There are two main ways of harnessing the sun’s energy for use in the home, solar thermal energy or PhotoVoltaic solar panels.
Solar Thermal Heating
Solar heating uses the sun’s energy to heat water complementing a traditional boiler and helping to reduce fuel bills by as much as 70% as well as helping the environment. It has been used to great success all over the UK and is now regularly seen on our roof tops especially as all new-build properties must now have some form of renewable energy thanks to the Government’s recent “code for sustainable homes”.
Solar heating is the best known and most popular form of domestic renewable energy. The sun’s energy is collected by flat plate collectors or evacuated tubes (usually on the roof) which are orientated towards the sun in order to warm the property’s water. Inside the panels is a glycol mix which acts as anti-freeze in order to prevent freezing in cold periods, and boiling in the heat. This hot fluid is then passed through a twin-coil cylinder (which looks very similar to traditional hot water cylinders, except for an additional flow and return that passes through the cylinder which helps to transfer the free heat from the sun into the cylinder which would otherwise just be heated by the boiler.
An average property could receive around 60-70% of the property’s total hot water from solar heating systems, and a lot of solar energy can still be gained from solar collectors even on cloudy days.
PhotoVoltaic Solar Panels
PhotoVoltaic, or PV, is a slightly newer technology than solar thermal and the principles are simple. A chemical reaction generates electrical current within the panels and this electricity can then be used in the home to power appliances which have traditionally been solely reliant on electricity from the national grid.
What are the benefits of solar heating systems?
- Sunlight is free and will reduce your energy bills
- It cuts your carbon footprint
- The system works all year round and can supply up to 70% of a households hot water needs
- Planning permission is not required
- 5 year Manufacture warranty on solar panels
- Minimal maintenance required
- PV panels are usually larger than solar panels and can also provide electricity which can be used to heat your home as well – excess can be sold back to the national grid at a premium.