Investing in solar energy for your home can significantly reduce your current energy spend. Not only that, but reducing your dependence on the energy companies can also protect you from future price rises in the supply market.
Elliott Brown / CC BY 2.0
With the addition of the Feed in Tariff (FiT), installing solar panels got much more attractive. With the combined benefits of a reduction in energy bills and an annual income via FiT, more and more households are starting to seriously consider generating their own energy. But how much money do you need to invest to start taking advantage of solar energy?
The Cost of Solar Panels
The entire cost of your system will depend on a number of factors, and we always recommend you get several comparative quotes before making your decision. The things that influence the cost of your solar system include:
- The size of the system installed (measured in kWp)
- The manufacturer and specifications of panels
- The manufacturer and specifications of the inverter
- The expertise and location of the installer
- Any additional equipment or labour needed to access or install your system
As a general rule, a domestic system will be around 3kWp to 4kWp in size. In today’s market, this will cost in the region of £6,000 to £8,000 to install, although it could be significantly more if you are looking for specialist technology. Solar tiles, for instance, can be a great way to integrate your solar system with a new roof for your home, but you can expect to pay around double the normal cost for this type of system. A solar panel installer will usually need to do a site visit to assess the suitability of your site, your expected returns and to accurately quote for your specific circumstances.
The cost of solar is falling, as competition and demand in the market begin to force the prices down and with the Feed in Tariff available, well sited solar will pay for itself and offer a really attractive return.
Free Solar Panels
If you want to install solar but are concerned about the cost, you will find some companies offering to install your panels for free in return for your FIT payments. If you are able to buy, then buying should always be your first choice option, but for those unable to raise the capital then free solar may be something to consider. Free solar panels work for people who:
- Don’t have money to invest and are unable, or unwilling, to get a loan
- Want to make savings on their energy bills
- Are concerned about ongoing maintenance costs – maintenance is usually included with free solar panel offers
- Are keen to mitigate the impact of energy price rises
For some people, there will be a benefit to getting solar panels sooner rather than later by taking up a ‘free solar’ offer, but we urge these people to read the fine print. Finding out how long the company will be borrowing your roof space for, who will own the panels at the end of the loan period and what happens if you want to move or sell your home are all questions to be answered before you jump on in.
Price Versus Quality
As well as considering the cost of the panels in general, it’s important that you are confident about the quality of panel you are purchasing and confident about your installer. As with most markets, there is some degree of getting what you pay for in terms of quality. Talk to your installer company about the panels they are recommending, and ask for the reasons that they chose these panels. Find out about warranties for the panels, the inverter, and the workmanship.
Be wary of installers who don’t have comprehensive and extensive answers to such questions. You don’t want to get lumped with a poor quality panel or inverter just because the installer got a great supply chain deal or got a container load cheap. Ensure you are confident in your installer’s ability to assess your situation and to design the best system for your needs, rather than just the cheapest.