Solar water panels.

There is a technology which is becoming more and more readily available, that can help out with your heating bills. You may (or may not) have heard about these before, they’re called ‘Solar Water Heating Panels’.

These panels are placed on the south-facing side of your roof, or if you have a flat roof, they are placed on a frame at a 20-50 degree angle to make the most of the suns rays, which are then used to heat stored water in a tank. These systems are so useful because they can generate around a third of your hot water needs throughout the year. Here’s the best bit though – you wouldn’t need to continuously pay for this water to be heated! Some homeowners have been known to reduce their annual energy bills by anything between 30-70%.

The savings which are made depends on the size of your property, the size of the heating installation and the amount of sunlight in your area. Your panel would be doing most of the heating, the only thing you would have to pay for would be the cost of running the small electrical pump, and the occasional running of the backup immersion heater or boiler you may have chosen to add to the system to heat the water further, or as a backup for days when there isn’t so much sunlight to power the system. When compared to using a conventional heater alone, this is a very small margin of cost. Sure, the initial cost of installing the system is a lot higher than getting a conventional heating system fitted, but you would definitely get this money back through the savings you will make on your heating bills.

These panels also reduce your carbon footprint as well as your bills as they are a sustainable and renewable source of energy. You can use a boiler, or an immersion heater as a backup for when there isn’t so much sunlight to power the system, or to heat the water coming through the system even further. Even though this would use electricity, it would be a substantial amount lower than current overall heating bills.

There are two main types of solar water heating panels – flat plate panels and evacuated tubes. Evacuated tube panels are much more efficient than the flat plate panels because even though they are smaller, they can create the same amount of hot water. You could also add a drain-back system to these panels, which would then drain the water from the panel when it is switched off to prevent it from boiling or freezing whilst inside the panel.

Solar water heating panels can provide you with around a third of your hot water needs whilst saving  you between £55 (if you have gas-powered central heating) and £80 (if you have electric central heating) a year on heating bills. The maintenance costs for this system are relatively low and most systems come with a minimum of 5-10 years guarantee, but they usually need very little maintenance. These panels can be very heavy, so consequently, your roof needs to be strong enough to hold the weight of them.

Written by Jade Turney – Building Tectonics Ltd.

Solar panel

What a code 6 house is.

We are currently working on an exciting project involving a code 6 eco house. The design for this house has been assessed using the Code for Sustainable Homes.

The code is an environmental assessment system for rating and certifying the performance of new homes in the UK. It is a set of standards which are used in the design and construction of new homes with a view to encouraging continuous improvement in sustainable home building, and it is assessed at 6 different levels, with level 6 (or code 6) being the highest.

You achieve these levels by meeting 9 different pieces of criteria, and each piece of criteria is then combines to give you an overall score showing your homes overall impact on the environment. Level 6 is the highest level that you can attain for this overall score, it shows an exemplary development in terms of sustainability.

The 9 pieces of criteria categories are as follows:

  • Energy and CO2 emissions – operational energy and emissions of CO2.
  • Water -Both external and internal water saving measures.
  • Materials – Sourcing and environmental impact of materials used to build the development.
  • Surface water run-off – Management of surface water run-off from the development and the flood risk.
  • Waste – Showing storage for recyclable waste and compost, and care taken to reduce, reuse and recycle construction materials.
  • Pollution – The use of insulation and heating systems which don’t add to global warming.
  • Health and well-being – Good daylight quality, sound insulation, private space, accessibility and adaptability.
  • Management – A home user guide, designing in security and reducing the impact of construction.
  • Ecology – Protection and enhancement of the ecology of the area and efficient use of building land.

It all sounds rather expensive doesn’t it?

There are simple and inexpensive ways to gain credits towards each piece of criteria, for example; you could specify compost and recycling bins (it may sound too simple, but it can count towards the overall score). But as with everything, there are cheaper methods, like installing solar photovoltaic panels.

Currently, compliance with the higher levels of this code is voluntary as it is more expensive to reach. Some landowners and estate agents are selling sites with an agreement made with the buyer to make the buildings there reach a certain level of the code. To comply with each assessment criteria at certain levels, your DER (Dwelling Emission Rate) should be lower than the TER (Target Emission Rate), each level had a different minimum requirement TER.

This scheme puts zero carbon development at the top of industry agenda by the Association for Environmental Concious Building. Even if there was a zero carbon building, it would only reach level 1, which is the lowest level of the scheme assessment. This is because it is only reaching a high level of one piece of criteria, so to reach a higher level, the owner(s) of the building would need to look at improving on some or all of the other 8 pieces of criteria.

Some aspects of the assessment are restricted to the public this is so that the individual doesn’t have access to the information needed to calculate data and pass the code themselves. This information is kept by the CSH (Code for Sustainable Homes) to be used by paying customers. By doing this, the CSH are not only making sure that developers reach a certain standard when building homes, they’re also making sure that developers pay for the CSH standards by restricting the information.

Written by Jade Turney – Building Tectonics Ltd.