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Solar Hot Water Heating Systems

Since the introduction of solar water heating systems, many homeowners have invested in this technology in order to provide a source of energy efficient and environmentally friendly hot water. Many other homeowners are eager to know what this technology can mean for them and whether or not it’s suitable to be installed to their existing property.

As time goes on, solar hot water heating systems are becoming ever more efficient, making them more attractive to households in a whole host of countries. Your home doesn’t need to be near the equator to make use of this technology, what you do need is a source of adequate sunshine for the most part of each day. This doesn’t mean that solar heating systems aren’t suitable for countries that experience very changeable weather, just that the efficiency of such a system may be impacted by this.

How Do These Systems Work?

These systems work in a variety of ways depending on the type of solar water heater chosen. There are three main designs as explained below:

  • Evacuated Tube Collectors – These are the most efficient systems currently available on the market. This system utilises a network of tubes that act like a thermos where water is contained. The water is able to heat up, however the vacuum adds a layer of insulation resulting in less heat loss when compared with other systems.
  • Flat Plate Collectors – This system is a popular choice for homeowners as its design is quite simple and has the nicest appearance. A solar collector plate is fitted on top of a network of pipes. The solar collector absorbs solar radiation and transfers this to water flowing through the piping system.
  • Batch Collectors – These are also known as “ICS systems” which stands for “integrated collector-storage”. In essence, this is a tank that’s designed to absorb solar radiation. The water inside the tank will heat during the day and can be used at night.

Evacuated tube collectors and flat plate collectors typically require the installation of a storage tank somewhere in the property. Further information is available on how solar water heaters work from the energy star website.

Are These Systems Compatible With My Current Boiler?

Many people query whether or not solar hot water systems are compatible with their current water heating solution. This is a very valid question as the use of solar energy may not be able to heat your water to the temperature you require, instead providing a helping boost to reduce your energy bills.

As a general rule of thumb, any water heating system that utilises a storage tank should be compatible as a solar heating system should be able to heat the water stored in this tank. As a result of this, combination (combi) boilers are not suited for such systems and may not be compatible.

We always recommend you request a survey from a reputable installer of such systems who will be able to provide a definitive answer with regards to your particular system.

Will These Systems Actually Save Me Money?

This question can be fairly hard to answer as it all depends on the quality of the system (such as how long it will last), whether you’ve been over-charged or not (as this will impact the pay-back period) and where you live (as solar heating systems are more effective in particular parts of the world).

Any reputable installer should be able to provide detailed analysis of your potential savings, however these are likely to be indications only and no guarantees will be made.

Is Solar Water Heating Suitable For My Home?

The below points are important to consider as to whether or not a solar water heating system is suitable for your home:

  • Is your home situated in an area that experiences adequate sunshine?
  • Do you have a rooftop or other suitable location to install the system that points to the south or east/west at a push?
  • Is your current boiler compatible with a solar heating system?
  • Do you have space for a larger storage tank to be installed if required?
  • Are you willing to invest in a system that may take many years to provide a return on your investment (and in some cases no return at all)?

If you answered yes to most, if not all of the above questions then solar water heating is most likely a suitable option for your circumstances. You should always however consult the expertise of a reputable installer of such systems in your area.