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Can I use solar thermal panels to heat my house?

Posted by Gabriel Wondrausch on 15 December 2010 at 9:06 am

Generally solar thermal panels are only used for space heating in new build properties in the UK, and not retrofitted into existing houses. This video tells why (with an abbreviated transcript if you prefer to read):

On the continent almost 30% of systems are designed for dual hot water and heating, but we're quite behind that for a few reasons.

1. In the UK, solar panels are at their weakest in winter when you want the heating on.

2. You need a very large collector area to make a useful contribution - roughly 1m2 of collector area for every 10m2 of floor area to be heated.

3. To deal with that large collector area you need a huge buffer tank, and a plant room to store it.

Retrofitting solar thermal for heating often costs more than it's worth.

About the author: Gabriel Wondrausch is founder and director of SunGift Solar, which installs solar thermal and other renewable energy systems in the South West of England.

If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.

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2 comments - read them below or add one


nnw49Comment left on: 26 October 2011 at 4:53 pm

My solar thermal system can add heat to my system's buffer tank....

The normal space heating is provided by a biomass boiler that heats a 1500L buffer tank. This also has a solar coil in the bottom.

The solar thermal controller is set so that it first heats the normal DHW cylinder, and if it reaches setpoint on that it then tries to add heat to the buffer tank. This happened quite effectively in March/April 2011 when we had sunny days but cold nights: the boiler keeps the tank at around 68C, but the sun was getting it up to ~76C! This meant the boiler did very little to keep the house warm most days.

 From April through to now (end Oct) the ST provides all our domestic hot water.

 (of course in the summer, I use the "excess" heat for heating a much larger volume of water - which it does very effectively :) )

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GM Renewables

GM RenewablesComment left on: 20 May 2011 at 9:25 am

I've seen solar thermal panels that work more like a heat pump and DO heat the house. Anyone any experience of these yet?

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