A well installed and appropriate solar water heating system can provide free hot water from May through to October! It can then reduce your hot water bills through the rest of the year
There are lots of companies selling solar water heating, I receive 3 or 4 reply paid postcards every year, all insisting I should phone for a free survey. If you are considering Solar Water Heating and want the best system at the right price, follow these steps, avoid being ripped off and get a great system.
When you receive a leaflet through the post, by all means give them a call, don't give them your address, don't ask for a visit - however much they will say you will get a technician, a hard sell salesman will arrive. The first thing you must have before considering using any installer is a guide price. Ask them how much a normal semi with a south facing roof would cost. They dodgy ones will refuse to give a price, they will quote all sorts of rules and regulations as to why they can't give a guide price. Its all rubbish! Their aim is to get a salesman in to your house so he can sell a system at as high a price as possible!
Most legitimate installed systems cost less than £4,000. The systems from these hard selling companies, which are just the same will cost £7,000 up to £12,000. The price depends on how much they can talk you into paying and has no relationship to the cost.
Despite this, do consider solar water heating. Its a simple and easy way to start saving the planet and the honest suppliers are fortunately in the majority. Flat plate and Vacuum tube are generally equally good and about the same price. A good place to start is by going online and doing a search, start with something as simple as Solar UK which will list a lot of solar suppliers in the United Kingdom!
Another good resource is the Energy Saving Trust, though be warned that their listing of approved suppliers includes companies that are quite happy to charge a vulnerable pensioner £12,000 for a £3,000 system!
When you have done lots of homework ask for 2 or 3 different companies to visit and get some estimates. Do some more web research, see if there are any reports of bad selling techniques, there are lots of forums where people comment on poor service or over pricing!
In 2011 there will be the renewable heat incentive which will pay a tariff for all heat energy generated that avoids the emmission of CO2. This will make solar thermal even more attractive.
Last word. NEVER EVER sign up for an installation following a hard sell. No legitimate supplier will expect you to, most will refuse. If you are being pressed to sign up after that 2 hour hard sell, You are about to be well and truly ripped off!