How much does a solar thermal panel system cost?

A typical solar thermal water heating system costs around £4,800 (including VAT at 5%). This includes installation and the cost of a new hot water cylinder.

Do solar thermal panels only work when the sun shines?

No. They work by absorbing radiation from the sun and are effective even on cloudy days. They also work throughout the year, though you will need the boost of a boiler or immersion heater during the winter months. On many summer days they will supply all of a household’s hot water needs.

Are there different types of solar thermal panels?

Yes. Thermal panels come in two types: the less efficient but cheaper “flat plate” systems, which have a large absorber plate covered by a transparent cover, and the more efficient but also more expensive “evacuated tube” systems, which have rows of glass tubes that each contain an absorber plate.

Are there grants available to help me install solar water heating?

Yes. In June 2011, the Government is launching the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), a new scheme to support the generation of heat from renewable sources. Under the RHI, you will receive regular payments over the whole lifetime of your solar thermal system, based on the (estimated, or “deemed”) amount of heat produced. The government will announce details about payment rates soon. There are also grants and discounts to help with energy efficiency measures. The Energy Saving Trust has a simple questionnaire here that will tell you what schemes you are eligible for.

What kind of solar panel system is best for me – solar thermal or solar photovoltaic (PV)?

That depends on what you want to produce – hot water or electricity. A solar thermal system heats water. A solar photovoltaic system generates electricity. It is possible to successfully use both types of system in a home

What if I move house?

If you move house, it is difficult to take your solar thermal panels with you, but solar thermal hot water systems add to the value of your house because the new homeowner can benefit from lower energy bills and RHI payments.

Can a solar thermal system heat a home as well as provide hot water?

No. It simply isn’t cost-effective. No matter how big your solar thermal panel array was, in winter – when you need your heating the most – the sun in the UK cannot provide enough heat.

What is the difference between solar thermal panels and solar photovoltaic panels?

Because both technologies use the sun’s energy and involve panels on roofs, the two are easily confused.

Solar thermal panels use sunlight to heat water for showers, baths and taps.
Solar photovoltaic panels convert sunlight directly into electricity.

What is the VAT rate on a solar thermal system?

Because the government wants homeowners to invest in renewable energy technology, at the moment the rate of VAT is just 5%. For new buildings, no VAT is applied.

What is lifetime of a solar thermal panel system?

**About 25 years. Ace Energy solar thermal systems have a 10-year guarantee.**

Don’t solar panels only work in hot countries?

No. Though most effective during the summer months, they will heat water anywhere in the UK.

Do need I two hot water tanks or a twin coil cylinder?

This depends on how much room you have. You need enough space for either a larger twin coil cylinder or for an additional dedicated solar cylinder. Twin coil cylinders have two heat exchanger coils – one for the boiler and one for the solar thermal panels.

Do solar panels have to be fitted to a roof?

No at all. They can be mounted on a frame in the garden, for instance, or on a wall. For the best performance, they should tilted at an angle of 30-45 degrees from the horizontal.

How much maintenance do solar thermal panels require?

Very little. You should take a look at your panels every year or so to sweep off leaves and to wash off any grime with warm soapy water. They should checked by accredited installer every 3-5 years to ensure everything is in top working order.

Is my house or garden suitable for solar thermal?

You’ll need 3-5 square metres of unshaded space facing between south-east and south-west, enough space for a larger or additional hot water cylinder, and either a conventional boiler with a hot water cylinder or a combination boiler that is compatible with solar thermal.

How can I find out if my boiler is compatible?

Check with the manufacturer or call Ace Energy.