What are solar thermal panels and why should you get them?

Find out everything you need to know about solar thermal panels in this article! Put simply, solar thermal panel technology is an alternative, eco-friendly method of heating water in your house. They will save you money on your gas bills, and make your home a lot greener. And, the great news is, unlike solar PV (which generates electricity) where you might need lots of panels, Solar Thermal only needs one.

In this detailed guide, we’ll explain how solar thermal panels work and why we recommend them. We’ll also include how you can save money and energy by having them installed!

In addition, we have an exciting new offer for solar thermal panels that works in conjunction with the new Government Green Homes Grant. This means you can make your home greener and save money with financing from the government – it’s win-win!

What are solar thermal panels?

As mentioned above, solar thermal panels are a method of heating the water in your home, using energy generated from sunlight. Sometimes called Solar Thermal Collectors or Solar Water Heating. They are fitted to your home’s roof and use the sun’s energy to heat your water through a connection with your boiler. They are very popular in Europe, so you may have seen them whilst on holiday.

In the UK, we have two types of solar thermal collectors: Flat Plates and Evacuated Tubes. These names refer to how the water interacts with the panels. You can see the 2 different types here:

Flat plate solar thermal panels on a roof, surrounded by blue skies

Flat Plate

Flat Plate solar thermal collectors look a bit like solar PV panels and can be fitted individually or in pairs. Instead of using lots of thin tubes like an evacuated tube panel, it’s actually made up of an absorbing surface, a heat insulated back and a see through cover. It uses a fluid to carry the heat from the panel to the hot water tank. This is how the water is heated.

Evacuated tube solar thermal panels on a roof, blue skies in the background

Evacuated Tubes

This type of solar thermal collector is made up of many thin tubes that carry transfer fluid, which is used to heat the water. These systems, overall, are very efficient but are not so efficient in warmer months because they risk overheating. These are the type of panels that you may have seen on buildings if you’ve been on holiday to Greece, Turkey or Spain as they’re very popular in those countries. However, they aren’t as popular in the UK as they’re not so aesthetically pleasing.

How can solar energy be used to heat water?

The energy generated by the fluid in the solar thermal panels is used to heat the water in your house, that is then stored in a hot water cylinder. The solar thermal collector will replace or enhance the heat from your boiler, using the free heat from the sun. However, when the sun isn’t shining, in the deepest, darkest winter, your boiler will support the solar energy. There’s a more detailed explanation of how the solar thermal system works below.

Solar thermal panel diagram connected to a boiler, showing how it heats water inside the boiler

Can solar thermal panels be installed using the Government Green Homes Grant?

Yes! We’re hoping to help many people save money and green up their home using this grant. It’s simple to apply… 

The government has created a Green Homes Grant Scheme in 2020. This means that homeowners and landlords in England can apply for upto £10,000 to make their homes greener. There are a number of energy saving home improvements included in the list that this grant covers. It includes (but is not limited to):

  • Solar Thermal Panels
  • Air Source Heat Pumps
  • Draught Proofing
  • Double and Triple glazing
  • Cavity Wall insulation

To apply for this grant, you’ll need to get a quote for the Solar Thermal Panels installation from us (you can do this below). We’ll ask you a few simple questions about your property. The questions include things like; if it isn’t a new property, if you’re the homeowner and if you claim any benefits. There are a few extra questions to fill out for landlords.

Start the application process here.

How much do solar thermal panels cost? 

Solar thermal panels ordinarily cost around £7,500. That includes the panel on the roof, all the water and electrical and digital connections, and a new hot water cylinder. You need the new cylinder for the special additional circuit in your heating system. This allows it to work with the solar thermal panel for the solar heated water. And, of course, you need the smart controls too.

Do all boilers work with solar thermal?

All boilers do work with solar thermal collectors, however you must have a specially designed hot water cylinder too. That means if you have a combi boiler, you will also need a hot water cylinder to be installed.

It is worth considering whether you have space for a water cylinder to be fitted before getting a quote. Remember – they can be hidden away! Often hot water cylinders can be installed in a garage or a loft if space is an issue.

Energy rating scale with a phone and coins around it

How to save money with solar water heating

This is the big question, isn’t it? The solar thermal panels will provide hot water when the sun is shining (or in daylight) which is then stored in the cylinder, for use immediately or later in the day. So this technology could provide 100% of your hot water in the summer and will contribute to heating your hot water in the winter. Why not harness the energy of the sun using our fantastic offer?

To qualify for payments through the Green Homes Grant Scheme from the government you will need to apply for a voucher.

You can save even more money by making sure your home is as energy efficient as possible. Of course, one benefit of having a super energy efficient system is that less energy will be wasted too. You’ll be making the most of the energy that you’ve got and therefore getting better value, and needing less of it because little is wasted!

Depiction of an energy efficient home, a diagram shows each room and how they're green

You can also consider draft proofing, cavity wall insulation and double glazing to help improve energy efficiency, and save even more money too.

Do solar thermal panels work in winter in the UK?

Yes! Solar thermal energy can still be generated in winter! Where there is sunlight, there is energy that can be generated. However there are a couple of things to remember:

  • There are fewer daylight hours in the winter, so therefore less time for the panels to generate energy.
  • Snow can affect the output of the panels. Especially the evacuated tube type of panel. This is because they are designed to not lose heat. That means snow doesn’t melt off them as easily as it does on Flat Plate collectors.
  • Even though the panels will still generate energy, it won’t be as much as during the warmer months when there are more daylight hours. Your boiler will then pick up the slack.

Are solar thermal panels worth it?

Overall, we think solar thermal panels are very much worth installing in the UK. Especially while homeowners can take advantage of the Government Green Homes Grant! 

New Solar Thermal Offer!

Our introductory offer will be launching soon. The government has launched a £5,000 grant for all homeowners through the Green Homes Grant Scheme from 30th September 2020, ending on 31st March 2021.

This £5,000 voucher, together with our exclusive Kingspan Hot Water Cylinder Scrappage Scheme, will enable you to get your new free hot water solar system. Key benefits include:

  • Reduce your utility costs by as much as £300 p/a, depending on fuel type and number of people in the house
  • Lower your carbon footprint by generating green energy!

We’ll be launching our offer soon, we’ll update this blog with the details as soon as it goes live.

To find out more about solar thermal and how you can be notified of our amazing offer, just fill out a quote form below and we’ll get in touch with you as soon as possible.

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