Solar thermal energy / solar technology – how you can use the sun for your heating and hot water
Solar thermal energy and photovoltaics often come up when a house should be renovated or a new house will be built. The terms “solar thermal energy” and “photovoltaics” are explained in the following sections. Advantages of solar thermal energy, financial funding opportunities and the most important things to be considered when buying or installing such a system are discussed.
What is solar thermal energy?
Solar thermal energy means that special collectors convert solar energy into thermal energy and/or heat. This energy is used e.g. to operate a heating or to provide hot water. Solar systems like this are also called solar heating or solar collector system.
Often the terms “solar thermal energy” and “photovoltaics” are used synonymously. But this is not correct, because a photovoltaic system generates power out of solar radiation, which is either used for the own house or is fed into the public power system against payment.
What are the advantages of solar thermal energy?
What are the advantages of solar thermal energy?
Among the regenerative or renewable energy types solar thermal energy is one of the most efficient and ecologically precious methods of energy production. This energy is available unlimited except for the night and even in winter modern systems can operate effectively. With this technology private households cannot only save up to 65 percent of their heating costs, it also has a positive impact on the environment.
Solar technology is not causing any CO2 emissions and reduces the consumption of oil and gas and thus the emission of CO2 in general. Furthermore the often long transport routes of fossil fuels are not necessary any more. The investment pays off in a few years and can be sponsored by governmental grants and low-interest loans.
What has to be considered when buying and installing solar thermal energy?
Solar thermal energy is a long proven and reliable technology. Nevertheless there are several issues to be considered before buying and installing this technology because the purchase price normally is several thousand euros. Our check list is covering the most important items which have to be considered for the planning and implementation of the technology:
- In which direction is the roof inclined? An inclination to the south is optimal; but also small deviations to the east or west are acceptable.
- Which inclination angle has the roof? It should be 30 to 50 degrees for hot water treatment and 45 to 70 degrees for the combination of heating and hot water.
- Is the roof big enough for a reasonable use? Here it is best to contact a professional electrician for competent advice.
- Is the roof in the shadow sometimes?
- Is the roof strong enough to carry the system?
- Does the building regulation of the federal state allow a permission-free installation (monumental protection)?
- Is there enough space for the needed energy storage of the solar system?
Is there a financial support for solar thermal systems?
The federal office of economics and export control (BAFA) has a support program with which building owners can apply for a subsidy if they meet the requirements. The amount of the basic subsidy depends on the size and type of the system. If old boilers are exchanged against new models with condensing boiler technology, if a biomass plant, efficient pumps or an insulation with a low heat loss is installed further subsidies can be achieved. The exact figures can be determined after the planning.
The credit institute for reconstruction (KfW) (Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW)) offers different favorable credit programs which can be used by private consumers as well as by commercial operators of big systems. Other banks, too, deal in special credits for solar thermal systems but here the offers are even more limited than with photovoltaics.
Contact a specialized company
Do you want to use the solar energy for hot water treatment and heating or just for one of them? Which surface collector, which solar module is the right one for your roof? How far can I reduce my regular energy costs by solar thermal energy? As a nonprofessional you cannot answer these questions or first you have to read a lot about this subject. At the latest when it comes to delivery and installation you need a specialized company. Therefore it is better to contact an expert company right from the start. Get several offers and compare the prices and services.
Arrange a date for an on-site inspection and afterwards make up your mind whom you will give the order.
A specialized company not only offers consulting, planning and installation but also can tell exactly which support and subsidies you will get. Furthermore you can get a maintenance contract for regular function control and cleaning of your system.
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