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What are Thermodynamic Panels?

Thermodynamic Panels: A renewable heating system that heat your home using the air outside

Thermodynamic panels could give your home free hot water all year, night and day.

They look a lot like solar panels but rather than taking energy from the sun, they absorb heat from the air outside. This heat is then used to warm up the water in a hot water cylinder.

If you've had to rule out solar panels because your roof isn't suitable, thermodynamic panels can be fitted in shady areas and onto walls.

What are thermodynamic panels?

Thermodynamic panels are a cross between solar thermal panels and an air source heat pump. They look like solar panels but work like a heat pump.

Installing thermodynamic panels for your home could give you free hot water all year. Yet they haven't been able to gain as much momentum as heat pumps or solar thermal in terms of installations.

How do they work?

To absorb the heat, a refrigerant is circulated around the panel. As it warms up it then becomes a gas which then moves into a compressor where it's heated up even more.

It then reaches the hot water cylinder where the hot gas moves through the heat exchanger to warm up the water.

If you don't have a hot water cylinder in your home then thermodynamic panels aren't for you.

Benefits of thermodynamic panels

Thermodynamic panels can benefit your home in a number of ways. And after reading them you may be surprised that more people don't have them installed.

  • Don't need to be fitted in direct sunlight
  • Can be fitted to the side of a home
  • Continue to work when outdoor temperatures drop as far as -15C
  • Don't need to be replaced for as long as 20 years
  • They need very little maintenance over the years
  • As quiet as a fridge

Considerations

In many ways, thermodynamic panels are still an unproven technology. Largely because the technology is pretty complicated and are more likely to run into issues than other renewable heating systems.

These are a few considerations that you'll need to make:

  • Each panel can cost around £5,000 which can soon add up if you want the panels to provide 100% of your hot water
  • They need electricity to work which can be expensive
  • It's a complicated technology that could potentially go wrong and there aren't many installers out there to fix them
  • Not eligible for the Renewable Heat Incentive (solar thermal panels and heat pumps are)

Costs of thermodynamic panels

A family of four would be looking at a total cost of around £5,000 to £10,000 for each thermodynamic panel. This includes a panel, additional components and installation. And the bigger your home, the more panels you'll need. So, if you need more than one panel then things can soon get expensive.

Do I need a hot water cylinder?

You will need a hot water cylinder for thermodynamic panels to be an option for your home. The same goes for solar thermal panels and heat pumps too.

So if you have a combi boiler (which doesn’t need a cylinder) then you may have to rule thermodynamic panels out. Unless you would want to fit a standalone hot water cylinder.

However, this is only worth considering if your hot water demand has really increased. You've had an additional bathroom fitted, for example.

Will I still need a boiler?

Thermodynamic panels can take much of the workload off your boiler. And you could potentially get all of your hot water with only thermodynamic panels.

However, it's best to keep the boiler. That way, the boiler can fire into action if the panels aren't meeting demand.

Could thermodynamic panels save me money?

Thermodynamic panels have the potential to provide your home with hot water all year. So you'd naturally be saving money as a result.

The only drawback is that thermodynamic panels need electricity for the compressor. They don't need too much power but electricity can be expensive.

You'll be looking at costs of up to £10 a month (depending on your tariff) which will add to the time it takes for you to earn back your investment.

Thermodynamic panels vs Solar thermal panels

Thermodynamic panels are very similar to solar thermal panels.

They're both installed outside and can heat the hot water in your cylinder for free. However, they do so in different ways.

Solar thermal panels absorb heat from the sun to keep the water in a cylinder warm. So that means they only work during daylight hours. This also means they need to be installed in a position that's free from shade and ideally south-facing.

With thermodynamic panels you have much more freedom. They absorb heat from the air so don't need to be in direct sunlight or even on the roof. Plus, they'll continue to keep the cylinder warm into the evening and through the night.

So, if your roof isn't suitable for solar thermal panels, thermodynamic panels are worth considering.

Solar thermal panels do have the upper hand when it comes to costs. The average family home will be looking at costs of between £3,000 and £5,000. That's potentially half of what you could end up paying for a thermodynamic panel.

And those lower upfront costs will make it easier to earn it back.

Installing solar thermal could entitle you to payments from the government for the heat generated by the panels through the Renewable Heat Incentive. Thermodynamic panels aren't eligible for the scheme.

Unlike solar thermal panels, thermodynamic panels need electricity. Which can be very expensive.

To lower the electric running costs of thermodynamic panels (and other electrics around your home) you could install solar PV panels. Solar PV systems are different from solar thermal panels as they turn solar energy into electricity rather than heat.

So you could get the best of both worlds.

Thermodynamic panel installation

You could have your new thermodynamic panels fitted in as little as one day. And as they can be fitted to a wall (that's facing north, south, east or west), you will have far more options than a solar thermal installation.

However, it's still fairly unproven technology here in the UK.

This makes it worth considering solar thermal panels or a heat pump. Both of these have proven that they can make a home more efficient and lower heating bills.

Whichever renewable heating system you choose to install, you'll need an MCS certified installer. And this is where we can help.

You can get free installation quotes from MCS installers in your area at the tap of a button. Simply complete our short online form – head there now – and up to 3 installers will be in touch. Each of them will then give a free quote for installing your new renewable heating system. Once you have your quotes, you can compare them in your own time.


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Adam

About the author

Adam

Adam is our lead content writer who spends most of his time researching and writing articles for the Boiler Guide website. You can rely on him to keep you up to date about the future of home heating.

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