How To Install Solar Thermal Panels?

Roof-mounted solar panels are the primary source of heat generation, which is combined with a boiler, collector, or immersion heater. The solar collector will heat a transfer fluid, which is often a mixture of water and glycol (antifreeze) to keep the water from freezing.

Is it possible for me to install my solar panels myself?

Solar panel installation is something that you can perform on your own. There are solar systems made expressly for do-it-yourselfers that, while time-consuming at times, should be possible.

It’s worth mentioning, though, that many DIY solar panels aren’t meant to be connected to the power grid. They’re more for off-grid applications, like as powering RVs or other areas that aren’t generally supplied by a traditional utility. DIY solar panels can be used to augment your standard energy source if you just need a little amount of power. If you want to use solar energy to power your entire home, you need probably hire a professional.

Installing a complete solar energy system necessitates basic electrical knowledge in order to properly handle the wiring and other technical issues. You’ll almost certainly have to work in potentially hazardous situations, such as on your roof or with underground cables. Crossed wires can cause malfunction and even electrical fires, so the stakes are high if something goes wrong. Depending on your municipality’s zoning restrictions, it may also be illegal for you to conduct this work without the assistance of a professional.

If you have any queries concerning your home installation project, please consult a trained professional.

Step-by-step instructions on how to install solar panels

The roof is the most popular place for solar PV panels to be installed. The ideal installation parameters are usually present on most rooftops, ensuring that panels receive the maximum amount of sunlight.

Solar panels can also be put on the ground if roof installation is not possible or desired. All you have to do now is make sure that nothing is blocking your view of the sun.

Install Solar Panel Mounts

The solar panel mounting system must then be installed. The solar panels’ foundation will be supported by this. To get the most solar exposure, the entire mounting structure must be inclined at an angle of 18 to 36 degrees.

Install the Solar Panels

The solar panel must be put on the mounting framework once the mounts are in place. To keep it stable, make sure all of the bolts and nuts are tightened.

Wire the Solar Panels

The electrical wiring is the next step in the installation procedure. MC4 connections are commonly used since they are compatible with all types of solar panels. During the wiring installation, make sure to turn off the power to the house.

Install Solar Inverter

After that, the system must be connected to the solar inverter. It’s usually mounted near the main panel and can be found both indoors and out. When inverters are kept in a colder environment, they perform better.

If the inverter is outside, it should be protected from the sun in the afternoon. If it’s installed indoors, the garage or utility room are usually the best options because they’re cool and have airflow for the majority of the year.

Bond Solar Inverter and Solar Battery

Following that, the solar inverter must be linked to the solar battery. Solar battery storage can help you avoid worrying about a lack of usable energy during overcast days, as well as reduce the cost of installing a solar battery storage system.

Connect the Inverter to the Consumer Unit

To generate electricity, the inverter must be linked to the consumer unit. A generation meter should also be installed to track the amount of electricity generated by the solar panels. You can examine the functioning of your solar system using your computer or another device. You can, for example, look at how much electricity you create at different times and determine when the best time is to use your washing machine or other utilities.

Start and Test Solar Panels

The final step is to turn on the power and test the solar panel system that has just been installed. The solar panel installation procedure is then done.

Most solar thermal systems are installed in one of two ways.

The most typical method of mounting solar thermal collectors is to use specialized roof hooks, mounting frames, and clamps to attach them directly to your home’s rafters.

I’m not sure how many solar thermal panels I’ll need.

Solar water heating (also known as solar thermal) heats water that is subsequently used in your bathroom or kitchen. Solar energy may meet more than half of your annual hot water needs even in foggy Britain.

Solar water heating is distinct from solar photovoltaic (PV) technology, which generates energy. Solar PV panels’ power can be used to heat water, however solar water heating is more efficient. This implies it will take up a lot less roof space for the same energy production as PV panels. To generate the most amount of renewable energy from your available roof surface, your home could have both solar thermal and solar PV.

Domestic hot water for showers, baths, and hot taps can account for a major amount of total energy use in bigger households. This is especially true once a home has been well-insulated to lessen the need for space heating.

Is my home suitable for solar?

Solar collectors facing south-east or south-west, at an angle of between 20 and 50 degrees, will produce the best results. An east or west facing panel, on the other hand, can still be worthwhile if it is around 20% larger.

Solar water heating is appropriate for a home with a high need for hot water, such as a family or a house-share. It will not be as cost-effective for a one-person household with modest hot water usage (and in that case you might be better just diverting a proportion of output from a PV array).

To store solar-heated water, you’ll need a cylinder or tank, just like with heat pumps and biomass boilers. As a result, combining solar water heating with a combi boiler is difficult. For additional information about combi boilers and solar energy, see the linked question below.

The most prevalent type is rooftop panels, which are installed in a location that minimizes pipe runs to the cylinder. Alternatively, if the panels will have a clear view, you could install them at ground level. For further information on solar panel planning permission, see the linked FAQs below.

How does solar water heating work?

