Energy efficiency is paramount when considering a solar thermal installation. There's no point having solar thermal collectors on your roof if they're being backed up by a 1970's balanced flue boiler on it's last legs, and the heat is pouring from your house through the roof because no loft insulation is in place!! Let's lay out some priorities, before you even think of embarking on a solar thermal installation....
1. Is your house Double-glazed? For the sort of money you'll be paying for solar panels, you'll be able to get double glazing if your house isn't already double-glazed, and the energy savings will be better.
2. Ensure you have a high efficiency boiler. High efficiency boilers are sometimes referred to as 'condensing' boilers and all replacement boilers in the UK from 2006, with only very few exceptional circumstances, should be of the condensing type.
High efficiency boilers re-use heat that would otherwise be wasted through the flue in a standard efficiency boiler, meaning they burn less fuel. The efficiency of boilers is measured on a SEDBUK scale (Seasonal Efficiency of Domestic Boilers in the UK).
Opt for a SEDBUK Band A boiler for the highest level of efficiency available in condensing boilers.
3. A certain standard of energy efficiency in your home will be necessary before contemplating a solar thermal installation. In fact if you are considering applying for a government grant to help fund your solar installation, qualification will rely on certain criteria being met. Such as :
- Energy efficient light bulbs in place
- Adequate loft insulation in place
- Cavity wall insulation installed, where applicable
- Full control over your central heating system
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4. In addition, the solar equipment you are considering must be appoved by relevant bodies. For more information about applying for grants and eligibility, as well as the European solar keymark sceme, see HERE The domestic Heating Compliance guide outlines how domestic heating systems, including the heating of domestic hot water, should be designed in according with building regulations. Reputable installers should be familiar with it's requirements
Other useful documents are CHeSS HR1 and HR2. CHeSS was
established by the Building Research Establishment (BRE). The document
HR1 outlines what needs to be implemented as basic practice for energy
efficiency in the home (eg higher efficiency boiler with room thermostat
and programmer). HR2 goes on to say what can be done to achieve 'best'
practice (eg Band A efficiency boiler with full programmable room
thermostat with hot water timing capabilities).