How does solar water heating work?
Solar collectors, or panels, are
designed to absorb as much of the sun's heat as possible. They contain water, which
once hot usually travels to a coil in a hot water cylinder and transfers the heat to
the water there - known as an 'indirect' system. In 'direct' systems, water from the
panels goes straight into the cylinder - these are unsuitable for areas with very hard
Solar water heating panels should provide most of the hot water needs of an average
household for the sunniest four or five months of the year. The rest of the time they
will contribute to the heating needed. Over a whole year, about half of your hot water
will have been heated by the sun.
In most cases solar water heating
panels will not provide space heating because there isn't sufficient sun in the
winter, when you need heating most (although on a bright, clear winter's day they can
make a welcome contribution). Some panels will need to be drained in the winter months
to avoid frost damage. You can also use solar water heating for swimming pools.