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Solar heating

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solarOur need for energy is rising steadily with our standard of living. Are solar heating panels the answer? Our resources on earth are becoming increasingly exhausted and we are putting a strain on our environment. The sun is the energy of the future - assuring a life on earth for future generations. Daily hot water requirements can correspond to around 65% of your total water consumption. When spread over the whole year, this amount of water amounts to considerable energy and cost. A sensible use for solar energy is hot water supply with the help of solar collectors.

Every year in the British Isles over 1000 kWh of solar energy is received on each square metre of surface area. An average home requires approximately 3000 kWh per year for hot water supply.

How does it work?

Solar water heating systems consist of a panel, usually mounted on the roof, which is designed to absorb heat from daylight. When there is sufficient daylight, water is pumped through the panel to the hot water cylinder and back in a closed continuous loop.

As the heated water passes through the solar coil in the hot water storage cylinder, the heat is transferred, via a heat exchange coil, to the surrounding water in the tank. It is this water in the tank that is then used in your showers, sinks and baths. This is known as an indirect system because the water that you use is heated indirectly by the solar energy.

Your existing method for heating water (e.g. gas-fired boiler or electric immersion) acts as a backup for when there is insufficient sunlight. The system works automatically. You will always have hot water at the required temperature, whenever you want it. In summer, almost all hot water needs are met by the solar system, the rest of the year it pre-heats the water so your boiler only tops up to the required temperature.

Future energy use Ritter Evaucuated solar panels which are a leading manufacturer who are recognised as producing one of the best products on the market. Evacuated solar heating panels are more efficient than conventional flat plate type collectors and will perform considerably better in cold, cloudy and windy conditions - unfortunately too common in the UK and Ireland. The higher efficiency of evacuated tubes mean less area is covered on the roof by the solar panels - a desirable feature appreciated by most customers.

Is my home suitable?

Homes ideally need a south facing roof area that is not overshaded by nearby buildings, trees or other objects. There should be sufficient area on the roof to exclusively accommodate a panel of between 2.75m² and 4m². The easiest way to ascertain the orientation of your roof is to imagine a clock with 12 o'clock pointing due north and 6 o'clock pointing due south. The ideal location for the panels is anywhere between 4 o'clock and 8 o'clock on the clock face, in other words due southeast to due southwest.

However, it is still possible to install a solar water heating system if your home has an east-west orientation by increasing the area of panel installed. One option is to install a panel on the east orientation to collect heat in the morning, with another panel on the west orientation to collect the heat in afternoon. It is not advisable to place solar panels on a north-facing roof.

The panel should be placed at an angle between 20° and 50° from horizontal. It is usual to install it in the plane of the existing pitched roof.

It is possible to place a panel on a flat roof but some extra design work will be required. The panel will have to be mounted on a special frame so that it can be angled towards the sun. Mounting the panel on a flat roof will incur an additional cost and will require planning permission.


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