I've always been interested in greener living through use of technology. Over the past 30 years solar energy has gone from being something incredibly complicated and expensive, to being much more commonplace and relatively affordable. Sure, it's still not "cheap", but you can get a variety of grants from the Irish government if you improve your house's energy efficiency and thus reduce your footprint. Before I'd even bought the house I'd been looking into solar energy, as I thought that it would be a nice thing to incorporate into any house that I got. So when I got the house and started doing some work on it upgrading the heating system and adding some solar energy into the mix made sense. Now that "idea" is reality and I'm delighted.
When I last talked about the solar
panels tubes they were being mounted on the side of the house. In the end they were mounted at the back of the house:
They look a little like an awning and don't take up that much space on the wall. If I ever build an extension I'd have to reposition them, but apart from that I think the location is fine. The back of the house isn't accessible to the public and is 100% on my property.
At the moment the weather isn't wonderful, but even so I'm still getting over 20°C of hot water from the solar system.
The entire thing ties back in to a bunch of controls in the hot cupboard beside the main bathroom upstairs.
The red dial on the left shows the input temperature coming from the solar tubes on the outside of the house, while the one on the right is the return temperature.
There's also this digital console that shows information about the heat in various parts of the tank:
According to friends who have similar systems installed they're able to get pretty much all of their hot water from April to October from the solar energy. The solar panels, aren't actually panels, but tubes, which are meant to be more efficient than panels.
If I'm getting over 20 degrees on an overcast day in February, then that's pretty good, as that's 20 degrees of heating that I'm not paying for. (Sure - I am paying for the installation of the solar panels .. )
Being able to get "free" hot water even for part of the year is wonderful. I've also been using lower powered and more efficient light bulbs where possible, so the overall footprint is relatively low, though there's still room for improvement.
There are still a few minor things to be cleaned up in relation to the heating system, but overall I'd hope to see an improvement in the house's BER rating as a result of the investment. As I'm living in the house the BER rating and everything else isn't important in terms of selling the house, but improved heating and power efficiency throughout the house will mean my running costs per annum will be reduced.
I've still got several older electrical appliances that I inherited with the house that probably aren't as efficient in terms of power usage as newer models, but I'll hold off replacing them until I actually need to ie. when they actually break.