A question that often comes up in forums and among friends is, “Which one is better? A heat pump or solar panel?”

The answer to this question is not as simple as it may seem.

In order to decide which option is best for you, it is important to understand the pros and cons of each.

Let’s take a look at both the pros and cons of heat pumps and solar panels so that you can make an informed decision.

How Solar Thermal and Heat Pumps Work

To make an informed decision, you first need to know how these systems work.

Solar thermal panels

Solar thermal panels collect the sun’s energy and convert it into heat. This heat is then used to generate electricity or to heat water. Solar panels are most effective in sunny climates or areas that don’t have too much cloud cover.

Air source heat pumps

Air source heat pumps, on the other hand, use the air around them to generate heat. They work by drawing in the outside air and using it to heat the home. Heat pumps are most effective in mild climates.

An air-to-water heat pump produces hot water for your home, while an air-to-air heat pump provides heating and cooling.

Ground source heat pumps

Instead of extracting heat from the air, ground source heat pumps extract heat from the ground. Ground source heat pumps are most effective in colder climates.

Where temperatures sit at a consistent 10°C to 15°C below ground all year round, a ground source heat pump could theoretically provide 100% of your home’s heating needs.

Benefits of solar thermal and heat pumps

No matter which system you opt for, there are a number of benefits that come with using solar thermal or heat pumps.

Let’s take a look at those differences:

Solar thermal benefits

  • Endless amounts of energy, free of charge.
  • Low and inexpensive running costs
  • No CO2 emissions during operation.
  • Very low maintenance
  • Cost savings: up to 60% less energy to heat water, up to 35% less energy for space heating.
  • Reduced consumption of fossil fuels.
  • Solar thermal systems can be integrated into existing systems.

Solar-powered underfloor heating

The most significant advantage of incorporating solar thermal with an underfloor heating system is the decreased energy costs.

Because a solar thermal installation has a very low operational cost throughout its lifetime, you may save money on your power bills each month.

The most popular and effective form of underfloor heating is screeded wet systems.

The insulation layer is affixed to the pipes, after which the screed is placed on top. The warm pipes efficiently heat up the entire slab, providing uniform and continuous heat output.

There are also environmental benefits to using solar thermal. Solar thermal systems have no emissions during operation, so they are a great way to reduce your carbon footprint.

Air source heat pump benefits

  • Low Carbon Footprint.
  • Save Money on Energy Bills.
  • Able to generate heat in temperatures as low as -25°C.
  • Highly efficient performance of 300-400%
  • Eligible for RHI.
  • Can Be Used for Heating and Cooling.
  • Can Be Used for Space Heating and Hot Water.
  • High Seasonal Coefficient of Performance (SCOP).
  • Easy Installation Process.
  • Low Maintenance – Need very little maintenance during their lifetime.

Ground source heat pump benefits

  • Geothermal is renewable and sustainable.
  • Highly efficient.
  • Underground temperatures remain at a consistent temperature all-year-round (10°C to 15°C)
  • Lowers your carbon footprint.
  • They improve air quality.
  • Very low maintenance.
  • Greenhouse gases.
  • High initial costs.

Cost of solar thermal and heat pumps

Solar thermal systems have a wide range of prices, however, you should anticipate paying between £3,000 and £6,000 (including a VAT discount of 5%). These figures include installation fees as well as all parts.

The cost of your system will be determined by the type and grade of the panels. According to the Solar Trade Association, a typical well-insulated twin coil cylinder system will set you back roughly £4,500.

It’s also possible to purchase DIY solar thermal kits, which typically cost between £1,500 and £2,500, but they are not immediately eligible for government support. To benefit from the RHI, your system must be installed by an MCS-certified installer.

The cost of supplying and installing an air source heat pump will range from £3,000 to £18,000 on average. The more expensive option is air-to-water, which costs an average of £13,000 for supply and installation. Air-to-air is significantly less expensive at around £3100 for supply and installation.

The cost of installing a 6-8 kW horizontal ground source heat pump system ranges from £10,000 to £12,500. Installing a 12 kW horizontal ground source heat pump system costs around £15,500 to £17,500.

The payback period for solar thermal is generally between 3 and 8 years, depending on the size of your system and the amount you spend on energy. For heat pumps, the payback period is between 5 and 10 years.

How much could I save?

The initial investment in a renewable heating system might be high. Especially when compared to gas boilers. However, once you’ve made that crucial first step, you may be saving money over time.

A solar water heating system’s operating expenses are near nil. All they need to do is receive heat from the sun. You may leave them alone to complete their task after other than having them serviced every few years by a specialist.

