Thermal Solar Panels Costs & Installation

Thermal Solar Panels

Thermal solar panels are used by homeowners and businesses to provide hot water by utilising the energy of the sun. The panels work all year round, but they are more effective in the summer months when there are higher levels of sunshine.

Most solar thermal panels will not provide enough hot water all year round to fully replace traditional hot water systems, so you will need to run the system in conjunction with a boiler. The panels work by absorbing the heat from the sun, transferring the heat to your hot water tank and then, if this is not at the required temperature, the heat can be topped up from your boiler or immersion. If you currently have a combination boiler and no hot water cylinder, you will need a space to install one.

Types of Solar Panel

There are two main types of solar thermal systems available: flat plate collectors or evacuated tube collectors. Flat plate systems consist of flat panels containing fluid in tubes which absorb the heat and pass it to the water. Evacuated tubes are made of transparent tubes which contain a heat absorber in a vacuum to collect the heat. As evacuated tube collectors have a greater surface area that is exposed to the sun they are generally considered to be more effective than flat plate collectors, however they also tend to be more expensive. It is also possible to purchase panels known as unglazed collectors, but these are only suited for systems which do not require water to be heated to a high temperature such as swimming pools.

Installing Solar Thermal Systems

Installing a system is not a DIY job and requires professional installers. It is recommended that you choose an installer who is certified through the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS), a full list of which can be found on the MCS website. Any collectors they install should comply with the BS standards EN 12975 or 12976.

To install the system you will need around five metres of roof space that receives sunshine for most of the day. The installation itself is a relatively quick process, usually being completed within a day or two. Your system is unlikely to require planning permission if it does not protrude more than twenty centimetres from the roof. Certain exceptions to this rule do apply, but your installation company will be able to advise you on regulations in your local area.

Installation Costs

The cost of installing a system will depend on how much hot water you use and what your current system is. Generally, systems cost between £3000-£6000 to install. The reductions achieved in bills also depend on the current system. The savings range from around fifty pounds per year for a gas system and up to eighty pounds a year for an electric hot water system. The government has also set up the Renewable Heat Incentive which offers cash back to people who install this technology. Full details of this scheme can be found on the Energy Saving trust website.

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