Solar panels have been appearing on homes around the country for the last few years at a rapid rate as more people want to start creating their own energy. But now the government have withdrawn their subsidies for the system and reduced the Feed In Tariff payments that new solar power homes receive. So are there still benefits to having solar panels on your home?
Solar power basics
While solar panels seemed to have been added to homes of a wide range of styles and ages, there are a few qualifying criteria for a home to be suitable for these panels to be added. The most important factor is the roof strength – it needs to be able to support the extra weight of the panels on top of the roofing materials already in place. Some roofs that aren’t strong enough can have reinforcing work done but remember this increases the project’s cost.
One myth about solar power is that the UK simply doesn’t get enough sunlight to make the systems worthwhile. But this incorrectly assumes that you need bright sunlight to create energy when in fact you simply need daylight. London, for example, saw 1481 hours of daylight in 2014 and this allowed people with solar power systems to reduce their electricity bills by almost £150.
South facing is best for the location of solar panels as this maximises the amount of electricity that can be produced. Roofs facing east or west can reduce the generation by as much as 15-20% versus south facing roof. And if the property has large trees or other high buildings surrounding it, this may mean it isn’t suitable for solar panels as the light is blocked off.
Under changes to planning permission in April 2012, you no longer need planning permission for solar panels in most homes across England and Wales. The only times that you may need to contact the local council about the project is if you are in a conservation area, the building is listed, or you are purchasing a system that has more than four kWP output.
The number of solar panels that can be installed on the roof depends on the roof size and the budget you have. When costing the project, remember that it is about more than just the panels, there will be associated equipment that may need somewhere to go and will also cost.
How to buy solar panels
At one time, to get solar panels, you just range an energy supplier. So, if you used npower for your electricity, you would ring the npower telephone number, and they could help you get solar panels. But now that the government has stopped subsidising these systems, the energy suppliers don’t offer the service. However, you could still ring the npower telephone number, for example, and ask about approved suppliers.
Because solar panels are exposed to the elements, there is some maintenance required to keep them in good working condition. Rain water does a good job and panels are relatively self-cleaning, but you should still factor in some annual or bi-annual maintenance to ensure they can continue to work. This should also involve checking the integrity of the system to ensure there has been no damaged caused by flying debris during the autumn and winter months.
Getting solar panels isn’t something you should rush into as there is a cost involved and work required. But if you want to generate your own power and reduce your overall bills plus you don’t mind investing the money, it is a great renewable option that allows you to generate your own power and reduce your carbon footprint.