Solar Thermal Panels

Solar thermal, also known as solar water heating is a system that absorbs heat from the sun to heat water in homes and commercial buildings. 

Wondering how that works? 

It’s a simple process:

  • Solar thermal panels installed on your property’s roof capture heat from sunlight. These panels are known as collectors.
  • Once the heat is absorbed, the water or the heat-transfer fluid in the panels starts to heat up.
  • Through a coil, this hot water/fluid is then pumped into your cylinder
  • The heated water/fluid, in turn, transfers the heat to the water stored in the cylinder for you to use.

Solar thermal installation works seamlessly alongside existing heating systems you already have installed in your property. They are particularly well-suited to integrate with heat pump installations

Solar thermal panels work 365 days a year, even in cold weather, and take care of around 70 to 80% of your hot water requirement. To give you an extra hot water boost during the colder months, you may want to consider an immersion heater. 

Note: Do not confuse ‘solar thermal panels’ with ‘solar PV panels’. The latter uses solar energy to generate electricity. 

How Suitable Are Solar Thermal Panels for Your Home?

As one of the leading solar companies in the UK, we’d like to tell you that these panels require a significant upfront investment. While the system pays for itself in the long run, you still need to ask yourself a few important questions before you go ahead and install it.

The biggest and most obvious one perhaps is whether a solar thermal panel suitable for your home? 

Do you get enough sunlight? 

Will your existing cylinder work or will you need a new one?

You need to think about all these questions to ensure that your solar thermal installation is a worthwhile investment. 

Exposure to Sunlight for System Efficiency

As the name suggests, a solar thermal system needs sunlight as its core source of energy to effectively heat water. This is why the ideal position for the system to be installed is in a spot that receives direct sunlight during the day. 

Ideally, this spot could be on the roof although positioning the system elsewhere is also an option. This means your solar thermal system doesn’t necessarily have to be installed on your roof. 

A proficient solar company like ourselves can install your system on a flat roof, the side of the wall, or perhaps hang it in a spot that is exposed to direct sunlight. 

Sufficient Space for Solar Thermal Installation

For a solar thermal system to operate at peak efficiency, it requires a dedicated solar cylinder. If you don’t have a solar cylinder, the heating specialists at JL Phillips will help you replace the existing system with a proper cylinder equipped with solar heating coils. 

Types of Solar Thermal Panels

All solar thermal panels use solar collectors to capture solar energy efficiently. Depending on the type of collector you install, there are two types of panels that can be used:

Flat-plate Collectors

These last for many years which means you will receive good value for the money you invest. As the name suggests, these panels sit flat on the roof and usually come with large glazed surfaces. Their design is most suitable for new builds and for properties that need complete re-roofing. 

Evacuated-tube Collectors

If you have a limited amount of space available on your roof, then these panels are perfect for you. Evacuated-tube collectors are comparatively more versatile and flexible than their flat-plate counterparts as they can be installed on both flat and pitched roofs. If the available space is compact, these collectors can be fitted directly on your walls.  

Advantages of Installing a Solar Thermal System

Perhaps your goal is to be more green and eco-friendly or you are simply looking for a way to reduce your energy costs. Whatever the reason,  solar thermal power is a great heating solution for you. 

Let’s take a look at the various benefits of installing this system:

Renewable and Efficient Energy Source

Solar energy is 100% free and abundantly available (even when the weather is cloudy). As approximately 80% of the radiation is converted into heat, it is a highly efficient source of energy available to you free of cost. 

Reduce Energy Bills

You end up saving significantly on your energy bills and in the long run, this will further add to your savings. If you have a gas heating system, you can easily save up to £65 annually and this could be more with other types of fuel/energy. 

Cheaper to Install

When compared to solar PV panels, solar thermal takes up relatively less space. A typical home would need only 2 to 3 panels to cater to their hot water requirements. You would need 10 to 16 solar PV panels in an average UK home to get the same amount of output. More panels means increased cost, which makes solar thermal more cost-efficient.

Additionally, if you have limited roof space, then solar thermal panels are the clear winner.

Earn While Saving

Both domestic and commercial properties are entitled to receive payments from the government for generating heat from a solar thermal system under the Renewable Heat Incentive program. You can use this calculator to find out how much you can earn under this scheme. Not to mention you now pay 0% VAT on your Solar Panel installation.

Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

Both domestic and commercial properties can effectively improve their carbon footprint with solar thermal technology. When compared to water heated by electricity or gas, an average UK household and commercial building can save up to 400 kg and 350 kg of CO2 respectively per year. 

Minimal Maintenance

Solar water systems require minimal maintenance and servicing meaning you won’t incur heavy upkeep costs. For peak efficiency, you have to ensure that you thoroughly clean the panels. The only component that needs replacing is the inverter which works round the clock to produce heat. Once installed, this usually lasts for 5 to 10 years. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Does the UK Receive Enough Sunlight for Solar Thermal Panels to Work?

Yes, it does! The amount of sunlight that the UK receives is more or less the same as what Spain and France receive. Moreover, it is important to note that solar thermal panels are powered by light. This means they do not need to be exposed to direct sunlight or heat per se to heat water. 

Even when the sky is overcast and it is raining, solar thermal collectors still continue to absorb sufficient energy. 

Do I Need Planning Permissions to Install the Solar Water System?

To make the installation process of renewable solutions more efficient and straightforward, the planning permissions were altered in 2008. This means most domestic and commercial solar thermal panel installations in the UK need not take prior planning permission. 

However, as an experienced solar thermal installation company, we will suggest a proper plan of action that’s bespoke to your property requirements. We conduct a thorough site survey to understand how your property can benefit from this renewable installation. 

Is My Existing Boiler Compatible with a Solar Water Heating System?

Most hot water cylinders and conventional boilers can be integrated seamlessly with the solar water heating system. However, if you have a combi or combination boiler, this system won’t be compatible. You will either have to replace your existing cylinder or install a dedicated cylinder with a solar heating coil to cater to your hot water requirements.

How Long Will the Installation Process Take?

The average solar thermal installation takes around 1 to 2 days to be properly fitted. 

Contact JL Phillips – The Best Solar Thermal Suppliers in The UK

Since a solar thermal system requires a substantial investment, it’s important to ensure that you do your homework to choose a solution that’s right for you. 

At JL Phillips, we consider ourselves as one of the best solar thermal companies for all the right reasons! 

Thanks to our vast experience in the renewable energy industry, we boast a team of proficient installers, heating engineers, electricians and project managers who have installed hundreds of heating solutions across the UK. 

Give us a call today to get the best advice and to find the right solar thermal system for your property!


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