A guide to switching to solar energy

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As the cost of heating our homes using fossil fuels is rising, solar energy systems provide an easy solution to cutting both our carbon emission and our energy bills. After a one-off cost of buying the system and getting it installed, solar panels are cheap, easy to maintain, clean, efficient and quiet. Now seems the ideal opportunity to make the change to a renewable energy source, with the government providing grants until 2008.

What is solar energy equipment? How does it work?

  • Panels are fitted on the roof of a house at an angle. This increases the amount of radiation received from the sun – it is more efficient than if the panel were on a flat surface. These double glazed panels heat up with the suns energy.
  • An electronic device monitors the temperature of the solar collector, or panel, and the water in a cylinder. Older systems use conventionally-generated electricity to run this electronic monitor, but newer equipment now uses solar power throughout the system, making it more energy efficient.
  • Older systems would mix antifreeze with the water it pumped through the pipes. Advances in solar technology now mean that freeze-tolerant systems are available, which pump the heated water to your existing water cylinder, rather than replacing it with a new cylinder. This means there is less disruption during installation.
  • Once the monitor detects the right temperature has been reached, water (or water and anti-freeze, depending on the system) is pumped to the cylinder. The hot water sits on the top of any cooler water already in the cylinder, where it is stored until used.
  • Newer solar systems use pumps which reduce the rate of pumping when there is not as much sunlight. As a result, this provides roughly the same water level increase all the time, regardless of whether it is sunny or cloudy.

What are the advantages of solar equipment over conventional energy services?

Recently the United Kingdom is hitting over 20% energy from renewable sources such as solar panels. The government has pledged to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 50 per cent by 2050 – having solar panels fitted is a very effective way of cutting your own emissions, as well as avoiding the rising energy costs associated with fossil fuel and reducing your energy bill. The systems themselves are efficient, clean and easy to maintain.Some companies, including Chester-based firm Solar Twin, offer a complete carbon-free service. From advertising, manufacturing, installation and the running of the solar system, no carbon is used, making it even more eco-friendly. Solar Twin provides the new type of system, mentioned above, which is freeze-tolerant and uses your existing water cylinder.