With long winter nights and the usual cloud cover over Ireland many think that solar panels are not suited to work properly with the Irish Climate.
However, did you know that the amount of solar energy that Ireland receives each day is nearly identical to other countries in northern Europe! Solar panels work in all forms of daylight and all year round making Ireland just as suited to solar heating as Germany and Austria, two of the front runners in the use of solar energy.
In Ireland up to 60%-70% of your annual hot water requirements can be achieved using solar panels – any short fall will be automatically achieved by your backup heating source. It is even possible to reach 100% in summer time.
Once installed solar panels have no running costs and you are using free energy from the sun to heat your water! It has been estimated that you could save annually up to 50% on your home heating bill.
The ESB have calculated that;
A three square metre solar water heating panel can contribute up to 1500 kWh of the Sun’s energy per year to domestic water heating requirements depending on a range of factors. This is approximately the same as heating 187 cylinders of hot water of 120 litre capacity. Saves up to 1500 kWh per year = €225 = 823kgs CO2 ( based on Domestic Urban Tariff 2008). This is about the same CO2 saved if you reduced your car usage by 5179 km in a small family car.
Types of Solar Panels
There are 2 types of Solar Panels:
- Flat Plate
- Evacuated Tube (also called vacuum tubes)
Evacuated tubes are more suited to the Irish climate than the flat plate panels. Due to the round shape of evacuated tube they collect a larger amount of energy from a less powerful source. This is ideal for the Irish climate where regular cloud cover is quite usual!
Flat plate solar panels do not catch as much solar energy as evacuated tubes. Their flat shape makes them more suited to where strong sunlight is prominent.
Evacuated solar tube panels come in several different sizes. Depending on how many people are living in the house will dictate how many Solar Panels you will need.
Which way should they face?
To ensure maximum efficiency in Ireland, solar panels should ideally be mounted on a south / south-east / south-west facing roofs. This enables the panels to receive as much direct solar radiation as possible. Solar panels will also work on east or west facing roofs; however, a larger area of solar panels may be required to compensate for the reduced level of sunlight.
The angle of your panels will be most effective when the angle of the sun is at right angles with the plane of the collector. Of course the solar angle changes throughout the day and the year. On average over the year, the optimum inclination angle for the Collector in the United Kingdom and Ireland is around 30-40 degrees, which coincidentally, is the normal pitch of a roof in this part of Europe.
Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI) have promoted the use of solar panels in the Residential market via a range of grants available through the Greener Homes Scheme. Phase 3 of the scheme has been open to applications since July of last year.
The following grants are available for solar panels for Hot Water and Space Heating:
- €250 / Square Metre for Flat Plate Solar Panels, to a maximum of 6 M