Thermal Solar Technology

The Halfway House Solution

As the industry continues to work towards the mass uptake of renewable technologies in the domestic sphere, let us explain why a halfway house solution is the key stepping stone in moving towards renewables one step at a time.

With the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) Premium Payment scheme now in operation, the encouragement is there for the homeowners to look at the renewable technologies available with a view to improve the heating within the home.

That said, we have a National grid gas network to which over 80% of our homes are connected. This existing infrastructure means that the domestic boiler will still have a part to play for the foreseeable future; however heating engineers now have a renewed opportunity to use renewable technologies alongside a boiler to improve overall efficiency and reduce energy bills.

Solar thermal is perhaps the best example of how renewable technology can be used alongside a condensing boiler in order to maximise both energy efficiency and value for money.

By harnessing energy from the sun and converting it into useable heat, which is then used to provide hot water, a well sized solar system consisting of two panels (on average) can typically provide up to 60% of a home's hot water requirements over a 12 month period. This, of course, is hot water the boiler has not been required to provide, which has a subsequent impact on  the demand for fuel.

Although the summer months are the most productive for solar gain, when installed on a south facing  roof and angled at 30-45 degrees fro the horizontal for optimum performance, solar thermal panels can also continue to to deliver a certain amount of hot water during the winter too, even on cloudier days.

In order to install a thermal system alongside an existing boiler, a twin coil cylinder should be used, which can be installed at the point of fitting the panels or, in some cases, before the installation takes place. For instance, when carrying out boiler installations, heating engineers can always advise their customers why it can pay to become 'solar ready' by installing a twin-coil cylinder at the point of updating their central heating system.

A new twin-coil cylinder improves efficiency by offering significantly better insulation levels than the older cylinder it is replacing. With fuel prices remaining high, it represents a worthwhile investment for the homeowner, who not only improves energy efficiency in the short term, but also future-proofs their property for the possible addition of further technologies.

Fitting twin-coil cylinders mean engineers can always revisit customers at a later date if they are not quite ready to take the plunge but think they might like to have the benefit of solar thermal panels for hot water provision in years to come.

That said, with the RHI offering financial incentives for both ground sourced heat pumps and air to water heat pumps, these technologies are sharing the spotlight as far as the availability of government funding is concerned.

A modern condensing boiler can operate at an efficiency level of up to 90%, making it a worthy move towards improved energy efficiency in its own right. Combined with the right renewable technology and compatable control system however, the domestic condensing boiler can give the homeowner a glimpse into the future of domestic heating efficiency.

The halfway house strategy would give heating manufacturers, heating engineers and consumers a clear roadmap to follow, enabling all links in the chain to prepare themselves, with the relevent training in particular, for each stage.  

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