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Working Lunch Monday, 14 October, 2002, 14:24 GMT 15:24 UK
Solar not so good
Solar panels on Peter Ashworth's roof
Peter Ashworth's solar panels look the part
When Peter Ashworth decided to spend 5,000 converting his house to use solar power, he thought he was switching to a financially and environmentally efficient system.

The installation and implications of the system have been far from straightforward though.

Panels

The first problem Peter found was that the solar panels couldn't do all the water heating on their own.

heating system
Peter's two systems didn't work well together
The suppliers adjusted the existing gas heater to make it work for three hours in the morning and three in the evening.

The idea was that the panels would do the rest.

Noises

A series of strange noises alerted Peter to the fact that the gas boiler and solar system weren't working in harmony:

"When I looked I could see the gas coming on and going off.


I could see the gas coming on and going off

Peter Ashworth

"It seemed that the thermostat was saying the water isn't warm enough but the clock was saying don't come on."

Next Peter found he had a gas leak.

British Gas shut down the gas heater saying it hadn't been converted properly.

Then a valve on the solar heating system overheated and had to be repaired. Peter even experienced problems with the actual panels.

Apology

Smart Energy, who supplied Peter, do acknowledge that remedial work was required on the solar heating and apologise for any inconvenience caused.

Working Lunch viewer Peter Ashworth
Peter: lack of hot water
They say, however, that they did not touch the gas boiler system and that the leak was nothing to do with them.

They've promised that they'll do their best to make the system work but with winter fast approaching Peter's concern is that he won't have enough hot water.

Good news

Despite Peter's tale of woe, a number of Working Lunch viewers have been in touch to tell us how good their solar systems are.

Robert Turner in Perthshire says his solar panels give free hot water all summer.

Sylvia Cheetham in Cumbria had solar panels fitted in May 2001. She now only needs to use her gas boiler for six months of the year meaning much lower bills.

D Mitchell in Poole has found solar tubes even more efficient than panels.

And Chris Gait says that after initial teething problems, which cost him a lot of money, he has now lived for 12 years using solar heating and permanently has hot water.

So there is hope yet for Peter.

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