We would all like cheaper electricity and gas bills. Most of us shop around for the provider with the lowest electricity, gas or oil prices and leave it at that, but there are other ways to warm your house. Not only could you save money in the long term by reducing your household fuel bills, but you can also do so in a more environmentally friendly way and, in today's world of global warming which produces extreme weather conditions, that is a major factor for many people.
Solar heating can reduce your electricity bills no matter where you live. Obviously, where you live will determine how much sunshine you will get in an average day, but even on a cloudy day with the sun low on the horizon you can still benefit. If you live in a warm climate and don't need heating for much of the year, you still may wish to heat the swimming pool.
What Equipment Do I Need?
A typical system uses collectors, also called heating panels. These are generally mounted on a south facing roof which should ideally be pitched at an angel of between 30 and 60 degrees. If your roof isn't pitched, the panels can be mounted at an angel. The size of the panels will depend on the size of the household and your local climate. As a general rule, you'll need 2.75 sq.m. to heat water for two people, or 4.12 sq.m. for a family of three or four people.
There are two types of panels and the right one for you will depend on your local climate.
- Flat Plate Collectors - a simple flat plate of specially coated black metal covered by glass or plastic. Water passes through pipes that are solered to the plate and the warmed water is then fed to your boiler.
- Evacuated tubes - which are fitted into insulated steel casings. These are more suited to cooler, cloudier climates. By reducing the heat loss, the water temperature can reach 60F/15C so it may not require further heating. Evacuated tubes are more expensive than flat plate collectors.
Can I Install A System Myself?
It is possible to install a system yourself if you are reaonably good at DIY. Either find a parts supplier who will also do the design for you, or join a solar club - non-profit making groups who run one-day courses designed to make solar heating cheaper and easier to install.
How Much Money Will I Save?
Impossible to quantify as it will depend on your local climate, house insulation, heating system, and the type of panels you install. But if you want lower electricity and heating bills, and wish to help the environment by burning less fossil fuel, solar heating is well worth investigating.
Tony Luck is an independent distributor of the cheapest electricity and natural gas available in the UK.