  • Numerous inputs, such as a hot water cylinder with two heating coils (a twin-coil cylinder) or other multiple inputs.

The controller switches on the pump to circulate fluid to the coil and heat the cylinder when the fluid in the collector is hotter than the water in the cylinder. To enable for top-up heating in the winter or during bad weather, the cylinder requires more than one coil or input. The extra heat can come from a traditional boiler or a renewable energy source like a biomass boiler or a heat pump.

Which collector type is best?

In the UK, correctly sized panels of either type can perform admirably and provide comparable value for money. Evacuated tubes, for example, may function better on chilly sunny days, but in the UK, we rarely have enough of that type of weather to make a significant impact. Flat panels may appear to blend in better aesthetically than tubes, which may be a consideration in some homes.

How many panels or tubes will I need?

In the summer, you’ll need roughly 1 square metre per person to provide enough hot water. In the case of flat panels, this usually translates to one panel for a small household and two panels for a larger one. Depending on the size of your family and how much hot water you consume, you may need 20 or 30 tubes for tube collectors.

The cylinder’s size is critical, as you’ll normally need one that’s nearly double the size of a standard cylinder. This is due to the fact that a taller cylinder can contain more solar-heated water and meet more of your demands. A large cylinder provides greater buffer to get you through cloudy spells, reducing the need for backup heating.

Your installer should determine the amount of hot water you require and size the panel and cylinder accordingly. They’ll ask you a few questions about how you use hot water so they can create a system that works for you.

What’s the likely cost and payback?

Depending on the number of people in your home, a roof-mounted system might cost between 3,000 and 6,000. If you conduct other repairs (when needed) on your central heating or roof, or if you’re building a new home, you can save money on piping and scaffolding.

Because the previous government incentive program has come to an end, there is no longer any specialized assistance for solar water heating. Local schemes may exist in some areas; you can contact me for further information, or visit the government’s Simple Energy Advice website.

Recent increases in fuel prices will increase the savings from solar water heating, but without market incentives, the financial payback could take a long time.

A solar water heating system for a family of four may provide 1500 kWh of heat per year. With gas prices rising to around 8 pence per unit (kilowatt-hour, kWh), this would save roughly 120 per year, or a few thousand pounds over the life of the system. The scenario will change once more in Autumn 2022, when gas prices are predicted to climb again.

With electricity rates approaching 30 cents per kWh, a family may save more than 400 per year if solar water heating replaces direct electric heating. This might result in a payback in as little as 15 years. However, because future rises and declines in electricity prices will have an impact, it’s difficult to give an accurate payback estimate at this time.

How do I find a solar water heating installer?

Finding a trained professional installer to install a solar water heating (solar thermal) system is critical to ensuring the system is properly built and the control system is set up. It’s important to compare quotations from a few different installers to ensure you get a reasonable price.

The Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) maintains a database of approved installations and goods.

In addition, some installers join other professional associations that maintain standards on their own volition. The Renewable Energy Consumer Code (RECC), the Association of Plumbing and Heating Contractors, and the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering are all good places to start.

Links and further information

See the books we sell for more information. One of these is the Low Impact Living book on solar hot water, which also offers DIY instructions.

You can also come to CAT to see the solar water heating systems that we have on exhibit. A one-day seminar called Renewables for Households: Solar Hot Water is also available.

When it comes to solar thermal panels, how long do they last?

A properly built and installed solar thermal system should endure for more than 25 years, and we’ve worked on systems that are over 30 years old and still working. We have, however, serviced systems that are less than a year old yet are already too damaged to be of much use. If you’re considering solar thermal, it’s critical that you find a trustworthy installer in whom you have faith and who can provide you with all of the information you require.

Why are solar panels a waste of money?

Because solar panels cannot store electricity, their production will be reduced in overcast conditions and will be nil at night. As a result, most home solar systems necessitate the usage of a solar battery. When evaluating if solar panels are worth it for you, keep this additional expense in mind.

Is it possible for everyone to install solar panels?

Solar panels are becoming increasingly popular as more people seek to self-sustain their households’ electrical needs. The government has set up incentives such as solar panel grants to make solar panels more accessible for everyone in the UK. Investing in solar panels, however, can be a significant investment that some people are unwilling to do. So, what are your options? Of course, you can construct it yourself.

To cut to the chase, yes, you can make your own solar panels, at least partially, depending on your level of craftsmanship. Sizing the solar panel system, selecting which components best suit your needs, mounting and installing the solar panels, the solar inverter, and safety disconnects are all part of the DIY process. Even if you do not completely install the solar panels, the more you do, the less expensive hiring a professional technician will be.

Installing Electrical System

Circuitry is the most difficult component of installing solar panels on your own, but anyone with a basic understanding of wiring can do it. Of course, if you are unsure about doing this on your own, you should engage a certified electrician to complete the wiring and metering into your home.

Is it necessary for me to get approval for solar panels?

Is it necessary to obtain planning clearance in order to install solar panels? The majority of the time, the answer is no. Solar panels are usually not required to be approved by the local planning authority because they are a “permitted development.”