Thinking of investing in solar panels? Take a look at these pros and cons to help you make up your mind.
If you are keen to make your home more eco-friendly, solar panels might seem like a pretty extreme way to go about it. But actually, solar photovoltaic panels (as they’re officially called) are fast becoming more commonplace.
In the 12 months to December 2015, installations had increased by 29%, according to the latest government figures, bringing the total number throughout the UK to more than 842,000.
Contrary to popular belief, these devices don’t need strong sunshine to generate electricity for use in your home. In fact they are still working on cloudy and even rainy days, albeit with less effective results.
Here’s our handy list of pros and cons to help you decide whether solar panels are a good fit for your home.
1. You can slash your electricity bills
The first benefit of solar panels is that they cut electricity bills. So once you’ve paid for installation, you can get generating – and saving.
The typical home fitted with solar panels can generate around 3,800 kilowatt hours of electricity a year in the south of England – that's the same amount of electricity as it takes to turn the London Eye 25 times, according to the Energy Saving Trust (EST).
Of course, the amount you’ll shave off your bill will depend on a variety of factors, such as the size of your solar panels, the amount of electricity you use and when you use it.
2. You can get paid for the electricity you generate
As well as using it yourself, you can actually get paid for the electricity your solar panels generate under the government’s Feed-in Tariff (FIT) scheme. In the last five years since the scheme was introduced, average earnings per household have ranged between £520 and £620 a year, according to the EST.
However, a consultation from the government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) which closed in February 2016, has placed caps and restrictions on these payment, so make sure you do your research.
3. You can sell electricity back to the grid
If you generate more electricity than you use, you may be able to sell the surplus back to the Grid under the same FIT scheme.
4. You can cut your carbon footprint
Adding solar panels to your home is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. The average home with solar panels can save nearly two tonnes of carbon dioxide every year in the south of England, and over a tonne and a half in Scotland, according to the EST.
5. Free schemes are available
Although the typical cost of solar panel installation can be as high as £8,000, free solar panel schemes, known as ‘rent-a-roof’ schemes are available. These schemes allow you to rent out your roof for a fixed period – in most cases 25 years – to a private solar panel installation firm.
You won’t pay for the installation your electricity will be free (according to some usage restrictions). But if you take this route, you will sign away your chance to join the government’s Feed-in-Tariff to the installer.
Do you know the true running costs of a home? Take our quick quiz to find out.
1. It’s a big outlay
Solar panels could set you back between £5,000 and £8,000, according to the EST. But, as a general rule of thumb, the larger your solar panel system, the more cost-effective it will be.
This cost factors in VAT of 5% but this may rise to 20% on 1 August, 2016, due to a new EU ruling. This would add £900 to the average cost of installation, according to the Solar Trade Association.
Solar panels are generally low maintenance. But you’ll still need to think about the cost of keeping them in good condition over the years.
2. They can put off buyers
Solar panel systems can last for 25 years or longer with regular maintenance, making them a good long-term investment if you plan to stay put in your current home.
But when it comes to selling, buyers may not share your enthusiasm. While solar panels will certainly increase your home’s energy rating, a 2009 YouGov survey found that energy efficiency was only rated as the third-most important reason to purchase a property.
3. Solar panels may be an issue with your lender
If you sign up to a rent a roof scheme, you are leasing your roof space to a third party. That can potentially cause problems with your mortgage lender. So make sure you inform them of any installation plans.
4. The location (and position) of your home could reduce effectiveness
Solar panels need daylight. So homes in the north of the country tend to generate less electricity than those in the south. And while solar panels can be fitted to most types of houses, their position also needs to be factored in.
As you would expect, a south-facing roof is the most effective place to fit solar panels. If your roof is facing east or west, the electricity generated will be reduced by around 15%.
5. Solar batteries are expensive
Although your solar panels will operate even on cloudy days, they cannot provide your house with electricity 24-7. On particularly dark, gloomy days and overnight, you’ll revert back to the Grid unless you purchase a solar battery to store unused electricity during the daylight hours. But solar batteries can be costly, with an average price of £2,500.
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