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Sustainability: Planning is the key to trouble-free solar installations

Manufacturers of today’s solar systems provide everything the contractor, specifier and installer need in terms of products, training and back up support and with new regulations set to arrive in late 2010, now is the time to start planning ahead. Jon Cockburn, head of marketing for Heatrae Sadia gives an overview on how careful preparation and equipment selection can ensure a trouble-free sustainable project.
There is no doubt that solar water heating has become the most popular low carbon solution for contractor and customer alike. The technology offers many benefits and having solar panels on the roof adds green credentials to any building.

While much is known about solar installations and their effectiveness, it can still be viewed as a daunting prospect when such a system is requested, but products are available which are designed to take the hassle and pain away from installing a solar arrangement.

Leading manufacturers offer packages which include everything required for a project with all components integrated into one unit, providing a fast and simple solution. As well as ensuring a straightforward and hassle-free installation, there is much less disruption for the customer.


An example of such a system is Heatrae Sadia’s solar thermal version of its Electromax one-box electric heating solution. The package is, in fact, an unvented solar thermal domestic hot water system which also delivers a full wet central heating from one compact unit.

Solar packages

Generally, solar systems include a central heating boiler, an unvented cylinder with a solar coil for maximum heat input and efficiency, solar hydraulic and electric controls, an LCD display panel and expansion vessels. Modern multifunctional and easy-to-use control panels make systems easy to configure as well as allowing straightforward operation for the end user.

Primary solar system fluid is also included with all the necessary connecting pipe-work to link the cylinder to the solar collectors, which further eases the installation process.

Electromax Solar is available with flat plate, in-roof or on-roof solar collectors, making it suitable for a wide range of properties in the UK. In the case of new build projects, the system enables contractors to solve many electric SAP calculation dilemmas. For example, in a typical two bedroom flat with a Target Emissions Rating, or TER, of 32.07, installing a typical electric boiler and unvented cylinder would give a score of 35.81, which is a fail. However, specifying a new Electromax Solar or similar system with an appropriate collector brings that down to 30.43, which passes.

The Electromax Solar unit

When working on projects where no mains gas is available, for example new apartment developments or in rural areas, gas fuelled heating is sometimes an impractical or unavailable option and electricity becomes the best alternative for the provision of heating and hot water. This can pose issues when trying to meet the government’s SAP targets because of the current methods of electricity generation, despite the fact that electric products are highly efficient at the point of use.

However, by using an electric/solar arrangement which uses renewable energy from the sun, SAP targets can be met more easily.

Solar compatible heating

For projects where a complete solar system is not mandatory, the selection of solar compatible heating and hot water equipment is advisable, enabling the system to have a solar solution added at a later stage.

There are many ways equipment manufacturers can provide support to those seeking sustainable solutions. Valuable advice on the overall project can be provided at the outset on topics such as the size of the property and its anticipated hot water usage. Incorrect sizing can lead to an inefficient system and this is where equipment manufacturers can help.

The siting of solar panels is also important as every application is different. For example installing a solar system in Cornwall, which is recognised as being the UK’s best spot for harnessing the sun, does not guarantee maximum energy retention. In such a situation the panel needs to face the sun and getting this wrong could lead to valuable heat being lost. To ensure the best results, the panels should be on a south facing roof at an inclined angle of 30-50° to the horizontal. As this is not always practical, a variety of different mounting options are available, including inserted panels which lie flush with the roofing tiles.

The majority of leading heating and renewable equipment manufacturers offer dedicated solar training courses, but they can also provide advice and assistance on the best approach to solar installations.

Undoubtedly renewables, in particular solar, will increasingly feature in future projects and solar packages are becoming more the norm. By working with manufacturers and taking advantage of the wealth of knowledge and expertise they can provide, successful sustainable projects can easily be achieved.
8 August 2010

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