There has been much talk and debate about solar panels recently; most of it about solar photovoltaic (PV) and the Feed in Tariffs (FIT).

However, there is another game in town and it is potentially far larger than solar PV. Heat in buildings for space and water heating accounts for nearly 70% of energy consumed by them - so maybe we should be paying some attention to that.

The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) is the heat equivalent of the Feed in Tariff and is due to be introduced for domestic properties in October 2012. It will pay homeowners an income for every unit of heat generated by their heat pump, biomass boiler or solar thermal water heating system.

In the meantime a one-off payment called the RHI Premium Payment is available to all homeowners as an incentive to install these technologies now - a bit like a grant - and still be eligible for the RHI when it arrives next year.

Before FIT, solar thermal was by far the most popular of the renewal technologies and is installed in over 100,000 homes in the UK. The technology is very reliable, easy to install and should provide 50-70% of your hot water all year round.

In fact 31% of the 2,000 RHI Premium Payment vouchers issued so far have been for solar thermal. Each will receive £300 towards the cost of installing a solar thermal system.

This is starting to filter into more interest as homeowners realise the value of this technology.

So, before you become too fixated with the FIT and the annoying deadlines imposed by this Government, think about installing a solar thermal system. It is less expensive than solar PV (about £4,000 on average), is easy to install and good for the environment - and you get £300 towards the cost!

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