Solar water heating and solar thermal systems are possibly the most commonly installed form of renewable energy and are one of the most cost effective ways to reduce your utility bills at the same time as helping the environment.
Fundamentally a solar thermal system comprises of a solar panel unit or bank of evacuated tubes designed to convert sunlight into heat. This heat can be used to heat domestic hot water or make a contribution towards your central heating at the same time as generating a good income from the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). Solar thermal collectors are 85% efficient with no moving parts, apart from a central pump, so they offer almost maintenance free service and should have a long life of 30 plus years.
Solar thermal panels are less affected by shading than their electricity producing counterparts.
Like the Feed in Tariff (FiTs) associated with PV systems, solar thermal systems also have a Government backed financial scheme attached to them in the form of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). This tariff represents a payment of 19.74* pence per Kw your system produces per year, which is locked in for seven-years (rates taken from Ofgem e-serve)
A single South facing solar thermal unit will produce around 1725 kWh per annum. This will generate an income of around £340 every year for seven-years – not factoring in any savings made on your older method of water heating.
*RHI rate current from 1st Oct to 31st Dec 2016.