Making money from solar panels

Making money from solar panels – how to get started

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If you have a south (ish) facing roof you may be able to make money from solar panels. The government provides a regular payment if you generate electricity from solar panels. Find out about making money from solar panels.

Making money from solar panels

There’s no doubt that for some people, installing solar panels makes great financial sense. The previous government introduced ‘feed-in’ tariffs (or ‘clean energy cashback’) for solar panels fitted after April 2010. These tariffs provide a guaranteed tax-free payment for surplus electricity that you generate but don’t use. However, you have to take the cost of fitting the solar panels into account. It will take some time before you generate a payback.

SAVVY TIP: On July 19th, the Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy published a consultation which stated their intention to close the FIT scheme to new applicants from April 1st 2019, barring several exceptions. You can read a FAQ document on Ofgem’s website.

According to the Energy Saving Trust website, these are typical costs for solar panels:

  • Solar photovoltaic (PV): between £5,000 to £8,000 including VAT to install. Costs have fallen over the years.
  • Solar water heating: between £4,000 to £5,000 including VAT to install.

Is your roof suitable for solar panels?

The position of your roof will have the biggest impact on how much electricity you’re able to generate from solar PV panels. It’s not just about the direction your roof faces but whether it’s shaded (either by trees or a chimney/dormer window).

Here are some tips from the Yougen website. It was set up to give user friendly information about all aspects of renewable energy generation.

  • A south facing roof is ideal. If your roof faces south east to south west, solar panels will still be effective.

SAVVY TIP: Yes, I know this seems obvious but some solar panel companies have been saying that a north facing roof can generate solar electricity.

  • The panels should be angled between 30 and 40 degrees. However, solar electricity panels will work on roofs pitched between 20 and 50 degrees.

YOUGEN TIP: Solar electricity panels are quite heavy so your roof has to be strong enough to take them. If you need to reroof, or are building a new house, you can use solar tiles, which would be a cheaper option than replacing the roof and then fitting solar panels.

SAVVY TIP:  Solar tiles are designed to look like ordinary roof tiles and so blend in better than panels. They are typically more expensive because they are still a new technology and there is little competition within the market. They produce renewable electricity in exactly the same way as panels.

  • There’s no ‘one size fits all’ kit. There are different types of solar panels (some are more efficient than others) and different types of roof fittings. If you have a small roof you may be better off paying more for the most efficient solar panels so you can generate the maximum return from the space available.

YOUGEN TIP: A good solar panel installer should take account of your property, how many people live there and how much energy you currently use before recommending the best system for you.

Finding a solar panel installer

Here are some tips from Yougen on finding an installer.

  • Get a recommendation. If you don’t know someone who’s had solar panels installed, look for recommendations via a site like Yougen. There’s lots of feedback on installers.

SAVVY TIP: In order to qualify for the feed-in tariff, the system must be fitted by an MCS certified installer using MCS certified products. Installers have to follow a code of practice, including ‘no pressurised selling’ (such as discounts that only last for a limited time) but some are flouting these rules.

  • Get a proper survey. The company should send a system designer or engineer/surveyor to carry out the survey, not a sales person. If they give you a quote for the cost of installing solar panels but say it’s ‘subject to survey’ that should ring alarm bells. You need someone who can tell you about any problems upfront and give you a quote on that basis.

YOUGEN TIP: If they don’t ask to see the roof/loft and the fusebox, you should be concerned. For example, you have to be sure that your roof can take the weight of solar panels.

  • Ask if the company will do the work themselves. Some companies are subcontracting work which doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a problem but it can mean that, if you’re not happy with the solar panels, there could be a blame game if you make a complaint.

YOUGEN TIP: There’s a bit of a loophole with the rules covering the selling of solar panels (which say that high pressure selling is banned). Some solar installers are using a different company to do their selling for them and they don’t have to abide by the rules. It’s likely that the loophole will be closed very quickly.

  • Get a relevant estimate of how much you will generate. You have to be given an estimate of the solar electricity you’re likely to generate but, under the rules, this is based on a UK wide calculation which doesn’t take account of the differences in the strength of the sun. Ask for a calculation based on the area of the UK you live in.

SAVVY TIP: If you’re not happy with a solar panel company, you should complain to RECC (Renewable Energy Consumer Code). It has a complaints scheme and arbitration service.

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