What is solar heating?

Solar heating systems are gradually becoming better known and more widely used among the general public. These days, you’re fairly likely to see solar panels installed on the roof of a new-build home, as solar heating systems are a great renewable energy option for providing heating and hot water in your home. As the name suggests, solar panels use the power of the sun to generate energy to heat your home. As heating systems go, solar panels have a number of significant advantages, but a few disadvantages as well.

How does solar heating work?

Solar panel systems are generally used to heat the hot water for your home. Solar panels can also be used to provide a portion of the energy used to heat your home’s central heating system, but will usually be in place alongside another heating energy source in your home.

This is because solar panels only produce enough heat energy to meet 30-60% of the energy the average home requires. So, you’ll usually see solar panels installed as part of home heating systems that use several energy sources to produce their full energy output.

Solar panels are pretty paradoxical heating systems, when we think about it: they’ll produce the most heating energy for your home when the sun’s rays are strongest. That’s actually when you’ll least need that amount of heating in your home, given the ambient temperature will be warmer anyway!

Solar panel systems come in three main types. In all of these, solar panels are placed on the roof of the home, or in another area that’s exposed to a lot of sun. The solar panels are filled with water, which is heated up by the sun’s rays hitting the panels. This hot water is then transferred to radiators or underfloor heating in the home. This is where the three solar panel heating systems come in:

  • 1) Solar underfloor heating transfers the hot water from the solar panels directly into hot water pipes under the floors in the home, diffusing heat throughout its living spaces via the floor

  • 2) Solar panels combined with central heating boilers that run on electricity, gas, wood pellets, etc. channel the hot water from the solar panels to the home boiler, which then heats this hot water further to reach its optimum temperature for heating the home

  • 3) With a large volume water tank, solar panels will heat the water in this tank in combination with electric energy or another boiler in the home

How do you install solar panels in your home?

The installation process depends on the variety of solar heating you want to opt for. If you’re looking to install solar underfloor heating, you’ll need to install hot water underfloor heating pipes throughout your home, connecting these up to your solar panels.

This can be a lengthy and expensive process, although it may be ultimately worth it for more efficient home heating.

If you’re looking to complement your existing central heating system with additional solar panel energy, this is a simpler process. You’ll just need to connect up your new solar panels to your current domestic heating system to start boosting your home heating with solar energy.

If you have a large volume water tank in your home, you similarly won’t need to make any replacements. You’ll just need to allow the hot water from your solar panels to help heat your home radiators or underfloor heating systems, via your hot water tank.

Installing solar panels

  • You’ll need around 10 square metres of solar panels to heat around 120 square metres of space in your home

  • Solar panels need to be installed at an inclination of 45 degrees, facing south

  • You’ll need to install a hot water tank that connects up to the solar panel system

  • You’ll need to install the hot water pipes and circulators to facilitate the movement of the water to and from the solar panels

  • Depending on your existing home heating setup, you’ll need to install hot water radiators, hot water underfloor heating pipes or an additional home boiler that runs on gas, wood pellets, etc. (as green as possible, in line with your solar panels!)

Installing a Netatmo Smart Thermostat on your home heating system allows you to program, adjust and optimise it remotely! This works for your solar panel systems and any other heating systems you have in place at home, giving you total control over your home heating, wherever you are.

Solar panels: ideal heating systems for a home swimming pool

Summer sun is the ideal energy source for heating your home swimming pool using solar panels. Given the high temperatures, you won’t need much energy to heat the pool - that makes solar energy the ideal choice!

Solar panels are an environmentally friendly, free and hassle-free solution for heating your home pool in summer.

What are the pluses and minuses of solar panels?

Plus points of solar panels

  • Pollution-free, aside from the production of the solar panels themselves

  • Solar energy is the most renewable energy source available - and it’s free!

  • Reduce your home hot water bill by 40-80% with solar panels

  • Long solar panel lifespan: 20-30 years

Minus points of solar panels

  • Solar panels only cover 30-60% of home heating needs

  • Local authority permission required to install solar panels in the home

  • Solar panels must be supplemented with other heating systems

With a Netatmo Smart Thermostat, you can reduce your home energy bill even more by regulating your wood, gas or electric systems based on your solar panel output.

Solar panels: price and yield

While the sun’s energy is free (and totally renewable), solar panel systems themselves usually require a significant initial investment.

Of course, that depends on which type of solar panel system you choose (direct solar underfloor heating, solar panels alongside a regular boiler or a solar panel hot water tank).

Solar panel systems do become profitable within a few years, as the sun’s energy is free of charge. Plus, solar panel systems are one of the most environmentally friendly home heating options out here, meaning you could be eligible for governmental aid to help you install your panels.