Status of Solar Heating/Cooling and Solar Buildings - 2015

Status of the Market for Solar Thermal Systems

Market Size and Trends

After a 4-year period of stagnation from 2009 - 2012, the Swiss market for solar thermal systems decreased in 2013 by about 15%. In 2014 it is anticipated that the solar market is still decreasing. The main reason is the still growing PV market thanks to the feed-in tariff.  Unglazed collectors for charging an ice storage are however in a local niche.

Typical Applications and Products

About half of the collector market is forced circulation DHW systems with generally 50 litre storage volume per m2 collector area.  In number of systems, they represent about 70% of the market. About 30% are combisystems, which represent about 40% of the collector market. Single family homes are still dominant representing about 80% of the installations (DHW and combisystems).

Main Market Drivers

Besides the above mentioned reasons (CO2 tax and fluctuating oil price), the Swiss solar thermal market is predominantly driven by the good will of private persons. This is why the market is focused on single family houses. In addition, the cantons are starting to establish cantonal building regulations requiring the use of renewable energy in new buildings or when renovating the heating system. The heat pump market is booming for new houses. This is due to the fact that the solution makes a 100% heating solution and no auxiliary is needed. In some cantons, solar thermal collectors are mandatory for a 30% solar DHW and heat pump cannot be considered. This helps the market for solar collectors.


The Swiss solar thermal industry is relatively small.  About one third of the installed products are imported predominantely from European countries, and two third originate from domestic producttion. On the other hand, the industry exports products that lead to a nearly balanced import-export statistic. Most products are sold via manufacturers to installers. There is no real dominant manufacturer on the market, three are in equal position.


The Swiss solar professional association estimates that there are about 2,000 jobs in the solar thermal market.


As in the whole building sector, Swiss solar thermal systems are expensive compared to other countries. A DHW system covering about 60% of the needs by solar costs around 9,000 to 12,000 Euros for 6 m2 and 500 l storage.

Other Key Topics

Swiss installations tend to be of high standards corresponding to the demand of the market and better quality comes often at a price.

Status of the Market for Solar Buildings


MINERGIE® is a sustainability brand for new and refurbished buildings. It is mutually supported by the Swiss Confederation, the Swiss Cantons along with Trade and Industry and is registered in Switzerland and around the world.

Comfort is at the heart of MINERGIE® – the comfort of the users living or working in the building. A wholesome level of comfort is made possible by high-grade building envelopes and the continuous renewal of air.

Specific energy consumption is used as the main indicator to quantify the required building quality. In this way, a reliable assessment can be assured. Only the final energy consumed is relevant.  

The MINERGIE® Standard is widely accepted. There are many reasons for this, the most important being the objective oriented approach: If builders and planners – in other words architects and engineers - can achieve the standard, they have complete freedom both in their design and choice of materials and also in their choice of internal and external building structures.

In the meantime, the building sector has developed a wide range of products and services for MINERGIE® buildings. Suppliers include architects and engineers as well as manufacturers of materials, components and systems. The diversity and competition of this market increases quality and lowers costs. The last product is a zero energy building standard, called Minergie A. Minergie ECO is having a small market share in the Minergie market.

Market Size and Trends

Combisystems have never had a big market share and tend to decrease.

Seasonal storage in water tanks is a proven solution in several pilot projects and a few houses or buildings choose it.

The depp trend is air heat pump with some collectors for DHW if mandatory.

Another emerging combination is heat pump and ice storage recharged by solar absorbers. A few projects for big buildings (100 to 300 kW) have been recently initiated.

Main Market Drivers

Cantonal support schemes for Minergie buildings or the national programme for building renovations (see are key drivers for the interest in energy efficient buildings.

Legislation makes solar DHW mandatory in some cantons.

Some subsidy schems on low level exist in some cantons for solar collectors (per m2).

Employment is the reference.



There are only estimations not statistically based.

Other Key Topics

The integration of solar thermal AND PV on the same roof with the same frame and shape is a topic.

The PVT collectors and the color collectors are also emerging.

R&D Activities

R&D Programmes

A Swiss national R&D programme exists for solar heat and heat storage, for solar industrial heat, and for energy in buildings.

A complete description of the programme for 2013 – 2016 can be found here:

  • The main priorities are for solar thermal collectors to develop new layers with specific properties and to seek new types of collectors based on glass or polymers. For heat storage the research focuses on looking for decentralised but large storage solutions and improving the energy density of storage materials for long term storage. Solar and heat pump systems are also under focus to improve their performances.
  • The annual budget is around 1.0 MCHF for each of the three R&D programmes
  • The research programme is accessible to any organisation in Switzerland presenting a project that will be evaluated by the Swiss federal office of energy.

R&D Infrastructure

R&D Institutions
Institution Type of Institution Relevant Research Areas IEA SHC Involvement Website
SPF Solar energy research center Collector testing, heat storage, systems Task 14, 26,32,44
LESBAT HEIG-VD Solar energy for building research center Combisystems, solar and heat pump systems, LCA Task 26,44
LESO-PB EPFL Building physics research center Collector thin layers with optical properties, integration in buildings Task 41
EMPA Building materials research center Dense heat storage Task 32,44
SUPSI Heat storage for buildings research center Simulation of ground storage
Vela Solaris AG Polysun Simulation software engineering company Simulation of solar and heat pump systems Task 26, 44
Meteotest AG Meteo forecast company Meteonorm data base Task 26, 32, 44
CUEPE UNIGE University energy in buildings research center Monitoring of systems, passive buildings simulation, heat storage Task 41, 44

Actual Innovations

The following innovations have been introduced in Switzerland:

  • High temperature flat plate ultra high vacuum collectors developed by a start up company SRB in Geneva. The collectors can easily reach 200 C with still a high efficiency above 35%. After some pilot projects in Switzerland, the company is marketing the collector.
  • Color collectors have recently been introduced on the market by the new Swissinso start-up company. They produce colored solar glass using a technology developed by the LESO at the Swiss federal institute of technology of Lausanne.
  • The new Polysun software incorporates solar and heat pumps solutions coupled to IEA SHC Task 44 work and can run online
  • Thermochromic layers are in the R&D pipeline.
  • Solar cooling with PV is on the market.

Support Framework


The legal basis for the support of R&D and market dissemination measures for energy efficiency and renewable energy is the national law of energy.

Government Agencies Responsible for Solar Thermal, for Solar Building Activities

In Switzerland, the government is responsible for the funding of R&D, whereas the cantons are responsible for building regulations and subsidies for renewable energy plants.

Most Important Public Support Measure(s) for Solar Thermal and for Solar Buildings

The most important support measures for solar thermal are:

  • Financial support schemes for solar thermal installations provided by the cantons
  • A few cantons have established building regulations where renewables are compulsory
  • Awareness raising provided by the national programme SwissEnergy as well as by the solar energy professionals association Swissolar
  • RD&D funding provided by the Swiss government
  • Quality control for solar thermal components and systems is provided by the SPF institute of the Hochschule Rapperswil

Information Resources

National Solar Associations (industry and non-industry)

National Associations on Green/Solar/Sustainable Buildings

Most Important Media for Solar Thermal and Solar Buildings