Solar water heating
Heat water for your home using energy from the sun.
Solar water heating systems use free heat from the sun to warm domestic hot water. A conventional boiler or immersion heater can be used to make the water hotter, or to provide hot water when solar energy is unavailable.See how solar water heating can work in your home
Already know this is what you want? Download our buyer's guide to solar hot water.
- Hot water throughout the year: the system works all year round, though you'll need to heat the water further with a boiler or immersion heater during the winter months.
- Cut your bills: sunlight is free, so once you've paid for the initial installation your hot water costs will be reduced.
- Cut your carbon footprint: solar hot water is a green, renewable heating system and can reduce your carbon dioxide emissions.
Real-life users talk about generating their own energy:
Solar water heating systems use solar panels, called collectors, fitted to your roof. These collect heat from the sun and use it to heat up water which is stored in a hot water cylinder. A boiler or immersion heater can be used as a back up to heat the water further to reach the temperature you want.
There are two types of solar water heating panels:
- evacuated tubes (as in the picture above)
- flat plate collectors, which can be fixed on the roof tiles or integrated into the roof.
Larger solar panels can also be arranged to provide some contribution to heating your home as well. However, the amount of heat provided is generally very small and it is not normally considered worth while.
The cost of installing a typical solar water heating system is around £4,800 (including VAT at 5%). Savings are moderate - the system could provide most of your hot water in the summer, but much less during colder weather.
Maintenance costs are very low. Most solar water heating systems come with a five-year or ten-year warranty and require little maintenance. You should take a look at your panels every year and have them checked more thoroughly by an accredited installer every 3-5 years, or as specified by your installer.
A typical system will reduce your water heating bill by between £50 and £85 per year. It will also save up to 570kg of carbon dioxide emissions, depending on what fuel you will be replacing.
|Fuel replaced||Saving per year||Carbon dioxide saving per year|
All savings are approximate and are based on a three-bedroom semi-detached home with 3.4 square metres of panels. Find out more about how we make our calculations.
You may be able to receive payments for the heat you generate froma solar water heating system through the government’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). This scheme should be launched in October 2012.
From August 2011, you may be able to get help with the installation costs of a new solar water heating system through the Renewable Heat Premium Payment scheme.
Do you have a sunny place to put solar panels?
You'll need around five square metres of roof space which faces east to west through south and receives direct sunlight for the main part of the day.
The panels don't have to be mounted on a roof: they can be fixed to a frame on a flat roof or hanging from a wall.
Do you have space for a larger, or an extra, hot water cylinder?
If a dedicated solar cylinder is not already installed then you will usually need to replace the existing cylinder, or add a dedicated cylinder with a solar heating coil.
Is your current boiler compatible with solar water heating?
Most conventional boiler and hot water cylinder systems are compatible with solar water heating. But if your boiler is a combination boiler (combi) and you don't currently have a hot water tank, a solar hot water system may not be compatible.
A competent accredited installer will be able to assess your home and help you choose the best setup to meet your needs.