Solar – Nov 2006

Despite a rather damp reputation we actually do pretty well for sun in this part of Somerset. And as budding environmentalists it always seemed to be the ideal place to start when thinking about how to power and heat our home. Until the government find a way, it isn’t currently possible to tax sunlight so the basic raw material is free and I think the old star has a few million years life left in her.

Converting that free sunlight into something useful gets a little more expensive. In our last house we installed Photovoltaic cells which convert the light into electricity and we managed to create almost 50% of our household needs from the cells. This time around we thought we would try Solar Water tubes which heat our domestic water. Luckily and crucially we had a south facing roof with no obstructions except the huge and beautiful flocks of starlings that often roost in Heath House. Prices for the tubes vary but if you include a qualified installer you will be looking at around the £3,000 mark though you will get a derisory grant of about £400 back from the government.

Once you’ve decided to go for the tubes, be very careful about whom you get to install them. Like anything, there are a lot of crooks out there willing to put tubes on any old north facing roof just to get a sale! We found an excellent plumber/eco engineer in John Adams (who can be found advertising in these pages) and he installed the tubes with ease.

Payback? Well, depending on how you currently heat your water the payback will be between 5 and 10 years. But such things to us are largely irrelevant. We can afford the solar tubes, they drastically reduce our domestic CO2 emissions, so we did it. Easy!