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Solar Panels - FAQ and Common Solar Myths


Do you need at least £10,000 to gain any financial benefit from solar panels?

The Government has recently announced that the Renewable Heat Incentive plan will be going ahead from early 2011. This means that you can earn money with (cheaper) hot water panels rather than just electricity solar panels. These systems cost from £3,000 to £5,000, and the expected amount you'd earn through the RHI would be £400, along with approximately £50 of bill savings. Therefore this represents a much smaller investment, yet maintaining a very high rate of return, so the system will pay itself off.

Do you need a directly South-facing roof?

South is the best way for your roof to face, but it is still possible to put the solar panels on any orientation of roof. The investment will offer a greater return the closer to South-facing your roof is, but it is still very profitable with a SW or SE facing roof.

Do you need a huge roof and a big detached property to provide enough space?

Modern solar panel systems are up to 4 times as efficient as those first released in the 1970s. Very little roof space is needed – just 3 to 4 square metres (ie a 2m by 2m square) of space is needed (with unobstructed sunlight). If you do have a larger roof, a larger system can be installed which means that whilst the set up would be more expensive, you would earn more money through the Feed in Tariff or Renewable Heat Incentive. However, even a small system can generate a lot of electricity with just 4 square metres of roof space available.

Do they have to go on your roof?

If you have suitable space in your garden (several unshaded square metres), then the solar panels can be set up there, with a buried cable carrying the electricity to your house. Some people may wish to do this to preserve the appearance of their property, although part of the design of modern solar systems is to make sure they look sleek and do not detract from the property. A lot of people actually like the way the look – they send out a message that you care about the environment.

Will solar panels provide a significant amount of electricity?

Wrong! Photovoltaic systems provide ample electricity throughout the day , with household PV systems generally ranging from 1.8kW to 4kW. They can't store electricity, so at night you will need to use your regular electricity supplier, but if you don't use the electricity that you generate during the day, it will be sold back to the main grid. Basically, if you're in during the day, you can make big savings on your electricity bills, if you're out during the day, you can make big payments through the Feed in Tariff.

Will solar panels produce any electricity if it's cloudy or poor weather?

Clouds do not significantly impact the amount of energy that the solar panels generate .Indeed, the UK gets around 60% of the UV energy as the equator, despite our difficult climate! Solar panels are used on many crucial systems, such as road signs, airport landing lights, and so on. This also demonstrates their reliability – they have no moving parts, and will last for years and years, with most systems coming with a 25 year guarantee.

Will they go wrong all the time?

Solar panels have no moving parts. They are renowned for being very robust and reliable, hence most will come with a 25 year guarantee, which is how long you are eligible to receive the Feed in Tariff payments.

Will the government will probably scrap the Feed-in-Tariff in a couple of years anyway?

If you buy solar panels now, you are guaranteed the payments for the whole of the 25 year period offered through the Feed in Tariff. Certainly, the government may reduce or even remove the Feed in Tariff in the future, but if you already have the system in place, then your payments will be unaffected. The Feed in Tariff payments are also index linked, so they will rise if inflation rises so you won't lose at. The amount your receive is also tax free, so they are very attractive if you pay a lot of income tax!

Will they will make it hard to sell the house?

It is generally accepted that solar panels can dramatically increase your property's value. This is because firstly anyone moving into your property will get a big reduction in their bills. If you have installed PV panels, and are still within the 25 year Feed in Tariff period, then the new owners of the property would make £850 to £1,500 per year, hence this makes your property even more attractive! If you have installed hot water generating (thermal) panels, then the new owners would now be eligible to receive the Renewable Heat Incentive payments if it's within the 20 year period that those payments last. Even outside these payment periods, the new owners would know that they'd get a reduction in their bills, and being green is quickly becoming very popular – people care about their carbon footprint, and will pay to reduce it to feel better about their lifestyle!

Is getting planning permission time-consuming?

You do not need planning permission for solar panels – green electricity production is being encouraged by the Government. The only exceptions to this are listed properties, for which planning permission is essential, and properties in some conservation areas – if you're in a conservation area, it is necessary to check with your local council as to their stance on this issue. Most people find in conservation areas, that there are simply a few stipulations about where and how the panels are installed, and a lot find that they won't need any planning permission at all – it varies from local council to local council.


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