15 Apr 2014

Throwing light on the benefits of solar panels

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Reducing dependence on non-renewable energy is becoming increasingly important and what’s more, the government even awards renewable electricity generating technology with financial incentives through the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) scheme. Renewable energy advice specialists The Energy Saving Trust speaks to i-build about the many benefits of installing photovoltaic panels.

Solar electric panels turn sunlight into energy, saving money and reducing your carbon footprint in the process. You can be paid for the electricity you generate, even if you use it yourself, and for any surplus electricity you export to the grid. Under the current FiT rate, the average solar PV system could save and generate income of up to £770 every year. For every kWh the system generates that is not used in your home, you will earn 4.64p. Electricity from your system that you use in your home will save you money on your electricity bill, plus you’ll get 14.9p for every kWh of electricity used. So you are best trying to use the electricity generated in your home, rather than exporting it, to see the biggest savings and income.

Falling installation cost

Despite the FiT rate dropping in recent years, the installation cost is also going down, with systems generally around half the price they were two years ago. Plus households are installing bigger systems, with the average size going up from 3 to 4kWp in the space of a year. The average domestic solar PV system typically costs between £6000 and £9000. Costs do vary between installers and products, so the Energy Saving Trust recommends getting quotes from at least three companies that use installer and products certified under the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS).

The size of solar panels needed is variable between projects. Carefully consider how much you are willing to spend on the system and how much space you have on the roof. As an example, a 4kWp system provides most of the electricity for an average-sized household and is often made up of 16 panels in a single row across the roof. If you are completing a renovation or conversion it’s generally very easy to fit solar panels onto the existing building, as long as you have a roof that faces roughly within 90 degrees, with no shade from other buildings or trees. South facing properties will yield the most energy but West and East facing are also possible without too great a drop in generation.

Low-maintenance upkeep

Solar panels require little maintenance. Homeowners merely need to keep the panels relatively clean and make sure trees don’t begin to overshadow them. Once fitted, the installer should leave written details of any maintenance checks that should be carried out from time to time to ensure everything is working properly. The panels should last 25 years or more, but the inverter is likely to need replacing at some point during this period. Above all, you should consult with the installer in terms of any guarantees and warranties before you commit to installing a solar PV system.

Solar panels are, of course, just one possible source of renewable energy for your new home. There are lots of different technologies available – whether sourced from the ground, water or even plants – so conduct thorough research to discover which renewable energy technologies will best suit your property.

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