Eco Hacking

Solar Energy

Guide To Switching To Solar Energy

Switching from fossil fuels to solar energy systems to heat your home is not only good for the environment and your wallet, but it is a lot easier than you think.

Solar panels do, by no means, leave you with a substandard heating system that is expensive to fit and a pain to maintain. They are quiet, efficient, easy to clean, and – once the one off payment is made for the system and installation – cheap to run.

What equipment do you need? How does it work?

Double glazed panels are fitted onto your roof, they are put on your roof at an angle, because this maximises the amount of radiation received from the sun. If laid out flat the panels would be less efficient.

An electronic devise, itself powered by the panels, monitors the temperature of the collector panels as well as the water in a cylinder.

Advances in solar technology mean minimal disruption upon installation, as the heated water is pumped straight into your existing water cylinder when it reaches the desired temperature, rather than having to have your old cylinder replaced.

The newer systems use a pump which reduces the rate of pumping when there is not as much sunlight and as a result, there is roughly the same water level increase provided all the time, regardless of whether it is sunny or cloudy.

The advantages of solar systems over the conventional energy

  • are a very effective method of cutting your emissions
  • are a good way to avoid rising energy costs
  • provide a service that is reliable, efficient, clean and easy to maintain

And, for those that are extremely environmentally conscious you can even opt for a company that will offer a complete carbon-free service.

An increasing number of companies are offering this type of eco-friendly service where no carbon is used whatsoever, at any stage, from the advertising right through to the manufacturing and installation.

How much does it cost to get up and running?

As a rough guide, although prices of course vary from company to company, the system, including installation, is going to set you back at least a few thousand pounds, and anything up to £8000. All reputable companies should offer you a five year warranty also, which will cover any problems during that period.

Future energy bills

Your bills are likely to be lower once you have installed solar panels because, with the sun heating your water for you, you no longer need to use an emersion heater.

At a time when energy prices are controversially high, and without sign of falling, perhaps now is a good time to invest in an alternative energy source.

During the summer months, savings of up to 70% of the energy needed to heat your water are possible, with water being heated to temperatures as high as 85 degrees on sunny days. In the winter savings are likely to be around about 50%.

So, the energy equipment still works when it is cloudy?

The solar equipment works during daylight hours, which here in the UK, even during the dullest months, are guaranteed. This gives solar panels an advantage over wind power due to the fact that wind cannot be guaranteed.

As you might expect, the panels are more efficient on sunnier days but, due to their nature, it does not need to be hot or summery, the equipment will still work on a grey, cloudy day.

The equipment is built to last too, it may thrive in the sun, but it will soldier on in the worst of conditions, as reputable companies test their panels to ensure that they can withstand winds of up to 125mph and hail stones an inch thick.

What does installation involve?

Generally planning permission is not required for the installation of solar panels, however, before you get the ball rolling it is wise that you double check with the local authorities.

The panels are installed facing south or south east, for maximum efficiency, and they are designed to look like a roof window for minimal aesthetic disruption, they are usually made up of a black sheet of metal encased in a double glazed box.

If you have a flat roof, due to the fact that the panels work far more efficiently at an angle, a frame will be built to hold the panel at a 20-50 degree angle.

Do not be put off by horror stories from people you know about having to replace whole plumbing systems to cater for the solar panel system because, as mentioned before, the technological advances now allow for a simple installation without the need for replacing the existing plumbing system.

DIY kits are available but it is advisable to get it installed by a professional unless you are experienced in this type of thing and you have the necessary tools to do the job properly and safely.

If you do think that the DIY option is for you though, you may be able to save yourself a few quid with DIY kits available from around £2,500.

And remember…

  • to keep an eye out for government grant schemes.
  • to phone around different companies for the best quote.
  • to ask about the products weather-resistance and warranty cover.
  • to ensure that the product being offered is the modern, minimal disruption, system.

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