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They're springing up on rooftops around the country - but what's the big deal?
Solar panel electricity systems, also known as Solar PV, capture the sun's energy to help you save money off your energy bills. And there's also the opportunity for you to make money, too.
You can use them to
- Cut your electricity bills (once you've paid the initial set up costs you electricity bills will be reduced)
- Get paid for energy that you generate, even if you use it.
- Sell energy that you don't use back to the grid
How much can you save?
Current calculations by the Energy Saving Trust (EST) estimate that a typical domestic system could save and generate an income of £770 every year. This is based on current rates which are set to fall again in April. An installation of this size generates 3,700 kilowatt hours of electricity - enough to power a typical home's electricity for a year.
Why are the rates falling?
The rates, called Feed in Tariffs (or FiT) have been falling every year in line with government energy targets - so the sooner you sign up the better.
How much do solar panels cost?
The average domestic system costs between £6,000 and £9,000 for an average of 16 panels on a roof - but it depends on how many panels you want to install. Costs have fallen significantly over the last year but they do vary between installers and products. Get at least three quotes from Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) accredited installers to see how they compare.
Is there much upkeep required?
There are a few maintence costs. You will just need to keep panels clean and make sure trees don't start to overshadow them. The panels should last for 25 years or more but a piece of technology, called the inverter, is likely to need replacing during this time. This usually costs about £1,000.
Can you get them?
Not every dwelling is suitable. To qualify for a FiT payment you need to have an Energy Performance Certificate of grade D or above - this rates your property on how energy efficient it is. You need one of these whenever you want to build, sell or rent a property. You can find out information on how to get one from the gov.uk website.
You home would usually need to have a south facing roof, with no shade and other buildings or trees. Solar panels still work on cloudy days - so there's no need to worry about that. Obviously they're more effective in bright sunlight, so the summer months are the most productive because of the longer daylight hours.
Are you tempted by solar panels? Tell us in the comment box below.
Where to next?
- The latest price glitch
- 10 energy saving myths busted
- How to switch energy suppliers
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