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Solar panels

(24 Posts)
Rowlers Mon 29-Sep-08 21:19:12

We are thinking about extending and making alterations to our home.
We were wondering about buying a solar panel system to heat the water - was wondering if anyone on here had a system up and running and if so, can you point me in the right direction for finding out more about it all?
Am ready for zero response but hoping for more!

BlessThisMess Mon 29-Sep-08 21:49:35

Rowlers, We don't have a system running but have been considering it too.

You should find the Energy Agency appropriate for your area - for example we are in the Severn Wye Energy Agency area - and look at the website. Your County Council's website will probably tell you which is your Energy Agency. The EA will have a series of projects for certain areas and groups of people promoting energy efficiency in various ways, and may have grants available towards alternative energy sources.

The Centre for Alternative Technology has good advice and information and a useful page on their site is here.

Hope that helps a bit!

Arja Mon 29-Sep-08 22:04:50

We have solar for our hot water and love it. We have 4m2 of pannels on our roof, we're South facing. We normally switch off the gas from April-Oct and the sun is enough. Most days the water is hotter than 40oC which is fine. You don't need blazing sunshine to have hot water. At this time of year if the water is not hot enough I put the gas on for 20 mins or so just to have enough for the dd's baths. Typically on sunny days the water will be over 60oc.
A couple of years back we had a gas bill for one of the quarters over the Summer for £7. This year it was a bit more I think £25ish, but even so that is not bad.
We're in Scotland and there are grants available here, but I've no idea for anywhere else.
Hope this helps, let me know if you have anymore questions and I'll do my best to answer them.

misi Wed 01-Oct-08 18:07:54

these are about the best on the market they are the fluid filled ones, not water filled so they don't have to be drained back in feezing weather. apparently though (as everest is rather expensive) B+Q do the same type for a fraction of the cost. there are grants available but it is a limited pot each year, up to £400 grant.

boogiewoogie Wed 01-Oct-08 21:27:20

We've just had some installed from Sustainable energy who are based up North.

snorkle Wed 01-Oct-08 22:10:06

Can you tell me how often they need to be checked over and how much it costs each time?

Arja Thu 02-Oct-08 09:38:51

Mine were installed by based in Scotland. Their solar panels are made in Scotland too. The price was pretty good and they are approved installers for the grant.
I've had my panels for 7 years, not had them serviced yet, although I think they could do with a clean. I don't think a service would cost more than £200 or so.

peanutbutterkid Thu 02-Oct-08 11:00:36

We looked into it and it just would not be cost effective in less than 2-4 decades (more like 50 years for low water users like us)... am wondering how numbers work for other people.

snorkle Thu 02-Oct-08 11:15:23

Thanks Arja! That sounds promising - I take it you have the flat panel type rather than the evacuated tube ones then as I think they have more mantenance needed. I'm very envy of all those with solar panels.

WouldYouCouldYouWithAGoat Thu 02-Oct-08 11:21:55

if you have a dishwasher and washing machine running off the cold water and an electric shower it probably isn't worth it tbh, which is a shame.

Arja Thu 02-Oct-08 12:38:40

I suppose we did not think so much of how long it would take to pay back, but rather reduce our outgoings and to stop being so reliant on gas.
We have hot water fed dishwasher, washing machine & showers. Even at this time of year I am getting a full tank of about 45oC.
Yes we have the flat panels, as far as I know the evacuated tubes are not as efficient and would probably take longer to pay back (they are more expensive in the first place)

notcitrus Thu 02-Oct-08 13:54:33

Looked into it for our loft conversion, seeing as we have a large south-facing roof, but no grants atm, we already have a very efficeint boiler, and the structural engineer said panels could be fitted fairly easily later. Most importantly, we didn't have the extra £10 000 it would have cost.

snorkle Thu 02-Oct-08 13:57:01

Arja, the evacuated tubes are supposed to be more efficient, but they need more maintenance and as they are initially more expensive they take (even) longer to recoup costs so I've been told. As your system sounds as though it's performing well I wondered if it was evacuated tubes initially. I think if you have to do regular maintenance it rather defeats the object.

Is there any reason why you can't hot fill washing machines/dishwashers even when they're supposed to be cold filled? I assume the only risk is that a cooler wash might run hotter if the water you're filling it with is hotter than the wash.

snorkle Thu 02-Oct-08 13:58:57

shock £10k notcitrus? faints.

WouldYouCouldYouWithAGoat Thu 02-Oct-08 14:33:58

i have a hot/cold fill washing machine. recently when the cold was accidently turned off and the hot was quite hot the machine just sat and sulked!

i think it is quite hard to get hot filling appliances now.

