Tarven Final Logo RGB
020 8087 0216

Contact us today

Can You Use Solar Panels to Heat Water? A Comprehensive Guide

Welcome! If you’re here, you’re probably curious about green energy, particularly solar power. Specifically, you may ask, “Can you use solar panels to heat water?” What an interesting question to discuss! We’ll look into this topic in detail, looking at different solar water heating systems and considering their benefits and drawbacks.

The Essence of Solar Water Heating Systems

In the realm of solar water heating systems, there are two leading players: Flat Plate Collectors and Evacuated Tubes. Each works differently to harness the sun’s power and turn it into piping-hot water for your home. But how do they achieve this?

Let’s first look at how Flat Plate Collectors work. These collectors have copper pipes running through a glass-covered collector, typically linked to a water storage tank on the roof or the ground. As the sun’s rays heat the copper pipes, the water within is circulated via a pump or a Thermosiphon to the storage tank.

Alternatively, Evacuated Tubes are two glass tubes fused at the top and bottom, creating a vacuum in between. Through this vacuum, a copper heat pipe connects to a common manifold and a slow-flow circulation pump. The water is gradually heated throughout the day as the pump moves it from the source to a storage tank below. An electric pump redistributes the water in the tank back to the pipes so that it can be heated up again if it falls below a specific temperature.

So you might wonder: what happens when the sun doesn’t shine on those gloomy days? Rest assured, you won’t be left with a lukewarm bath. Most systems work alongside a gas or electric heater, which supplements the solar hot water system when there’s insufficient sunlight to heat the water to the desired temperature.

Going Green with Solar Water Heating

But why does all this matter? In a nutshell, it’s about sustainability and efficiency. By using green energy and water heating methods, you are reducing your carbon footprint while potentially saving a significant amount on your energy bills. It’s a win-win situation, isn’t it?

Solar water heating, or ‘solar thermal’, involves using solar panels to absorb the sun’s heat and transfer it to your home’s water. A solar thermal system could provide all your hot water needs on glorious summer days. Even during winter, while the output will be less, there are still savings to be made.

Making the Most Out of Solar Power

So, is your home suitable for solar water heating? You’ll need between 2 to 5m2 of predominantly south-facing roof space, which should have as little shading as possible. Panels can also be installed on a frame on a flat roof or even on the ground if necessary.

Cost-wise, most domestic solar water heating systems fall between £3,000-£5,000, depending on the size, type, and number of panels. But remember, it’s not just about the upfront cost.

Can Solar Thermal Panels Save You Money?

Let’s address the elephant in the room – “Can you save money with solar water heating?” The savings with a solar water heating system are moderate but noticeable. How much you save depends on the type of water heating system you’re replacing.

As a general guide, with solar thermal panels, you could save around £145 to £275 per year on your water bills, according to current fuel prices under the Energy Price Guarantee, applicable until the end of June 2023.

Depending on the heating system you’re upgrading, here is an estimate of how much you could save per year:

Oil – £145

Coal – £155

Electricity £275

Gas £160

LPG  £190  (data from the Energy Saving Trust)

Before considering solar thermal panels, ensure your home is as energy-efficient as possible. A home with higher energy efficiency will lose less heat, requiring less heating overall.

So prior to answering the question “Can you use solar panels to heat water?” think about how energy-efficient your home is and how solar energy can fit into your home’s energy-saving and efficiency in the future.

However, remember that the savings will depend on the size of your household, the type of heating being replaced, and the orientation of the panels.

Pros and Cons of Solar Water Heating

Solar power has emerged as a significant player in our quest for energy efficiency and sustainability. Solar water heating systems have become increasingly popular for their potential energy savings and contribution to reducing our carbon footprint. However, like any technology, it has its advantages and disadvantages.

Pros of Solar Water Heating

  1. Significant Water Heating Capacity:Solar water heating can provide up to 90% of your hot water needs in summer and 25% in winter. This capacity significantly reduces reliance on traditional energy sources, particularly during the sunnier months.
  2. Potential Savings: Depending on the heating system you are replacing, you could save between £145 and £275 per year on fuel bills. These savings can add up significantly over time.
  3. Low Maintenance and Running Costs: Solar water heating systems generally require little maintenance, and the on-going costs are small. This low-maintenance aspect is a tremendous advantage for homeowners who don’t want to worry about frequent servicing.
  4. Warranty: Most solar water heating systems come with a five to ten-year warranty, offering your investment peace of mind and protection.
  5. Lower Carbon Footprint: Harnessing solar energy to heat your water reduces your reliance on fossil fuels, significantly lowering your carbon footprint. This environmental benefit aligns with the increasing global emphasis on sustainability and reducing carbon emissions.

Cons of Solar Water Heating

  1. Supplemental Heating Required: Solar energy isn’t available 24/7, and weather conditions can affect efficiency. Therefore, you’ll still need an immersion heater or a boiler to boost the water temperature or to provide hot water when solar energy isn’t available.
  2. Compatibility Issues:Not all boilers are compatible with solar water heating systems. It’s essential to check this before investing in a solar water heating system.
  3. Higher Installation Costs: While solar water heating systems can save money over time, their initial installation cost can be more than conventional electric and gas heating systems. However, it’s essential to consider these costs as an investment that pays back over time through reduced energy bills.


Wrapping Up 

To answer the original question, “Can you use solar panels to heat water?” – the answer is a resounding yes. From flat plate collectors to evacuated tubes, there are solar options to cater to diverse needs. But, like all significant investments, it pays to do your homework first. Understand your home’s setup, conditions, and capacity to handle a solar hot water system.

For a no-obligation quote, contact us today.