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Solar Heating - grant aid and advice?

Hello all
I hope that this is the right place for this post......I cannot find any reference to solar heating on MMT so, here goes!

We are thinking about getting putting in solar power (no firm decisions about what and how yet)
It seems to be an absolute minefield.....
So far I have collected half a rain forest's worth of information which mostly contradicts itself, and my local council doesn't know if they will get any funding this year for grants etc. Also, the technicalities seem to differ depending on whom you speak to. The Net is (too) full of information that is difficult to filter.
Is anyone able to offer advice?
Thanks,
Annie
A party without cake is merely a meeting.
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Replies

  • I looked at it some while ago for a friend. Unless things have changed it really makes no sense in UK for domestic use. There are a lot of 'cowboy' firms in this field who talk rubbish.

    The main strength of solar heating is in raising the temperature of large quantities of water a degree or two; which is why they have limited use in heating swimming pools.

    I spend a lot of time in Florida and some years ago solar heating was 'pushed' by some firms. However even with the amount of sunshine they have, it never caught on - even for swimming pools. Heat pumps are the popular choice.
    Robert
  • simonm_3simonm_3 Forumite
    62 Posts
    Its the 12th of March, its about 5ºC outside, windy and patchy cloud and my solar panels are running at well over 60ºC and so far (its midday) have raised the hot water cylinder from a residual temperature of about 12ºC to over 50ºC. My panels do work! and in the next few weeks I will be switching my oil fired hot water heating off!
    Yes, you are right about there being cowboys, I'm not sure whether I'm allowed to name companies here but I initially spoke to smartenergy about 4 years ago and after a whole load of absolute tripe from the salesman, I said that I wouldn't speak to him further unless he gave me a price of the panels. At £7,000 I walked him to the door. The biggest selling point seemed to be the fact that I would benefit from having a smartenergy sign outside my house! I kept on looking and with the introduction of the clearskies grant a year or so ago I decided to go for a Genersys system. The quality is excellent and so far it is doing everything that it says on the box.
    I've also documented much of the installation procedure on my website solarkent and am reporting monthly on what it is achieving. My guess is that the solarpanel market will go through the same pain that double glazing went through in the 1980s and still seems to be stuck in. When I had my initial contacts from genersys I had a visit from an engineer, I have yet to speak to a genersys salesman.
  • anniewanniew Forumite
    45 Posts
    for your comments.
    Robert, I hear what you say, but in fact, we do have a pool so there is definately scope for solar.
    Simon, your information is really interesting, and I look forward to visiting your website.
    I'm still researching stuff, so I'll post again with any more info.
    Cheers,
    Annie
    A party without cake is merely a meeting.
  • You can also check out this website I found (on eBay, of all places!). If you're an avid DIY'er then this appears to be a place to buy the raw panels. http://www.ukhornets.co.uk/

    Please note that I do not have personal experience or any contact with this company (yet), so do your own research as they say...
  • CardewCardew Forumite
    29K Posts
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    Simon,
    Most interesting and comprehensive site. A couple of questions if I may.

    As I understand it, you have had a capital outlay of £3,600 and your projected hot water savings are in the region of £200-300 a year when using oil fired heating. You estimate the 'hardware' will have a life of 30 years.

    In those figures for savings above you have not included the cost of borrowing the £3,600(you do mention them in your 'Strictly financial' section) Have I understood that correctly?

    Oil fired CH used to be vastly more expensive than Gas CH; I assume that is still so.

    Your chart shows that you have saved 60kWh in the whole of Feb and 206kWh from 1st to 22 March. What costs are using per kWh in your calculation of the annual saving?
    For instance the 60 and 206 kWh would save me(with Gas CH) approx £1 and £3.50 respectively.

    I appreciate that the system will produce far more hot water in the Summer months, but can you use that hot water? Do your projected savings figures assume all hot water will be used?

    It is difficult to calculate how much Gas I use for hot water, as opposed to heating. However my best guess would be approx 10,000kWh for the whole year(say £170).

    I really would be interested in investigating solar heating, but I cannot see that the economics make sense for myself or anyone with Gas CH. Or have I missed something?
  • simonm_3simonm_3 Forumite
    62 Posts
    Hello Cardew.

    I use oil which appears to hover around the cost per KWh as gas, at the moment it is a lot higher, last year it seemed to be slightly less. I don't want to repeat too much that is on my web site. Strictly financially, say I take out a loan for 3,600 at mortgage rates of about 6%. That loan / the panels now cost £216 per year which means I must cover that cost in savings and have enough (savings) left over to repay the initial cost over 20 to 30 years. Alternatively, if I have the money in my pocket I should calculate based on savings rates rather than loan rates which at say 3% gives us £108 per year plus capital.
    In my case I might also factor in the replacement of the hot water cylinder which knocks off say £800, have you seen the images of the accumulated scale?
    Savings per month or KWhs generated, do consider that these figures are for winter months and I am showing that even in the worst case there is some heat being generated. By the end of April I might well be showing an accumulated amount of over 1000 KWhs.
    On your figures, perhaps there is marginal if any financial justification for Solar, however I do also make the point that people replace perfectly good windows to get double glazing without a serious consideration of the payback, though I do agree that sound insulation can also be a good reason.

