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Solar heating - is it worth the money?

Kommunist Avatar
8y, 8m agoPosted 8 years, 8 months ago
What do you think about solar panel water heaters? I had a discussion today in shopping center with solar panel company and they say I can save up to 30% on my gas bill (which will take about 10 years to repay the cost, BTW). However, as gas prices are going up, it could be better if I had "gas-less" water heater.

What do you think about these things? Are they efficient taking British sun into account?
Kommunist Avatar
8y, 8m agoPosted 8 years, 8 months ago
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#1
solar panels have developed a lot in the last few years - so much so that they can create power even on a typical British summer's day!

I would be tempted to ask the company to prove their figures - how did they calculate them? Do their customers agree with them? Do they guarantee them?
1 Like #2
I don't think they are really suited enough to the UK climate to make it worthwhile - I'd imagine unless you have a sunny area with a south-facing sloped roof you'd struggle to even recoup costs in 10 years and I expect there would then be maitainance costs (do these chargers use a lead-acid battery to store power?). Do you have figures for the output power (max and typical) expected from the panels and the cost of the panels?
1 Like #3
I would love to say its a great energy saving method, but one of the major problems might be that when the period comes to start to recoup some of the installation costs the unit itself could be nearing the end of its working life and you have to start all over again..
Not sure what the answer is, but its everybody's concern .
Maybe wind power?.:thumbsup:
1 Like #4
Will you still be in the same house in 10 years time?
How efficient is your current boiler? Would you be better changing to a condensing boiler?
Do you check USwitch regularly to ensure you are on the cheapest possible tarriff?
I think they are a wonderful idea, and if you do it to help the environment then great, if you are doing it to save money not so sure.
#5
My understanding is that there are no batteries as it is connected to water tank (second heater). The water goes through solar heating element and back to the tank. So, in theory, the water in the tank will be hotter because of solar heater and so the normal boiler would have to use less energy to heat it (if needed at all).

I don't have exact figures right now, I guess these are listed on their website somewhere. Need to check this anyway.
The panels cost between 3K to 4K including installation and 5 years warranty.

I am not sure about 10 years time, TBH. My wife really likes to change places, so this is our 4th house in last 8 years.
The current boiler is very efficient, according to service guy (he did servicing to it last week). He also told me that it is a very good boiler and I'd be a fool if I change it to something else.

As to tariff, I am currently with Powergen Online Economy 5 (no standing charge) and it seems to be the cheapest for me. Still the last bill was 480 quid (electricity and gas combined; quaterly bill) - ouch!.

As to helping the environment.... it would be nice but I am not really prepared to spend such amount of money and get nothing in return, apart from feeling of self-importance :)
1 Like #6
Expensive bill!!!

I always thought the costs of putting in solar panels were double that but you could get a 50% grant from the government so I guess that's what the company are doing hence the price. They'll only bring the gas bill down as I assume all your hot water is heated by gas.

I assume there's some automatic setting that diverts the water away from the solar panel when it's not sunny otherwise you'll be pumping water outside during the night making it a little colder surely?

Do you know if it constantly circulates or does it just pump water through when needed? I assume it constantly pumps through keeping a large amount of water warm in a tank rather than a little bit of water boiling?

I'm looking to do this one day but more for the environment side of things, my gas bill is only about £120 a quarter so I don't think this would save me money.
#7
Kommunist
My understanding is that there are no batteries as it is connected to water tank (second heater). The water goes through solar heating element and back to the tank.


Surely in this case you are basically only heating the water during the day - when you least need it heated! Unless your tank is very well insulated I expect most the heat would be lost by the time you needed it.
#8
Kommunist
My understanding is that there are no batteries as it is connected to water tank (second heater). The water goes through solar heating element and back to the tank. So, in theory, the water in the tank will be hotter because of solar heater and so the normal boiler would have to use less energy to heat it (if needed at all).

I don't have exact figures right now, I guess these are listed on their website somewhere. Need to check this anyway.
The panels cost between 3K to 4K including installation and 5 years warranty.

I am not sure about 10 years time, TBH. My wife really likes to change places, so this is our 4th house in last 8 years.
The current boiler is very efficient, according to service guy (he did servicing to it last week). He also told me that it is a very good boiler and I'd be a fool if I change it to something else.

As to tariff, I am currently with Powergen Online Economy 5 (no standing charge) and it seems to be the cheapest for me. Still the last bill was 480 quid (electricity and gas combined; quaterly bill) - ouch!.

As to helping the environment.... it would be nice but I am not really prepared to spend such amount of money and get nothing in return, apart from feeling of self-importance :)


And in which case....don't bother....4 houses in 8 years wish you lived in my area.;-)
#9
Expensive bill!!!

I know :-( The house is quite a large one... If I remember correctly, I pay 350 quid for gas alone, the rest is electricity. In summer it goes down to 160 altogether though.

I never heard about government grants... Interesting. Are these available to anyone or just for "disadvantaged"?

I assume there's some automatic setting that diverts the water away from the solar panel when it's not sunny otherwise you'll be pumping water outside during the night making it a little colder surely?

They told me that if incoming water is colder than it is in the tank, the pipe will be shut by thermostat. Makes sense actually.

Do you know if it constantly circulates or does it just pump water through when needed? I assume it constantly pumps through keeping a large amount of water warm in a tank rather than a little bit of water boiling?

