Solar water heating is already in widespread use in countries such as Greece, Israel, Australia, Germany, Japan and China. Although the UK is at a higher latitude than these countries the average sunlight across the country is still ample for the solar colectors to generate enough hot water for a household.The solar heating cost compares favourably with traditional boilers - savings typically average out to about £55 a year. The total start up solar heating cost would be around £ 5000 depending on the extent of the improvements.
Grants offset parts of the solar heating cost
The above figure appears unappealing at the moment but the government has decided to provide a financial incentive towards installing the appliance from the beginning of 2012 so these savings are set to improve. The subsidy is designed to help relieve some of the initial solar heating cost and is postcode based. Apart from putting the solar collectors on the roof there is no other major fitting needed and planning permission is not usually required for this which speeds the whole process up and decreases the price.
Another emerging solar-powered appliance is solar air heating. This method also involves putting a large solar unit, usually on the wall, and using it to heat a number of rooms. It is very difficult to get this to heat the whole house however so a backup system is needed for the winter. Planning permission is required however and no subsidy is yet provided for this system.
The energy efficiency of your home is the most important factor
At the end of the day the build quality of your house, how modern it is and it's geographical position will decide whether the solar heating cost is worth the initial investment. If your house or boiler is badly insulated, installing one of these two units won't save much energy or money - it's important to have all of these basic energy saving heating techniques right to begin with.