How to buy solar panels Solar water heating prices and savings

Solar hot water panels

Solar hot water systems can be flat plate or evacuated tubes

In our solar water heating guide you will find out how much solar water heating systems cost, and how much you could save if you had one installed. 

You will also find out about available financial support and the pros and cons of solar water heating systems.

Solar water heating price and saving

Solar water heating panels typically cost between £3,000 and £5,000, and will potentially save you between £65 and £125 a year on water heating costs. There are bigger savings to be made if you're currently using LPG (liquid petroleum gas) to heat your water.

Solar water heating and free cash

The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) is a government scheme that pays consumers for generating heat by using renewable energy. But in order to qualify for the RHI, your home will need to meet minimum energy-efficiency standards. 

So we recommend that you first make sure your home is as energy-efficient as possible, then think about which types of renewable energy technology – including solar panels – might suit you. 

And remember - the more energy-efficient your house is, the less heat you will lose and therefore the less heat you will need to generate in the first place. This means that you should require a smaller heating system, cheaper to purchase upfront and cheaper to run in the long run.

Do be aware that the RHI scheme is in a consultation period until the end of April 2016. Proposed changes include dropping solar thermal from the scheme. We will update any information on the RHI  if this proposal comes into effect.

For now, you can find out more about RHI, including how to claim free cash for installing a solar water heating system, in our guide to the Renewable Heat Incentive

Pros and cons of solar water heating systems

Pros of solar water heating systems

  • solar water heating can provide you with about a third of your hot water needs
  • solar water heating can save you between £65 a year (if you have gas central heating) and £125 (if you use LPG) on your water heating costs
  • maintenance costs are very low - most solar water heating systems come with a five to 10-year warranty and require little maintenance
  • it uses the sun’s heat - so there are no further costs once you've had the equipment installed, except, in most cases, a small amount of electricity needed to run the pump. In most systems, the pumping cancels out only about 8% of the energy savings, and newer technology can reduce this to 3% or even zero
  • in England, planning permission for most solar water installations is no longer needed - and governments in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are currently discussing introducing similar initiatives
  • the RHI provides payments to owners of solar heating systems.

Cons of solar water heating systems

  • you'll still need a boiler or immersion heater to make the water hotter, or provide hot water when solar energy isn't available (on overcast days, for example)
  • an unshaded, mainly south-facing location is necessary for positioning the solar panels
  • initial costs are higher than for conventional electric and gas-heater systems
  • solar panels can be heavy, so your roof must be strong enough to take their weight. Especially if the panel is to be installed on top of existing tiles
  • the cost of a typical solar water heating system is between £3,000-£5,000 - a fairly expensive solution. Although the RHI does provide some financial help
  • Which? went undercover to investigate solar water heating companies and posed as householders wanting to buy a system. We found that 10 out of 14 companies exaggerated the potential savings. You can watch a solar panel salesman in action in our undercover video.

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