Domestic Solar Energy: Advantages and Disadvantages

solar panelsThe green message that solar is right should not be taken at face value. We take a look at both sides of the arguement.

Solar Energy in the home comes in a number of forms.


Firstly there is 'passive' solar heating where a clever arrangement of the whole house, with large triple glazed windows and amazing insulation combine to create a house that requires either very little or absolutely no additional heating. This is by far the greenest heating option, but can only be applied to new builds. In the UK it seems our planners still would rather we kept 'in-keeping with the look of the area' when building new houses and as a result only few passive energy houses have been built.

A second form of solar energy is to provide water heating through solar collectors. These can be cheap lightweight panels containing an insulated, dark coloured long hose beneath glasing. Sunlight warms the tube (full of water or a heating fluid such as Tyforcor) and the glasing and insulation stop the heat dissipating. A pump then takes the heated water in to the house to augment the standard boiler. This system works Ok in many latitudes and since the components are simple; so simple that many people opt for the build you own solar panel option; there is a low set up cost and a low green footprint.

The third and most common form of solar energy is solar panels which produce electricity. They are brilliant at providing electricity on south facing roofs, but they do have issues that you should be aware of. Firstly, the cost is high. Secondly they use rare elements and their manufacture requires dangerous chemicals. By buying a solar panel you may be adding to polution in china.

I am not saying that you shouldn't get one, but you really should understand the issues. You solar panel installer should be able to talk frankly about them. If they try to fudge the issue, they are probably not the company you should have installing panels for you.