For the eco-friendly and environmentally conscious among us, it can be easy to rush into buying solar panels. The benefits are obvious, renewable energy for you and your family – you can also sell what you don’t use back into the National Grid. But did you know the Government will even pay you for the energy you use?
Feed-In Tariffs are aimed at those who want to become more self-sufficient while reducing your carbon footprint and energy – they aim to make it worth your while.
The tariffs do this in three separate ways. One gives you a fixed income for every kilowatt hour of electricity you generate, whether you used in your property or exported to the grid. With the second tariff, you then earn an additional fixed income for every kilowatt hour of electricity you sell back to the grid.
The third way you save money is when you need to buy a little more energy from your electricity supplier – which will be much less than you currently buy.
There are, though, some important things you need to consider before strapping a few grand’s worth of technology to your roof.
The cost of moving to Solar Energy
According to the Energy Saving Trust, the average domestic solar PV system provides 3.5 to 4 kilowatts per hour and costs around £7,000 (including VAT) but typical costs can range from £5,500 to £9,500.
The trust claims prices have fallen significantly over the last year yet vary between installers and products. As with any home improvement, it is recommended getting quotes from at least three businesses before making your decision.
The sun, at least in the UK, is also pretty unreliable, no solar panel technology will produce a significant amount of power in full shade.
It may be unfair to level that criticism directly at the sun; it has been doing its thing fairly steadfastly for approaching five billion years. It is the clouds that are the problem, so prior to taking the plunge it may be best to make use of an online solar PV calculator.
The one at www.solarguide.co.uk will even give you an idea of the cash you might generate selling back to the National Grid. For example, it says a south-facing house in Bexleyheath, Kent, with a 3.00kWph system could make around £80 per year selling electricity and save around £127 on bills. Income from the Feed-In Tariff would be approximately £390 per year.
It is also worth working out how long it will take to pay for itself. Our example in Bexleyheath, with costs of around £6,500, would pay for itself in just under nine years.
Deciding on your panels
If that sounds great, now you have to decide on which panels you want to use. At one time, people with a small amount of roof space needed highly-efficient, super expensive panels (usually mono-crystalline). But this is changing with advances in polycrystalline panel technology and some thin film technologies. Even if you have a roof of Buckingham Palace type proportions, you may wish to consider whether you want to fill it with a shed load of inefficient yet cheap panels or just a few of the more expensive ones.
In the future, it will also be important to note that on a full roof, you will not be able to add any more energy saving devices.
One final, and perhaps the most important, piece of advice; the company you use should be certified under the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) to install your chosen technology.
About the Author
Guest post contributed by Simon Jones who runs his own solar panel installation business. Happy to give tips when it comes to installing solar panels and what options are right for you and your household. Also is interested in Attic conversions, working alongside people like Econoloft.co.uk.