Solar thermal – an affordable renewable solution

Solar thermal is both an affordable and efficient option for any homeowner who’s looking for a renewable solution – it can comfortably produce a large percentage of a household’s domestic hot water need without a hefty price tag.

Producing hot water throughout the whole year

A solar thermal system works year-round, obviously performing at its best during the summer months:

  • Typical average annual savings: 50%
  • Typical average July savings: 90%
  • Typical December savings: 10%

In roof solar thermal panel


Installing a solar thermal system requires minimal upheaval and offers immediate savings, making this type of technology a practical and cost-effective option for new-builds and existing properties.

For a homeowner, solar thermal is an option that enables them to improve their carbon footprint and take advantage of the government funding initiative, the RHI.

To access the RHI payments both the solar panels and the installation itself must be MCS approved.  At Nu-Heat, our panels have MCS approval, and we can also help installers with MCS by offering a comprehensive handover pack and a range of installation support options.

Positioning the panels

The builder or roofing contractor will usually install the panels either on or in the roof depending on the property.  Ideally they should be positioned on a south facing roof with a pitch of between 30° to 50°.

In retrofit projects, it is still possible to install flush-mounted, ‘in-roof’ panels as long as consideration is given to the specific roof structure.  Another option is to install the panels on a freestanding framework on a flat roof or in a garden.

Solar thermal for new builds…

Solar thermal is an obvious choice for new-build projects.  The panels and cylinder location can be specified from the outset and the pipework can be easily installed at an appropriate stage of the build.  Another bonus of considering solar thermal as part of a new build is that points will be awarded towards the Code for Sustainable Homes.

For smaller dwellings such as a flat or terraced house, a single panel solar system will streamline installation and provide a cost-effective option.

…and for existing properties

Solar thermal is also suitable for older properties.  It’s likely that most of the existing plumbing is reusable – the heating engineer will be able to offer advice on this and undertake installation of any new pipework, connection to the panels, cylinder and solar controller, with an electrician to connect up the control system.

Find out more

Check out the solar thermal section of our website to find out more or give us a call on 01404 549770.

How it works:
Air source heat pumps

Thanks to the Domestic RHI, air source heat pumps (ASHPs) are becoming increasingly popular.  The scheme is a great incentive for homeowners, encouraging them to opt for renewable technologies.  It’s also good news for installers who can expect more renewables business.

So, what exactly is an ASHP and how does it work?




How an ASHP works

ASHPs, sometimes known as air-to-water systems, work by using warmth extracted from the air.  This low temperature warmth is absorbed by a fluid held in the ASHP which passes through a compressor where its temperature is increased before being made available for the heating and domestic hot water circuits of the property.

An ASHP can operate in temperatures as low as -20˚C.

How it saves on heating bills

An ASHP essentially offers ‘free’ energy.  It delivers more heat energy than the electrical energy it takes to operate.

As a comparison, if an electric fire uses 1 kWh of electricity, it delivers 1 kWh of heat, meaning its ‘Coefficient of Performance’, or CoP, is 1.  This means that the electric fire is 100% efficient.

If 1 kWh of electricity is put into an ASHP, it could deliver 3 kWh of heat, giving it a CoP of 3.  The heat pump has extracted an extra 2 kWh of ‘free’ heat from the air and delivered it for use in heating and domestic hot water.

It’s this ‘free’ energy that makes an ASHP attractive, especially to anyone who cannot access gas as they have the most to gain.

ASHPs and underfloor heating

An ASHP reaches its highest levels of efficiency when producing low flow temperatures.  It’s the lower flow temperatures required by underfloor heating that make it the perfect partner for ASHPs.  By integrating the two systems together, both technologies play to their strength and maximum efficiency can be achieved without compromising comfort.

ASHPs  and the Domestic RHI

The Government recognises that ASHPs have a part to play in making UK housing more energy-efficient and reducing energy bills, which is why they have been included in the RHI.

To help offset the cost of installing an ASHP, a homeowner can expect a tariff rate of 7.3p/kWh.  A typical home using around 20,000kWh per annum of heating requirement could get around £7000 in payments over a seven year period – a considerable amount to go alongside the savings on energy bills.  Visit Ofgem to find out more.

Who can install an ASHP?

The majority of heating engineers could install an ASHP with a clear manual to follow.

It’s important to remember that in order to qualify for the Domestic RHI, both the system and the installer has to be MCS approved.  Nu-Heat offers support packages to both MCS and non-MCS installers – give us a call for more info on 01404 549770.

So, your customer wants an integrated renewables system…

Installing an ASHP

With the new Domestic RHI now up and running, the renewables market is already growing and as a result, so are the opportunities for installers.  Given the number of potential combinations, successful multi-technology integration can be complex.

Here we look at the subject of integrating heat pumps, solar thermal and warm water underfloor heating systems, the legislation that may affect what you do and the help available to achieve a successfully integrated system.

Is the customer applying for the Domestic RHI?

The first question to ask is whether your customer wants to apply for any of the government’s financial incentives – the Domestic RHI and the Green Deal.

The Domestic RHI pays homeowners quarterly over a seven year period, helping to offset the initial cost of installing the renewable technology.  Tariffs vary depending on the technology that is being installed.  The Green Deal helps with the up-front costs of installing energy-efficient products offset against future energy savings.

If the homeowner is interested in any of the above it means that both the renewable product and the installer must be MCS approved and there will be a list of requirements that must be fulfilled in order to obtain an MCS Certificate and access funding.  There are plenty of approved generic installation training courses available throughout the UK and most suppliers offer short courses in their own products.

MCS approval for installers is based on training/qualifications in installation of the relevant technology followed by site inspections to check the quality of the work and provision of the correct documentation.  To allow you to concentrate on practical aspects of the job rather than admin, Nu-Heat supplies a comprehensive System Handover Pack to MIS standards that contains all relevant paperwork, manuals, bespoke M&E schematic drawings, heat loss calculations, energy summary, commissioning documentation, warranty certificates, health and safety information and user manuals.

Regardless of whether or not your customer is hoping for external funding it is vital to assess the project for the aspects that will affect product choice and system efficiency and then to discuss this with the supplier – they will be able to specify a sensible and cost-effective range of products based on your assessment and overall performance needs.

System design

System design is fundamental to the success of any heating system, especially when it involves renewable technologies.  A heat pump system must be designed to MIS3005, solar thermal to SAP 2013, and UFH in accordance with the Domestic Heating Compliance Guide.  The overall system must maximise efficiency whilst providing effective performance; and the fact that the UFH in particular will become part of the structure of the property means that the specification has to be right first time.

As a minimum the supplier should incorporate information relating to the building’s orientation, location, age and construction, insulation and heat losses, heat output requirement and DHW load into the system design and then tailor the specification to the available budget.  Having accurate information from the supplier allows installers to offer their customers genuine advice on whether a heat pump or solar thermal is suitable for their property, the size of unit needed, if there is a need for supplementary heating and, if so, the best technology to use.  The customer will be happy to have impartial advice from a professional installer, the system will heat the property fully and there will be fewer callouts.

Customer satisfaction

The best possible outcome for both installer and supplier is a happy customer, which is as much to do with system design and specification as it is with your ability, as there is little point having beautifully installed equipment that fails to heat the house effectively or provide enough hot water.  Therefore, our recommendation is to choose your supplier carefully; a good one will save you time and effort as well as help to maintain your professional reputation.

For guidance on integrated renewable systems, call us on 0800 731 1976.

Find out more about heat pumps and solar thermal.