Guide To Roof Solar Technology - Where and how to begin?

We Support Energy Saving & Solar Technology

Today, many homeowners want to save money on energy costs and to make their property more eco-friendly However, with an increasing array of products and technologies on the market, it can sometimes be difficult to know where to begin…

  • Start by looking at the basics, as these are often the cheapest and easiest improvements to make:
  • Insulation - start by checking that your property has sufficient roof, loft and cavity wall insulation.
  • Glazing- check that your double glazing is in good condition and if not, consider replacing it with more up to date, efficient products which will keep the heat in during the winter and keep your home cooler during the summer.  You could even consider triple glazing and remember to check that your front door is also double glazed.
  • Household Appliances - older fridges, freezers and ovens can be inefficient and waste a lot of energy, which means they cost more to use.  By updating to more efficient appliances, you can save money and energy at the same time.
  • Tumble Dryers - hanging your washing outside to dry or by a radiator can save money as tumble dryers are notoriously power hungry and it is also more environmentally friendly.
  • Hot Water - if you have an old boiler system that runs on thermostats you are probably wasting energy by keeping the water hot even when you don’t need it.  A newer and more efficient gas boiler system can work out far cheaper as it only heats the water you need when you need it.

So, now you have the basics sorted out, what next:

  • Solar Panels - new solar technology, such as photo voltaic panels can save money on energy bills, add resale value to your home, pay for itself over 15 years and can even generate a modest income.

The Benefits of Solar Technology - Renewable Energy Sources Are The Future

The Benefits of Solar Technology

  • Solar energy is a renewable resource; there is plenty of sunlight to go around.
  • In the long run it can repay the cost of installation via the ‘Feed in Tariff’ and the income from the Feed in Tariff is currently tax free.
  • The electricity you generate can be used for personal use or sold back to the power company.
  • Solar panels have no moving parts, *need little maintenance and should outlast their warranty.
  • Solar technology is silent, never ending and above all clean, harvesting the sun’s power creates free energy for your home.
  • A typical household can reduce their carbon emissions by around 1.2 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year.
  • An average household can expect to reduce their heating bills by around 40% and there can be savings of as much as 50% on their energy bills by using free hot water generated by the solar thermal panels. Solar water heating panels can be added to most hot water systems - great news for those with older systems.

Utility companies are likely to continue increasing their prices year after year - another great incentive to become more self-sufficient! If the 25 million homes in the UK all used solar technology the positive impact on the environment would be massive.! The UK government's Feed-in Tariffs for those who installed solar PV before 2nd March 2012 will receive 43.3p/kWh rate for the duration of the tariff (25 years). Due to index linking this will increase to around 45 pence. For those who applied for the FiT between 3rd March and the 31st March 2012 will receive 43.3p/kWh rate until April 1st and then 21p/kWh from 1st April 2012.! Anyone who applied for the FiT after the 1st April 2012 and before the 1st July 2012 will receive 21p/kWh, providing they are able to prove that their property has an EPC Band D or above. If they can not then the rate they stand to receive is 9p/kWh.

The Government wishes to further reduce the FiT to between 13.6p/kWh and 16.5p/kWh as of 1 July 2012 but this is currently under consultation. The Government is also looking in to whether the FIT can be reduced from 25 years down to 20 years. They argue that manufacturing costs are constantly dropping and efficiencies increasing and reductions to the FiT are required for them to keep inline with these changes! According to the Energy Savings Trust the Government are consulting on changes to the FIT rates for renewable electric technologies other than solar PV from 1st October 2012. See their website for more details.

*Solar Energy Installations do require maintenance in order for the to operate efficiently and their electrical equipment should be checked periodically. Failure to do so could render any warranties to be canceled, so the FairTrades Association urges home owners to ask their installers about their maintenance obligations. **There are severe conditions placed on your rights when you opt for free solar installations where the installer keeps the rights to your FiT. Find out exactly how you are affected before you go ahead.

Solar Panel Installation Costs

The Costs of Solar Technology vs. Feed in Tariffs. The Cheapest Option Isn't Alwayts Best!

Deciding to go solar will undoubtedly cost the average homeowner between £8,000 and £14,000, although usually this initial cost is usually repaid over time in the savings made on energy bills.   Another consideration is that usually, the more your system costs the more you are likely to save in the long run. The quality of the equipment purchased also plays a role in the amount of savings to be made. Cheaper less efficient PV solar panels cannot generate the same amount of electricity, reducing their electricity yield per hour. The number of PV solar panels installed and their orientation will also make a difference to the amount of energy generated and with the rapid way that the technology is progressing, we should expect ultra-effective solar panels to be on the market during the coming years. The choice of solar equipment can be astounding but there are a number of companies offering a great deal on the installation renewable technology.  Some companies offer *free solar installation and the use of the electricity generated is also free of charge.  The make a return on their investment by keeping the rights to the income from the feed in tariff. *These have become known as "‘free solar’ or rent-a-roof schemes"

Solar Technology Regulations & Guarantees

There are different planning permission rules for roof mounted and free standing solar PV and Solar Thermal panels throughout the UK - always remember to consult a professional solar installation company before committing to a solar technology project on your home.

Wales & Northern Ireland - currently there is not any specific legislation in regard to the installation of Solar PV and solar thermal panels for private use. All the documentation found online at the current time strongly urges homeowners to consult directly with their local authority regarding planning permission before they have anything installed.

Scotland - there are additional planning permission rules which need to be adhered to, including one condition that Solar PV and solar thermal panels must be removed when no longer in use. For maximum efficiency solar panels are usually installed on a south-facing roof and where there are no obvious obstructions to sunlight such as taller building in front of yours and large trees that could block the sun’s rays from reaching the panels. A general rule of thumb is that the panels must never be higher that any chimney. It is not advisable to try this on your own, use an accredited solar installation company. You should also insist on an Insurance Backed Guarantee to protect your financial investment in the project.

*Warnings abound regarding the "rent a Roof schemes" Homeowners do not realise that they have effectively leased their roof to another company for up to 25 years. Mortgage lenders and finance companies do not like these schemes, making it incredible difficult or just too expensive to switch lenders. Often the best interest rates are obtained by switching lenders, not something that can be easily done if you have a free solar installation. The Council of Mortgage Lenders and RICS have warned home owners that people could face terrible problems when it comes to try selling their home.

Prospective buyers are also put off by the legal implications of such schemes. There is an excellent article on this at the Solar Power Portal

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