You could be making the following savings depending on your current heating system.

Heat pumps, unlike solar thermal systems, require electricity. This will result in a higher cost for electricity. A heat pump, unlike a solar thermal panel, will continue to heat the property after dark if there are no energy storage units.

If you install a heat pump on an A-rated gas or oil boiler, your energy costs may rise. Due to the higher electricity expenses. So it's best to keep your boiler and look into a heat pump after 8-10 years. Even with a heat pump, there is a way to keep your power bills down. That option is to go solar with solar PV systems.

Solar PV panels convert the sun's power into free, renewable electricity for your house. This clean energy may be used to run the appliances in your home. Solar PV panels can also operate a heat pump since they require electricity to function. This would assist you to save a lot of money on your utility bills.

Solar thermal and heat pump considerations

Solar thermal panels and heat pumps can improve the energy efficiency of your home in several ways. However, there are certain things to consider before getting either technology installed.

For example, renewable heating systems don't generate as much heat as gas or oil boilers do.

This indicates that well-insulated houses with big radiators or underfloor heating would be best suited to them. Because of this, they're ideal for homes that are well insulated and have a lot of surface area.

Solar thermal heating system considerations

  • House suitability. Whether they're a new build or an older house, most homes are suitable for solar thermal water heating systems. The only prerequisite is that the property should have a south-facing roof.
  • The number of solar panels needed - A typical solar thermal installation will have around 12 m2 of collector area. This is the size of 3 or 4 standard solar panels.
  • Planning permissions for solar panels - Solar panels are a type of "permitted development." This implies that, for the most part, planning permission is not necessary for household structures. However, it is always a good idea to check with your local authority before having them installed.
  • Home insurer checks - You should check with your home insurer whether you need to make any changes to your policy.
  • Not a complete replacement for your current heating system - Solar thermal systems are best used to supplement your existing heating system. They're not designed to be a complete replacement.
  • Orientation and shading. The solar panels need to face toward the sun to work most effectively. If there are any trees or buildings blocking the sun from reaching the solar panel, this will reduce its efficiency. In some cases, it may be possible to move the location of the solar thermal panel to get a better angle of sunlight.
  • Cost. Solar thermal systems range in price depending on their size and type. A typical domestic system costs between £3,000 and £5,000.
  • Suitable for integration with a hot water cylinder-based heating system (this eliminates solar thermal systems that feature a combi boiler).
  • House suitability. Solar PV panels can be fitted to most types of houses, including flats and bungalows as well as detached and semi-detached homes.

Air source heat pump considerations

  • Installation cost consideration of Air Source Heat Pumps - The cost of an air source heat pump installation will depend on a few different factors. These include the size of your home, the type of property, and the climate. The average cost of an air source heat pump installation is between £7,000 and £14,000.
  • Some noise as they heat the home but manufacturers aim to make them as quiet as possible.
  • Outdoor space is needed - One of the main requirements for an air source heat pump is that there should be enough space outdoors to install the unit. The exact amount of space that is needed will depend on the model of the heat pump that you choose.
  • Running costs - The running costs of an air source heat pump will depend on the size of your home, the type of property, and the climate. In general, however, air-source heat pumps are cheaper to run than gas or oil boilers.
  • Eco-friendly - Air source heat pumps are a renewable energy source. This means that they don't produce any harmful emissions and they're gentle on the environment.
  • low carbon heating system technology - Air source heat pumps are classed as a low carbon heating system. This means that they don't produce any harmful emissions, making them a more eco-friendly option than gas or oil boilers.
  • The Coefficient of Performance is a very important consideration - The Coefficient of Performance (COP) is a measure of how efficient an air source heat pump is. The higher the COP, the more efficient the heat pump.
  • The Seasonal Coefficient of Performance is another important consideration - The Seasonal Coefficient of Performance (SCOP) is a measure of how efficient an air source heat pump is over the course of a year. The higher the SCOP, the more efficient the heat pump.
  • An air-to-water heat pump must be installed with a cylinder - An air-to-water heat pump must be installed with a cylinder in order to work. The cylinder stores the hot water that is produced by the heat pump.
  • A ground source heat pump must be installed with a ground loop - A ground source heat pump must be installed with a ground loop in order to work. The ground loop is a system of pipes that are buried in the ground. These pipes circulate a mixture of water and antifreeze around the loop.

