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Last updated: 19 July 2019

5 Interesting Facts About Solar Water Heating

Learn the basics of solar water heating here.

Why Should You Consider Investing in Solar Water Heating?

When talking about solar energy as a green source of energy, most people think about solar panels. However, this is not the only mechanism available to harness the energy of the sun.

Solar water heating (SWH) systems, also known as solar thermal systems, are also a good alternative when thinking about green energy from the sun. Here we present five basic questions about SWH which will quickly introduce you to the topic and hopefully spark some reflection regarding your investment in green energy.

1. What Is Solar Water Heating?

Solar water heating refers to the mechanism that converts the energy of the sun into heated water. This technology is also known as solar thermal and consists of a collector that attracts sunlight and converts it into heating solutions available for household or even commercial purposes. Solar thermal is used to heat water or for space heating.

There are different types of SWH systems, but the most common ones are:

a) domestic hot water systems,

b) swimming pool/ hot tub-heating systems,

c) space heating systems (radiant),

d) combi systems (a combination of any of the others)

Moreover, to understand what a solar thermal system is, we should have a quick look at how this technology works - this is, how solar energy is transformed into heat available for household purposes. So, very briefly summed up, it would be like this:

  1. Solar thermal collectors (panels) installed on a roof or other location absorb solar energy.
  2. A low-energy pump makes the solar liquid circulate through the collectors and delivers heat to a water storage tank.
  3. If you need hot water, the solar-heated water in the storage tank pre-feeds the primary water-heating system.
  4. When pre-fed with the hot water, the boiler or water heater is either not activated, or activated for less time than if there were no solar hot water system.

2. What Is The Difference Between SWH and Solar Panels?

Although both mechanisms rely on the energy of the sun, solar thermal collectors and solar panels (photovoltaics, solar PV) are used for different purposes. While solar PV are used for generating electricity from solar energy, SWH converts sunlight into heat. Consequently, we can’t use solar thermal for lighting, but instead you should use this technology for heating water or for space heating.

Therefore, if you want a heating solution and green electricity, you should invest both in solar thermal and solar panels. Either source is green and silent, and will payback after some years since the resulting electricity or heat is free after the system has been installed.

3. Why Should I Choose SWH?

There are several attractive benefits when installing a solar water heater.

First and most important, that it is a clean source of energy that relies exclusively on a renewable and abundant resource: the energy of the sun. By utilising solar energy instead of fossil fuels, SWH systems reduce your carbon footprint.

Second, a solar water heating system will help you reduce your utility bills, since once the mechanism has been installed, it will cover almost all of your household’s heating requirements and there is practically no maintenance needed. For example, using solar pool heater panels, will be more cost-efficient, as it takes a lot of energy to keep a large body of water - like a swimming pool - warm.

Thirdly, solar thermal provides you with unlimited energy, since it relies on the energy of the sun which is always available and free. Moreover, the system works all year round, even during the winter season when the sun does not hit strong.

4. How Much Does a SWH System Cost?

The cost of your solar water heating system will primarily depend on the size of your property or on the number of people living there. This will determine the size of the appliance needed to cover your heat requirements.

Moreover, as we have previously mentioned, there are different types of solar water heater systems and there are also different qualities. Also, the price will vary depending on how easy it is to integrate the solar thermal installation to your existing system. All of this will affect the overall price of your system.

However, just to get an idea, a solar water heater system is likely to cost between £3,900-£5,000, plus other attached costs such as installation and insurance. The good thing is, that there are some governmental incentives that will reduce the payback period of your initial investment. When assessing the cost of your system, you should remember to consider this issue. The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) is one example of incentive that will give you money if you generate your own heat (with green sources of energy).

5. How To Choose My Solar Water Heating Supplier?

Like every other big investment, investing in solar thermal requires a bit of research if you want to make a well-informed purchase. Depending on your location, you will have different suppliers. Moreover, you should consider your budget, the size of the house and the type of system that you would like.

If this sounds a bit of a hassle, you can try the easy path and request your quote on GreenMatch.co.uk. Here you should fill in your contact information and your requirements, and wait to be contacted by up to 4 suppliers with their respective offers. You are then free to choose the one you prefer. Requesting your quote is free and non-binding!

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