Information about Solar Thermal
Solar energy is one of the most versatile renewable energy solutions, and utilising this source of energy has many economic advantages while also being an environmentally friendly solution. Moreover, although the energy of the sun has always been present on earth, there are still many things that we do not know about many concerning benefits of this renewable source of energy.
Did you know that solar thermal makes it possible to use the energy of the sun to heat water? Did you know that solar panels and solar thermals are used for different purposes? We can use sunlight to generate either heat or electricity, but you need a different solar collector in each case. Solar panels (photovoltaics, solar PV) are used to generate electricity, solar thermals are used for heating water which is then available for household purposes.
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What Is Solar Thermal?
Solar thermal systems or solar water heaters are solar collectors used to convert sunlight into heating solutions. This technology uses the energy of the sun, rather than fossil fuels, to provide you with green, low-cost thermal energy. Solar thermal generates heat in the same way a car does when it is parked in the sun on a hot summer day. With one exception - heat gathered by the solar thermal installation can be put to practical use to heat water or for space heating.
So, contrary to solar PV systems which use the energy of the sun to generate electricity, the solar thermal technology uses sunlight to generate heat. Another alternative is a thermodynamic heating system which warms up water using the ambient air. However, each of these systems is a viable solution for harnessing renewable energy, and in either case, you make a contribution towards environmental protection by reducing CO2 emissions.
Solar thermal collectors can be classified as low, medium, or high-temperature collectors. Low-temperature collectors, like flat plates, are typically used to heat swimming pools. Medium-temperature collectors are also generally flat plates but they are used for heating water or air for residential or commercial purposes. Lastly, high-temperature collectors attract sunlight through mirrors or lenses and are typically used to fulfil high heat requirements in industries and for electric power production.
How Does a Solar Thermal System Work?
In a solar water heating system or solar thermal collector system, sunlight is attracted by collectors that are fitted to the rooftop of a household. These collectors can either be flat plate collectors or evacuated tubes. Once the sun’s rays are attracted by the collector, the water contained inside can reach up to 90 degrees Celsius. This hot water then circulates between the collector and the buffer storage tank. Hot water is transported through tubes to be used for household purposes. A solar water heating system would typically cover approximately a third of the hot water demand of a family of four.
The video below explains in more detail how a solar thermal system works:
What Are the Benefits of Solar Thermal?
Solar thermal technology has the capacity to drive business value by providing multiple benefits to the owner of a solar thermal installation, whether residential or commercial. Installing an adequate heating system will make other heating systems (electric or relying on fossil fuels) obsolete. Here we sum up the main advantages of solar thermal panels:
- Solar thermal will reduce your home heating costs. Using the sun’s thermal energy to heat water can significantly reduce your electricity or heating utility bills. Once the solar thermal system is installed on the roof and ready to use, the system will start saving you money on your utility bills. Moreover, these savings will be even more meaningful as the price of fossil fuels go up.
- Solar thermal requires very little maintenance. Only every three to five years.
- Solar thermal is environmentally friendly. The system relies exclusively on the energy of the sun, resulting in zero harmful carbon dioxide emissions.
- Solar thermal provides you with unlimited energy. Since it relies on the energy of the sun which is always available and free, there is no limit on the amount of energy you can receive.
How Much Does a Solar Thermal System Cost?
The costs of investing in a solar thermal installation will depend on the type and quality of the system components used as well as the costs for professional planning. Furthermore, the costs depend on how easy it is to integrate the solar thermal installation into your existing system.
As a guideline, an average solar thermal system is likely to cost between £3,900 for a family of two to £5,000 for a family of six, according to the Solar Trade Association. Other unavoidable costs like planning, the new cylinder, etc., are also significant and are not included in the estimated costs of the system.