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Daylight is fairly constant and predictable, even in the UK – so it’s no surprise solar hot water panels are among the most reliable renewable technologies available to self builders and renovators. These arrays collect energy from the sun and repurpose it to warm water for everyday washing and bathing. They’re rarely used to contribute to space heating – partly because the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) cashback scheme only pays out if the energy is put into domestic hot water (DHW).

Much of the work in heating water is needed to take it from cold to a lukewarm temperature – so even on dull days, a solar thermal array can be of benefit. Well-designed and operated systems can provide 50% of the energy required to meet a household’s annual DHW demand (depending on location). This is known as the solar fraction.

Another source (usually a fossil fuel boiler) will be required during winter in order to act as a backup across the rest of the year.

On this project, Vitosol 200-T vacuum tube panels from Viessmann have been used as an architectural feature

Harnessing free energy from the sun could cut your heating bills in half, says Nigel Griffiths, but is it the right system for you?

How solar thermal works

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June 2017
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About Build It

The June edition of Build It magazine is packed full of inspiration and advice for your self build, renovation or extension project - including: • An amazing oak frame self build (page 20) • Total makeover of a 1960s house (page 39) • How to self build on a budget (page 64) • Can solar hot water panels save you money? (page 71) • Design details: exposed beams (page 74) • Guide to designing the perfect barn conversion (page 90) • Assessing a building plot's potential (page 100) … and more!