Solar power can make you money from daylight, which is free for everyone.
Thanks to growing global demand, there have been major improvements in solar panel technology in recent years and the quantity of panels being produced has increased significantly. As a result, the cost of installing solar panels has also dropped dramatically in the last decade.
Today, producing electricity from daylight (a truly renewable source) is a technology that's accessible to many homeowners, as well as businesses and commercial property owners. It represents one of the most proven and effective ways to switch to clean electricity. Solar panels cost around £4,000 - £6,000 to install, but the solar energy system will more than pay for itself over the twenty years plus lifetime. It is also worth remember to factor in rising electricity prices from your current energy supplier when working out any cost savings.
You can earn or save money in two keyways:
- It reduces your energy bill, as you are generating your own electricity (saving around 14p/kWh, which is the cost you are charged by your energy supplier)
- You will earn income for every unit you export to the grid - amount to be confirmed by Government...
Ideal Timing for Solar Power Use
The biggest financial and environmental benefits are achieved when the power generated by your solar panels is used in your home. This is because the amount you are charged for each unit of electricity is significantly more than the amount you will be paid for exporting power.
This video from the Fully Charged Show demonstates how installers fix solar panels to the roof of Robert Llewellyn's home (of Red Dwarf fame) and how he uses this power to top up the battery on his electric car.
Solar hot water heating
If you're unlikely to use all the electrical power generated during the summer, then you can use the excess energy to heat your hot water. This switch acts like an immersion heater in your hot water tank, instead of installing a separate solar thermal collector on your roof. Your installer will be able to discuss the best options for your home depending on your personal circumstances but they cost around £200 to fit.
Five top tips for making the most money from your solar panels
- Save costs by combining work. If your installer advises that scaffolding is necessary to access the roof for installation, then combine the work with other house or home maintenance jobs. Or consider adding a solar thermal system at the same time.
- Schedule energy intensive activities, such as charging an electric car or using the washing machine, during daylight hours when the free, clean energy is being generated. You can use timers to make sure your appliances come on at the best time.
- You can still switch suppliers to find the cheapest gas and electricity tariffs even when you have solar panels on your roof.
- Generally, cleaning is not necessary but if you live in a particularly dusty street or area it is best to have the panels cleaned once a year to maintain efficient operation.
- During the twenty-year lifetime of your solar panels, the inverter is the only component in the system that might need replacing. An inverter could cost around £800 but should be covered by the installer's warranty. Therefore, if there's an option to extend the warranty for the inverter to save on unexpected costs, it may be worth calculating.
Read more information on making the most from your solar panels.
Solar panel myth busters
Some people believe solar panels only generate electricity when it is sunny, or that solar panels don't work in colder climates. We are happy to bust both myths - as neither is true!
Once you have panels installed in your home you can monitor the production figures via the internet on cold or overcast days and see how efficient they are for yourself.
However, one surprising feature is that, to fit with legislation, if there's a power cut, solar panels are designed to also stop working.
Can I have both solar thermal and solar panels on my roof?
Absolutely. The only limitation is roof space, but most homes would have enough. Each system requires about an area of about 4m2, so most homes could accommodate both solar thermal and PV panels.
The two systems are perfectly complementary although they operate entirely separately as one involves electric wires and an inverter and the other involves pipes and a pump.
Some MCS accredited installers can install both so there may be a financial benefit to having them fitted at the same time, especially if scaffolding is required to gain access to your roof.
A battery pack will keep the lights on
Finally, if you want to go all out, a home battery pack can be fitted to store the solar generated electricity, allowing you to use green power at night. This type of solar-plus-storage system is particularly appealing for people who like the idea of being 'off grid'.
A battery system will cost upwards of £2,500, although like all clean tech, the cost of batteries is falling year-on-year, so as it becomes more affordable this is definitely one to watch!
At current prices batteries to store solar energy are not an option for everyone with solar panels on their roof. But if the idea of solar and a battery backup is of interest there are a huge range of suppliers including IKEA, Tesla, Moixa and Nissan to name but a few.
With the UK committed to achieving Net Zero on carbon emissions, we need to stop burning fossil fuels and turn to clean, free energy sources. If you can invest in solar panels there really isn't a downside. You'll save money and help keep our beautiful planet healthy.
If this has piqued your interest and you want to know more about power from the sun, then please read our article: Benefits of Solar Power: Free Electricity from the Sun for a more detailed overview.
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