Solar Heat

Another Girton family have landed themselves in hot water this summer, thanks to the power of the sun! Far from being in trouble, however, they are very happy: they’ve installed solar hot water panels on their roof.

The solar panels heat up during the day when the sun shines on them, and this heat is pumped into the hot water cylinder. This means they don’t need to use their boiler to heat the hot water, and so make big savings on their gas bill. There are great environmental benefits too: burning less gas means less pollution, which means less global warming and cleaner air for us all.

There’s nothing new about hot water solar panels. Many residents in Girton have had them for years. However, modern panels can offer higher performance, meaning they will work even on cloudy days, and in the winter. In summer the panels provide all the hot water the family can use, and they expect them to carry on doing so for a few months yet. In winter, as the days are shorter and the sun is weaker, they will have to use the boiler to top up the hot water temperature, but the solar panels will still make some contribution.

The tubes of the solar panels are installed on the roof.

The panels themselves were installed in a day, with a further day for the plumbing work inside. It was most impressive when on the first day they were turned on – a long hot day in July – the whole 250 litre tank was warmed from cold to 75 degrees Celsius. Since then, the boiler hasn’t been turned on once, despite some days when the sun didn’t make it through the clouds.

The controller shows the temperature of the hot water.

It won’t surprise you that an installation like this doesn’t come cheaply. If you wanted something similar, it would be around three to four thousand pounds. While this is a big financial outlay, the savings on gas bills should pay back the cost over the coming years, particularly as energy prices are continuing to rise. To encourage more people to install solar panels, the government offers a �400 grant towards the cost of the system, and Cambridge residents (although sadly not Girton) can get a further �250 from the local council. South Cambs District Council have set up a free information and advice service for those interested in renewable energy schemes, called Cambridge Energy For Good: http://www.cambridge-energy4good.org.uk.