If I remember their schematics correctly, the thing will pump water all the time. The question I didn't ask is how much electricity does this thing take?
#10
jah128;1738958
Surely in this case you are basically only heating the water during the day - when you least need it heated! Unless your tank is very well insulated I expect most the heat would be lost by the time you needed it.

It is well insulated, so even if boiler is switched off completely the water is still hot. But I agree, this might be a problem.

Agent_Silver

And in which case....don't bother....4 houses in 8 years wish you lived in my area.;-)

What are you in real estate business? ;-)
#11
The government grants are for everyone as far as I know but I think the price they've given you is including the grant.

These things are everywhere in places like Greece but then there's so much heat/sunlight that's no suprise. Don't think they're financially viable here. Get a wind turbine and it'll do your electricity instead. Doesn't help you much on the gas front but unfortunately I think what you're looking for doesn't exist.
#12
A wind turbine could be a good thing but surely would infuriate neighbours... Anyway, thanks for the information. I guess I'll wait for some technological advances in this area.

I do have some small solar panel at the moment and it is used to power lights in garden shed. It works pretty well, even during winter the charge is enough for 3 hours. It was expensive though...
#13
Kommunist
A wind turbine could be a good thing but surely would infuriate neighbours... Anyway, thanks for the information. I guess I'll wait for some technological advances in this area.

I do have some small solar panel at the moment and it is used to power lights in garden shed. It works pretty well, even during winter the charge is enough for 3 hours. It was expensive though...


Unfortunately not enough sun in this country to make it financially viable at the moment, in years to come the price will be ridiculously low so it'll work. It's only a matter of time before the world will have to swap to this sort of power source.
#14
Not sure if solar is the only way to go, but that is a subject for long and politically incorrect discussion :)

Anyway, it looks like I need to wait until prices will go down.

Thanks for help everyone!
#15
Kommunist

Agent_Silver


What are you in real estate business? ;-)


yep:thumbsup:
1 Like #16
I've had one of the simpler systems fitted for the last 3 years (almost). It cost £2,700 to install and I got a £400 cashback from the Government (Blue Skies Initiative). Not sure if that is still available. The 50% grants were only available in Scotland but not sure if that is still the case.

The system uses no mains electricity. The water panel sits on a south facing roof and it has a photovoltaic panel on one corner. This photovoltaic panel provides the electricity for the pump sited in the loft. The hot water from the top of the panel feeds directly into the top of the hot water tank and the cold water feed comes from the bottom. That way hot water is directed onto the top of the tank and does not mix with the cold.

It really needs sunlight to heat the water and drive the pump. As the sun comes round in the morning the photovoltaic starts to send a voltage to the small pump which operates slowly at first and then speeds up as the sun comes around to the front. This coordinates with the fact that the panel starts to produce warmer/hotter water as the sun comes round. In other words when the panel is only producing a little heat the pump runs slowly, as it produces more and more from increasing solar radiation so the pump is being driven faster and faster. No control circuits are required as this tends to regulate the temperature of the water coming out of the panel although it is a very coarse regulation.

On Economy 7 so I leave the immersion on via a timeswitch in the winter and off completely in the summer. In the height of summer the tank can be at 90°C at the top and about 70°C at the bottom in the middle of the day so you have to be careful and check the digital thermometer before using the hot water. I could have had a diverter fitted which would stop the tank getting so hot but it seemed a shame to waste all that free energy. When the immersion is not switched on I can see that the tank loses about 1 or 2°C overnight which is hardly anything but then it is extremely well insulated.

The system has no maintenance requirements and is even designed to let the rain keep the front panel clean. If energy costs continue to rise at the current rate then I might recover my costs eventually but that's not why I went for the panel. It wasn't for smug self-satisfaction as someone mentioned but merely to get involved in new, green technology. The only way such technology can develop until it becomes really useful is for joe public to buy into it. Having said that I already find the system very useful.

I have been away on holiday in summer for a couple of weeks, on some occasions, and the system has never overheated. Once such away period was mid-June 2005 when temperatures were up in the 30s C for a lot of the time. Similarly the system is designed to freeze in winter without bursting its pipes and a little sunshine will soon thaw it out and have it running. It's fascinating to see the temperature in the hot water tank rising rapidly on a sunny but extremely cold winter day - the only thing that holds it back then is the low number of hours of good sunlight.

Systems that use vacuum tubes in the panel are much more efficient than my flat panel and will produce hot water even on a grey day. However, they are more expensive and do require complicated control circuits and extra primary tanks to be fitted. I don't think it's yet feasible to have a solar system for central heating but these panels will help a boiler for such a system because they will preheat the cold water before it gets to the boiler and thus save some energy. I couldn't tell you how much this saves me per year as I switched electrical suppliers at the same time but my total energy bill for a 4 bedroomed semi with central heating and all the usual electrical paraphanalia (?) (all electric here) is around the £800 mark per year. I guess I could dig out old bills and compare units used then and now but haven't done so yet.

I'm not aware of any solar water heating system that requires batteries. I think that's just for providing solar power for things like security lights etc.

Sorry if the above sounds a bit like a sales brochure but I took note of comments in previous posts and thought personal experience might clear up some of the questions/comments.
#17
Solar Heating???.....



They can stick it where the Sun don't shine! :giggle:

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