Monday, 1 September 2008

Solar water heating: the beginning

The hallway is full of stuff. But not as full as I had expected. I thought the hall would be full of panels, tubes, boxes.

After a few months investigations into solar energy, and considering the ins- and outs- of the various options, Darling Husband (DH) recently placed an order for the necessary equipment to use solar power to heat our water.

It was a few years ago that DH first expressed interest in doing something. We were having a second storey put on our kitchen extension, and we were wondering whether to do solar panels at the same time. We decided to wait and see whether the Government would get its act together, and time passed.

We had come back to the idea several times in the intervening years. Should we heat water? Or should we go the whole hog and generate electricity, supplying the extra back to the Grid? What was available? What was the cost? Would it work?

Then we had a period of uncertainty where we were seriously thinking about moving house. We spent money having a fence put up, as it was cheaper than moving. Then I concentrated on my chickens. Then we thought again about moving, getting as far as deciding which area of the country we wanted to move to, getting our house valued, and then visiting the new area to see exactly which villages we would consider.

Anyway, life moved on, things happened, and we decided we weren't going to move after all. So solar was back on the agenda. DH did a lot of detailed research and decided that we would go for the water heating option (rather than the full generation option). And to cut a not very long story even shorter, he ordered the stuff we needed a week or so ago.

I have to confess here that, up to this point, I've left the decisions to DH. Now it's actually going to happen though, I want to make sure I understand it all.

The new hot water tank, which is a necessary part of the process as it has coils in to heat the water by solar and to heat it up by gas central heating, is taller and narrower than I was expecting. I was adamant that we had to have a tank that had at least the same capacity as our existing tank, so this is what we've ended up with. This new tank will have the pipes all on the same side, which we hadn't really been expecting, so we could have had a shorter fatter tank. Never mind, it's here now.

We installed a water softener a couple of years ago, and I'm expecting that the new tank will be much more efficient than the old one, even without the solar heating. The old one is about 11 years old, and for 9 of those years we had that very hard water typical of our part of the country. I don't know if I'm right, but I would expect that the old tank to have a thick inner coating of limescale build up, much worse than the washing machine in the Calgon ad.

I wonder what we'll do with the old tank? Will we cut it open so I can see inside?

On a practical note, we'll have to reorganise the airing cupboard completely to accomodate the new tank, because I don't just use the shelves for spare bedding and towels, I also have a shelf in there which I use for proving dough, and I wonder how we'll fit that in. Maybe at the side? Mind you,the new tnk has a smaller girth, so we might be able to put shelves in front of it, which we can't currently do.

The airing cupboard walls are the only walls we haven't had replastered (we renovated this house from foundation to roof), and I know the plaster in ther is shot to pieces. Taking the old tank out will give us an opportunity to fix that too.

Apparently, fitting the tank is the first task. That's probably not going to happen for a little while, as DH just happens to have a lot of work on for the next couple of weeks. I have a cousin who is a CORGI registered plumber, I was going to ask him to come and service my central heating boiler so I might see how much he would charge to fit the new tank.

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