    Something else to consider is security of supply. long term gas supply is now under question, as soon as demand comes close to or outstrips supply, the price of gas will rocket, oil is already expected to hit $100 per barrel - http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/4399537.stm remember it was only $10 a barrel just a few years ago. A similar 10 fold increase in gas prices will both transform the status of solar and other renewables, sadly it will also boost the sales of some of the cowboys out there.
  • CardewCardew Forumite
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    Simon,
    I have only just noticed your reply. Certainly agree with you about the economics of replacing sound windows with double glazing.

    I have looked at your comprehensive website and you have covered most points. However there are some important questions left unanswered – unless I have missed them.

    Leaving aside the interest payments and capital repayment question; the economics of the project are based on your prediction that you will save £210 in year1 and that fossil fuel will increase in cost by 7% pa(a perfectly reasonable estimate of fuel inflation)

    It is how you arrive at this year’s figure of £210 savings that interests me. You must use a cost per KwHour in calculating that figure. If I understand the opening sentence of your last post correctly, you indicate that it is in the same ‘ball park’ as the cost of gas. Can you tell us what figure you have used?

    For instance gas costs approx 1.7p per KwH(including VAT). Therefore £210 would provide in the region of 12,000 KwH.

    From your website you will have saved approx 1,100 KwH for the complete months of February, March & April. That in gas consumption would equate to less than a £20 saving.

    I assume that as Nov/Dec/Jan are colder than Feb/Mar/Apr, your predictions are that the savings in that 3 month period will also be less than 1,100KwH

    The second point is the savings in the summer months. Undoubtedly your system has the potential to produce a lot of hot water; but can you use it? In your calculations have you assumed that all the hot water produced by your system will be used?

    Lastly, what is the relevance of the “Gas Electric and other fuel costs”(£1,000 in year 1 on your website)? Surely all that matters is the savings in monetary terms and it is irrelevant whether you spend £500pa or £3,000pa on total energy.

    Please don’t think I am trying to be critical and I totally accept that there are other environmental considerations. However with projected savings of less than £40 for the winter 6 months, and potentially producing lots of hot water in the summer when it is not needed, I cannot see how the economics work. And that is in sunny Kent and not the ‘frozen’ North!
  • simonm_3simonm_3 Forumite
    62 Posts
    Cardew
    I think the best response at the moment is time will tell. Realistically I'm not basing my cost savings on Kwh equivalent, however this gives a real measure of the amount of energy captured over time.
    As to use of all the hot water, apart from the hot tub - I wish - I have a family with 3 growing boys so daily use of dishwasher, regular clothes washing and baths and kitchen sink will keep the system working.
    Also my saving estimate is largely based on the fact that I start May with a full heating oil tank, I end September / October with it largely empty. If I avoid using that tank of oil - 1,000 litres - I save the equivalent in money. Therefore 1,000 times the cost per litre of heating oil gives me my 6 month saving, that is excluding the limited savings during the rest of the year.
    Heating oil I think is in the region of 30p per litre.
  • CardewCardew Forumite
    29K Posts
    Part of the Furniture 10,000 Posts Name Dropper Rampant Recycler
    Forumite
    simonm wrote:
    Cardew
    I think the best response at the moment is time will tell. Realistically I'm not basing my cost savings on Kwh equivalent, however this gives a real measure of the amount of energy captured over time.
    As to use of all the hot water, apart from the hot tub - I wish - I have a family with 3 growing boys so daily use of dishwasher, regular clothes washing and baths and kitchen sink will keep the system working.
    Also my saving estimate is largely based on the fact that I start May with a full heating oil tank, I end September / October with it largely empty. If I avoid using that tank of oil - 1,000 litres - I save the equivalent in money. Therefore 1,000 times the cost per litre of heating oil gives me my 6 month saving, that is excluding the limited savings during the rest of the year.
    Heating oil I think is in the region of 30p per litre.

    As you say “time will tell” and I look forward to seeing your results next January.

    However it seems to me that the only way to accurately measure savings is to calculate the input from the solar heating system in KwH and cost each KwH.

    It is impressive that it produced 800KwH in April, and obviously has the potential to produce much more in the summer. I really have my doubts if the average household will be able to use all of the hot water the system is capable of producing in the summer months. I use gas for heating hot water and in the summer months my consumption is about 200KwHs per week.
  • Simon I spoke to an agent for solar technic regarding heating and water and he assured me that only light was required not heat and the system would save me 60% on my bills over a year. The cost £12,850 with a 20 year guarantee plus one move. My question to you or anyone else with the knowledge is what grants are available and how do you go about obtaining them. Secondly who would you recommend and more importantly who would you steer clear of. Thank you in anticipation
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