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Solar Power

There are two types of panels – Photovoltaic, which convert daylight into electricity, and Solar Thermal, that heat water. Both will reduce your carbon footprint and energy bills because sunlight is free! What else needs to be taken into consideration.


Initially these are expensive to install so it’s important to consider cost against how long you are planning on staying in the property. Even with the sunniest weather it will take some years to recoup your initial financial outlay. There is, as yet, no proof that panels enhance the value of your home.

Prices of the panels have been dropping and now, with Ikea selling them, this could see even more competitive pricing.

They are not suited to every dwelling and geographic location can make a difference. The further south you live you will benefit more due to the weather being warmer. The system will generate electricity even on a cloudy day. For them to achieve best results they need to face east-south-west and are most effective if the pitch of the roof is low.

Before installing it’s worth monitoring your energy usage so it can be matched to the output of your solar PV system. For example if you want to install a PV system but your daytime electricity use is low, you might consider an immersion heater power diverter or a battery storage system.

Recent solar technology innovations are Concentrated Solar Power and transparent cells.

CSP, which uses mirrors to concentrate the solar power, works better on larger scale commercial properties but could eventually make its way to the residential market.

Transparent cells offer a better solution for homes. The cells are made from near-transparent plastic and could allow solar energy to be generated from windows allowing for greater coverage of panels with lower visual impact.

Some of the costs can be recouped through a Feed-in-Tariff. Your energy supplier pays a set rate for each unit of electricity generated and un-used electricity can be sold back to the national grid. The rates for these have recently been cut. The most beneficial way of using your system is by using as much of the electricity you generate to prevent your purchasing it from your supplier.

The Energy Saving Trust says a well installed system should require minimum maintenance.

If your home is rated lower than D (on your EPC) you might want to make some improvements to make it more energy efficient before installing solar panels.

Solar Thermal Systems

Solar thermal systems, use heat from the sun to warm domestic hot water. A conventional boiler or immersion heater can be used to make the water hotter, or to provide hot water when solar energy is unavailable.

Your energy bills will be reduced because sunlight is free! Once you've paid for the initial installation your hot water costs will be reduced.

Solar hot water is a green, renewable heating system and can reduce your carbon dioxide emissions.

Solar water heating systems use solar panels, called collectors, fitted to your roof. These collect heat from the sun and use it to heat up water which is stored in a hot water cylinder. A boiler or immersion heater can be used as a back-up, especially in the winter months, to heat the water further to reach the temperature you want.

There are two types of solar water heating panels:

Evacuated tubes and flat plate collectors, which can be fixed on the roof tiles or integrated into the roof.

Larger solar panels can also be arranged to provide some contribution to heating your home as well. However, the amount of heat provided is generally very small and it is not normally considered worthwhile.

Do you have a sunny place to put solar panels? You'll need around five square metres of roof space which faces east-south-west and receives direct sunlight for the main part of the day. The panels don't have to be mounted on a roof however. They can be fixed to a frame on a flat roof or hang from a wall.

Do you have space for a larger, or an extra, hot water cylinder? If a dedicated solar cylinder is not already installed then you will usually need to replace the existing cylinder, or add a dedicated cylinder with a solar heating coil.

Is your current boiler compatible with solar water heating? Most conventional boiler and hot water cylinder systems are compatible with solar water heating. If your boiler is a combination boiler (combi) and you don't currently have a hot water tank, a solar hot water system may not be compatible.

A competent accredited installer will be able to assess your home and help you choose the best setup to meet your needs.

For both types of panels:-

Planning permission is not normally required but it is best to check with your local authority to see if you fall into an exemption category such as a conservation area, the building is listed or has a flat roof.

There are moves afoot to change the rulings on listed properties with a Government paper being published on the benefits of energy-efficient homes.

Solar panels can be deemed a modification of your home so you will need to inform your mortgage lender before installing them.

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