WE'RE certainly not blessed with year-round sunny weather in Britain.

But that doesn't stop solar heating panels working on the nation's homes.

One couple in Kirkheaton think the panels are so worthwhile that they are urging other people to buy them.

Prof Peter Roberts, 56, and wife Jo have had panels on the roof of their four-bedroomed home in St Paul's Road for 18 months.

Prof Roberts says the panels generate so much hot water that he can turn off his central heating boiler for six months of the year.

He saves about £166 a year on electricity and has calculated that the panels will have paid for themselves in six years.

Prof Roberts, who lectures in town planning at Liverpool University, is urging other people to take advantage of the £500 discount available to Kirklees residents.

"The grant is an absolute bargain. Anybody who is planning on living in their home for five years would be foolish not to have panels installed.

Most people turn off their central heating in summer, but leave the hot water on.

"I have not been using gas since May," said Prof Roberts. "Even in winter you get a fair amount of hot water."

His panels contain a liquid which heats up a coil, which then heats up water in the hot water cylinder.

Installing the panels takes about one-and-a-half days.

The mechanics of the panels is fitted in the roof space.

The only intrusion into the general interior is a small monitor - about the size of an alarm clock - on the landing. This reveals the temperature on the roof.

The temperature is controlled by a thermostat.

An immersion heater is fitted as back-up, but has not had to be used so far.

The panels themselves look similar to a window.

Prof Roberts wants to see solar panels installed in new houses as they are built.

He also wants developers to site houses so their roofs can exploit the sun's rays.

"We have a system in this country which is so irresponsible in terms of energy," he said.

"We are heavily dependent on natural gas, but it is running out quite quickly.

"The price of energy is rising and will continue to rise," he added.


PEOPLE in Huddersfield can get £750 in grants towards the cost of installing solar panels.

The Government is offering householders £500 off installation costs through its £10m Clearskies initiative, launched in January.

But Kirklees Energy Services has additional Simply Solar grants of £250 on offer.

The average cost of solar panels is £1,300 after the grants.

Mrs Philippa Rey- nolds, business development manager of Kirklees Energy Services, said: "People can gain a Clearskies grant direct themselves but they can only claim a Simply Solar grant if they go through us and have the work carried out by one of our registered installers."

Contact Kirklees Energy Services on freephone 0800 052 7496.

Clearskies also offer grants for technologies other than solar thermal heating such as wind turbines, hydro power, biomass boilers, pellet stoves and ground source heat pumps. There are also grants for community organisations as well.

Contact Clearskies at www.clear-skies.org