Ground source heat pump considerations

  • Energy efficiency considerations for a ground source heat pump - The energy efficiency of a ground source heat pump will depend on the size of your home, the type of property, and the climate. In general, however, ground source heat pumps are more efficient than air-source heat pumps.
  • The installation can be disruptive and take between 2-3 days - So ensure all members of your family are okay with this. It might also be a good idea to let your neighbors know in advance.
  • Retrofit installation isn’t always possible - Which means that you might have to make changes to your property in order for the heat pump to be installed.
  • The Coefficient of Performance is a very important consideration - The Coefficient of Performance (COP) is a measure of how efficient a ground source heat pump is. The higher the COP, the more efficient the heat pump.
  • The Seasonal Coefficient of Performance is another important consideration - The Seasonal Coefficient of Performance (SCOP) is a measure of how efficient a ground source heat pump is over the course of a year. The higher the SCOP, the more efficient the heat pump.
  • Aesthetics considerations for a ground source heat pump - Ground source heat pumps can be installed in a variety of ways. The most common installation method is to bury the ground loop in the ground. This can be done either horizontally or vertically. Another option is to install the ground loop above ground. This is known as an "air-source" installation.
  • Installation cost considerations for a ground source heat pump - The cost of a ground source heat pump installation will depend on a few different factors. These include the size of your home, the type of property, and the climate. The average cost of a ground source heat pump installation is between £10,000 and £20,000.

Air source vs Ground source

The greatest choice for most houses is an air source heat pump. They take up less room and are less intrusive to install.

Both heat pumps require outside space. However, burying pipes underground necessitates ground source installation. Not only does this imply that ample area is required, but it also implies that you'll need access to your home for a variety of equipment.

Which is right for your home?

Renewable heating technologies have expanded in use. Homeowners are becoming more aware of the impact they have on the environment, which has fueled their development.

Solar thermal panels and heat pumps are two highly efficient heating systems that don't pollute the air.

One of these renewable heating technologies is most likely to be better suited to your house than the other.

If you have a combi boiler, as most UK homes do, a solar thermal heating system or an air-to-water heat pump will not be appropriate. Because they must be connected to a hot water cylinder, they won't work with systems or regular boilers.

Hot water cylinders are required in properties with either a system or routine boiler but careful attention must be paid to ensure that it is solar-ready. Otherwise, it will need to be replaced.

Another advantage of solar thermal panels is that the installation isn't too disruptive. Ground-source heat pumps, on the other hand, might be difficult to install. Ground source is more difficult than air source to install.

FAQs

Can solar panels heat a house?

Yes, Solar panels may be used to generate electricity even if the light is low due to their modern designs and high-quality engineering. Even in bad weather, solar cells can produce power.

Best solar water pump

  • AISITIN 6.5W Solar Fountain Pump.
  • AISITIN 5.5W Solar Fountain Pump.
  • Anself Solar Water Pump with Built-in Storage Battery and Remote Control Type 1.
  • Anself Solar Water Pump for Garden Pond.
  • Decdeal Solar Powered Pond Pump 5W Solar Water Pump.
  • Esotec 101701 Solar Pond Pump Set Size

How do solar thermal panels work?

Solar thermal systems use solar radiation to convert sunshine into heat, which is then distributed to your home or business. Solar thermal panels are utilized in conjunction with a boiler, collector, or immersion heater.

How about wind-powered heating?

The wind-powered heater may be used to warm water for domestic or commercial uses straight from the wind. It employs a Magnetodynamic Heater, a unique technology that creates heat using magnetic induced Eddy currents.

How many solar panels are needed to run a heat pump?

Solar panels, on the other hand, come in a range of sizes and produce anywhere from 250 to 1,000 watts. To build a 1 kW system with solar panels, you'd need 4 of them. You'll need 8 solar panels for a 2kW system and 12 for a 3kw system.

What are the disadvantages of a heat pump?

  • It's expensive to install a heat pump.
  • Not suitable for every home.
  • The yield declines when the weather is cold.
  • Noises - There are two distinct kinds of noises. Loose parts within the heat pump produce rattle noises. Squeaky sounds, on the other hand, indicate that something is wrong with the pump.

Should I get a heat pump if I have solar?

It's a great idea to get a heat pump if you have solar. The efficiency of heat pumps is remarkable, but they require electricity to operate and, as a result, can be combined with solar panels to produce a Net-Zero energy home.

How much electricity does a heat pump use?

The typical household consumes around 12,000-kilowatt hours (Kwh) of heat each year. As a result, a heat pump with a CoP of three would consume 4,000 kWh of electricity each year. This amount is determined by your home's size, how well insulated it is, and the amount of hot water you use.

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