Solar water heating systems (also known as solar hot water) capture heat from the sun and transfer this heat to your cylinder heating your water.

It’s a relatively simple system that produces hot water by heat exchange between the solution in the solar tubes and the water in the cylinder. It can provide 60% of a family’s annual hot water requirement. No electricity is generated during this process. It is used in single homes, apartment buildings, sports facilities, etc.

How does Solar Water Heating works?

A solar water heating system includes:

  • Solar collectors (they look like solar panels)
  • Pipework
  • Heat exchanger
  • Cylinder

Below is how it works:

  • The solar collector array absorbs solar radiation and converts it to heat.
  • This heat is then absorbed by a heat transfer fluid that passes through the collector.
  • The fluid heated in the collectors passes through a heat exchanger to transfer its heat to the cylinder.
  • The heat exchanger is located in your hot-press and contains a circulating pump to transfer the heated solar fluid around.
  • The traditional single coil cylinder will be replaced with a duel coil cylinder with extra insulation to ensure 24 hours of hot water.

Types of solar hot water systems

The most common types on the Irish market are:

  • Solar hot water tubes: these utilise their circular nature to refract the sunlight towards the centre of the tubes causing an abundance of thermal energy.
  • Flat plat collectors: utilise a thin film coating which traps the sunlight via total internal reflection and concentrates the light onto the fluid.
  • Thermo-dynamic panels: they essentially combine two technologies, a heat pump which is then aided by a solar panel that collects thermal energy from the sun.

Cost and saving

In an average household one-third of the energy bill will be spent heating water. With a solar power system we estimate a 70% reduction in your water heating costs. This equates to a saving of up to €800 per year for the average family. This means you will see an approximate return of 17% on your investment in the first year.

Depending on the occupancy and size of the property you may be entitled to an €1250 grant from the SEAI Better Home Energy Scheme. The VAT may also be reclaimed under 2014 Budget criteria.

The benefits of Solar Water Heating

  • Reduce your dependence upon the utility. With energy prices on the rise, protect yourself by harnessing endless free energy. Independence can be a very gratifying experience.
  • Financial benefits. With up to 70% saving on your fossil fuel bills, it is easy to see the benefits, helping systems to recoup the original investment in 5 years.
  • Environmental Impact. The installation of a solar power system heating system will provide you with free hot water from the sun. This will reduce the use of your gas/oil boiler or your electric immersion for most of the year, reducing your CO2 emissions by up to a tonne per annum.
  • BER Rating. All homes being rented or sold in Ireland are required to have a BER inspection carried out. Having a solar power system in place will mean improve your BER rating dramatically. You may also be entitled to a €50 grant on any BER inspection carried out.
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