Can I use solar to heat my home?

solar thermal with pv
Can solar be used for heat?

This is a question that I get asked a lot and usually the person is asking if the hot water generated from a solar thermal system can be used to provide heat for the heating system instead of for the hot water tank.

The answer to this is yes it can but it requires a thermal store which, as the name suggests, stores heat which can then be pumped around the building as and when required. This is a great solution for a very large house (e.g. 6 bedrooms plus) or a commercial building but is not suitable for a normal domestic dwelling as the thermal stores are so big (1000l and rising!) that they just aren’t practical or cost effective.

However, solar can be used to heat your home in the form of solar pv. You are probably pretty familiar with electric storage heaters. People who have these usually have a dual-tariff electricity supply where electricity is cheaper at night-usually known as Economy 7. The storage heaters build up a bank of heat by being slowly heated with the cheap electricity at night. The heat is then slowly dissipated throughout the day.

storage heaters
the humble storage heater

The problem with storage heaters is that there’s not a lot of control-it is usually stones/bricks that are heated up within the heaters and you can’t really turn a stone off!  The good news is that this system has been updated for the solar age. With solar pv and battery storage, a large bank of electricity can be built up and then electric radiators used to dissipate heat when and where you want it. They are fully controllable via thermostats and you will have the greatest amount of electricity in the battery when you really need it-in the evening. This is when the storage heaters are usually starting to run out of heat.

For properties who are on Economy 7, the more advanced batteries, such as Tesla, are able to switch between solar storage and mains storage. This means that for most of the year, you can get the benefit of the solar pv stored in the battery, and then for the winter months when solar generation is low, the batter can be fed by Economy 7…the best of both worlds!

So, yes, solar can heat your home! Give us a call if you want a free consultation to see how this could be done for you.

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