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An In-depth Guide to Solar Energy

You may think that the British weather isn’t the best for having solar panels installed; but we do get enough sunlight for you to start saving a lot of money from these renewable energy sources. An average of £645 could be saved per year with feed-in tariff payments and savings from your energy bills, if a 3.5kWp solar PV system was installed on a south facing roof.

These figures produced by The Energy Saving Trust also revealed that £60-85 a year could be saved if you had a solar thermal water heating system installed (this is dependent on the system you already have installed in your home).

Altogether, making the most of solar energy will enable you to be far more environmentally friendly; all year round. Equally, with the introduction of Green Deal loans coming soon, you could be able to afford this energy saving option sooner than you think.

What available solar power systems are there?

Solar Thermal and Solar PV are the two types of solar systems that are currently available. Solar Thermal works by heating your domestic water using the warmth of the sun; therefore helping you to save money on your energy bills by cutting the amount of fuel you need. Solar PV uses the sunlight that lands on photovoltaic panels to produce power for your home, but this energy can also be sold to the National Grid, creating an income for you.

Facts about Solar Thermal

If you don’t have gas installed in your home and you’re currently using a hot water cylinder/immersion heater, then installing a Solar Thermal system will benefit you the most, saving you a lot of money on your energy bills.

  • Cost-wise, a Solar Thermal system will start at prices of £4,800, which includes installation and a system that is designed to be low maintenance. Equally, these systems are often repaired at a low cost, with pumps costing about £90 to replace and having a life-span of about 9 years.
  • The installation of a Solar Thermal system at your property could save you up to £85 per year if you are replacing an electric immersion heating system, or £60 if replacing a gas heating system. Additionally, you could be saving from 230kg to 500kg in carbon emissions each year too. (Based on figures produced by The Energy Saving Trust).
  • A Solar Thermal system works through the solar panels that are attached to your roof. The heat that is captured from the sun is then used to heat your water; working all year round to reduce your carbon footprint and energy bills.
  • For installation you will need to have enough space on your roof – approximately 4 metres squared should be suffice; but this will need to be more if you have a larger family. The roof also needs to be in direct sunlight (south facing is ideal) so as to capture as much sunlight and heat as possible.
  • The system can still be installed if you have don’t have a south-facing roof; you will just need to have what is called a ‘split system’ installed instead. The solar panels are then split equally on the east and west facing sides of your roof to capture the sunlight as it moves round.
  • Planning permission may need obtaining for these roof panels if your property is situated within an area of outstanding natural beauty or is in a conservation area.
  • Don’t forget to plan for the extra space that will also be needed for your larger or additional hot water cylinder.
  • With the government’s Renewable Heat Incentive you may be able to start receiving payments for the heat generated by your solar panels, providing you meet the criteria that are being enforced from summer 2013.

Facts about Solar PV

The cost of a Solar PV system can be from approximately £5,500 to £9,500 for a 3.5-4kWp system, but with a lifespan of 25 years or more the savings will far outweigh the costs after the initially outlay. Equally, after 25 years the system inverter should be the only thing that needs replacing, which costs about £1,000 at present.

  • With one of these systems you will find that 50% of the energy that is generated by it won’t be needed in your home, so it can be exported into the National Grid, which is where you could start receiving payments.
  • This excess electricity will bring you an income through the Feed-In Tariff scheme (unless you are in Northern Ireland where the scheme isn’t available) whereby you are paid for the green electricity you are producing.
  • Your standard 3.5kWp Solar PV system could produce about 75% of the average households electricity; generating approximately 3,000 kilowatt hours of electricity. You could have a combined saving and income of £645 a year if you are eligible for the Feed-In Tariff. (These figures are based on those produced by The Energy Saving Trust for a 3.5kWh system, with a tariff of 15.44p/kWh).
  • A Solar PV system works by converting sunlight that lands on the photovoltaic panels installed on your roof, converting it into green electricity that can be used to power your home.
  • If you’re thinking of having a Solar PV system installed in your home, you will need to take into consideration where your roof is facing. A Solar PV system works best if placed on a south-facing roof; with east/west facing ones producing approximately 15-20% less energy than a south-facing one.
  • If you live in the South West of England then this is the ideal place to have a Solar PV system installed as this is the part of the UK that has most of the sun; saving you even more money.

Maintenance-wise you will need to clean your panels from time to time to ensure that they are working to their highest efficiency. This will include cleaning your panels of leaves, dirt, bird droppings and debris. However, if your panels are titled to 15 degrees or more, you will probably find that the rain water will carry out most of the cleaning for you!

The Green Deal & Solar Energy

The Green Deal scheme is something that is to be introduced by the government that will allow people who want to invest in solar energy to take out a loan that will cover all of the costs included in the home improvements needed to make homes energy efficient. The repayments are then included within their electricity bills.

To make sure this Green Deal is a worthwhile investment for you, an independent assessor will calculate what costs will be included in the installation of the solar panels alongside how much the repayments on your electricity bill will be. Be sure you find out and check your proposed specifications of the system that will be installed to ensure you get the best solar panels for your budget. The idea is that the energy efficient improvements you are having done on your home will meet with the Golden Rule. The Golden Rule is that over 25 years the costs involved in installing the system in your home are less than, or equal to, the energy savings made. This ensures that the repayments you are making each month are less than what you will save by having the energy efficient option.

The Green Deal will be attached to your home; so if you do decide to sell your home then the benefits of the energy efficient improvements will be given to the new owners of your property.

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