collectors varies depending on the type of collector you choose, the amount of energy you wish to produce and whether you will need to purchase a hot water cylinder. Typically, costs for a total installation are somewhere between three and seven thousand pounds, inclusive of VAT at five per cent.

Evacuated tube collectors are somewhat more expensive than flat plate collectors, but they are more efficient as they have a greater surface area exposed to the sun. It is unlikely that thermal plate collectors will supply all your hot water, especially in the winter months so you will need to keep your current system as a backup mechanism.

After installation, there are few running costs as maintenance for collectors is minimal beyond a quick annual check. Once the panels are installed you will see a reduction in your bills of around fifty to ninety pounds a year, with greater savings for people who currently have electricity or oil based water heating systems.

Renewable Heat Incentive

The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) is a government scheme which offers cash back to people who install renewable heating devices. The scheme was set up to try to incentivise people to invest in this technology and to help the government reach its carbon reduction targets. Home owners and businesses are eligible for cash back under the incentive.

To ensure you are able to claim this income, the collectors will need to be fitted by an installer who is certified by the microgeneration certification schemes (MCS). A comprehensive list of approved suppliers can be found on the MCS website. Additionally, you will need to install a meter that will monitor the amount of heat produced by your system. Full details of rates and conditions attached to the RHI can be obtained from the Energy Savings Trust which is an impartial body set up to advise people about renewable technology.

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