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Solar water heating

Solar Water Heating Prices and Savings

By Sarah Ingrams

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Solar Water Heating Prices and Savings

Our solar water heating guide shows you how much solar water heating systems costs and how much you could save if you had one installed. 

Can installing a solar water heating system pay for itself? Read on to find out more.

You'll also find out about available financial support to help you pay for a solar water system, and the pros and cons of solar water-heating systems.

Solar water-heating prices and savings

Solar water-heating panels typically cost between £3,000 and £5,000, and will potentially save you between £50 and £100 a year on water heating costs. 

The biggest savings are to be made if you're currently using LPG (liquid petroleum gas) to heat your water. If you’re replacing gas heating, savings are likely to be around £60 per year.

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, including using solar water heating. For a two-bed semi-detached house, you could earn an estimated £273 per year through the scheme. 

But in order to qualify for the RHI, your home will need to meet minimum energy-efficiency standards. 

We recommend you first make your home as energy efficient as possible.

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'll lose and, therefore, the less heat you'll need to generate in the first place. This means that you should need a smaller heating system, which will be cheaper to buy and to run.

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 £60 a year (if you have gas central heating) and £100 (if you use LPG) on your water heating costs.
  • Maintenance costs are very low. Most solar water-heating systems come with a 5 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.
  • You don't need planning permission for most solar water-heating systems in the UK. But if your home is a listed building or in a conservation area of World Heritage Site, check with your local planning officer.
  • The RHI scheme provides payments to owners of solar water-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).
  • Not all boilers are compatible with solar water heating; for example if you have a combi-boiler and you don’t have a hot water tank .
  • 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. 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 salesperson in action in our undercover video.