Arja Thu 02-Oct-08 14:52:21

10K for solar - were you planning to have panels all over your roof ;)
Ours must have cost less than £2000 7 years ago.
Snorkle- we've never had evacuated tubes the panels were brand new when we got them. They are flat plate. I don't see the point either in having to have maintainance done otherwise you'll never save. The only thing we need to do is give them a clean, just need to get my dh up there on a ladder.

When we got a dishwasher it took a while to find a hot water filled one but we did in the end and it is a Miele one.

snorkle Thu 02-Oct-08 15:01:28

Agree totally about the maintenance Arja (by initially, I ment I thought when I read your first post that maybe your system was evacuated tubes, not that you'd had one sort & then replaced them!).

£2k sounds much more reasonable. Have you any idea what you do save per year? I imagine it's quite hard to tell.

misi Thu 02-Oct-08 15:12:32

the ones everest supply are virtually maintainance free as many other reputable systems should be as it would not be expected of you to get up on the roof every so often. the plumbing below the roof should be maintained like the rest of your plumbing system.

evacuated tubes are more expensive but should require less work as with water filled systems that are much cheaper, you HAVE to drain the water when the temperature drops below a certain level otherwise the water freezes, expands and knackers the tubes!!

Arja Thu 02-Oct-08 15:15:31

Its hard to say, I'm at home with the 2 children so will have the heating on more Oct-April. Our heating is gas (soon to be complimented by stove with back burner)
Over the Summer our gas bills are low, I think for this year it was about £30 for the Summer, we cook with gas, have hot water on for 10mins or so if the day was really cloudy.
But I have to admit it is lovely having lots of hot water free from the sun, I just don't understand why new builds don't have solar as standard.

notcitrus Sun 05-Oct-08 10:20:52

arja - I think that was for electricity generation rather than hot water, seeing as we already have a new efficient heating system (gas costs halved as soon as it was installed - but the old boiler was 25 years old and outside...).

We do have a large house and lots of computers and so panels all over the roof would be quite sensible. I believe water heating panels would only have been £5k but not saved us much.

I believe the jury is still out on whether leccy-generating panels produce much more energy than it takes to build them, not to mention whether they last long enough to reap the benefits. In the meantime we are insulating for England - the loft is currently being lined with huge thicknesses of Kingspan board. Shame the tiling above hasn't been done yet and it's leaking again...

Winebeforepearls Mon 27-Oct-08 13:38:50

Arja, we moved into a house with water-heating panels in August - they have worked brilliantly so far, and we've only just had to turn the boiler on for heating water this week.

But ... do you know if there's a way we can work out how much electricity the heat-exchange system uses? I'm just suspicious, because even without the boiler and on a cloudy day, we still have water at about 30-35 degrees. I know the hot-water tanks are very well insulated, but it all seems too good to be true and I am eyeing the electricity meter suspiciously wink

Takver Mon 27-Oct-08 20:02:40

notcitrus photovoltaics are expensive relative to their output in the UK (of course much more costeffective to cut leccy use) but they do last for a very long time. Our oldest panels date from the early 70s (bought 2nd hand) and show no drop off in production at all.
On the cheap-and-cheerful front we've also at one point had home made solar water heating panels (old radiators painted black in insulated box) and they worked absolutely fine. Also worth being aware that if you can have your panels below your tank (eg in the garden) then you can have a thermosyphon system, so no need to run a pump, so not paying for electricity.
Another useful cost saving trick if you have the room is to avoid having a hotwater tank with a double heat exchanger, one for the solar, one for the gas, (expensive as only sold for solar hot systems) but instead to have two (bog standard and therefore cheap) tanks side by side joined at top & bottom - again thermosyphon effect means that the temperature automatically evens itself out between the two.

Arja Tue 28-Oct-08 07:57:58

Winebeforepearls - I don't know about the heat-exchanger and the electricity. We certainly did not notice any difference with our electricity after we got our panels. Our pump is powered from a solar cell on the pipe to the panel, so that the pump only pumps when the water in the panel is hotter than the water in the cylinder.
Glad you are pleased with the free hot water, we're the same even with the air temp below 5oC we've had hot water at around 40-45oC which is fine for us - I just have to remember to switch off the gas hot water if it's been nice.

Winebeforepearls Wed 29-Oct-08 13:30:52

Arja, I've since found out that if we have the heating on (which we've just caved in and put on for 1 hour morning and evening shockwink) any surplus hot water goes into the hot-water tank, which explains why the temperature has been so high even on cloudy days.

Glad to know the heat-exchanger doesn't use much electricity anyway. Not sure about how our pump is powered, but that's because I haven't got to that bit in the 6 inch file the previous owners left us grin

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