A million British homes now use solar energy. Whether it is solar power or thermal, the sun’s rays are powering energy production like never before.
According to Carbon Brief, from April to September last year more energy was produced by solar panels on fields and homes than fossil fuels in the UK.
It was an historic first, but it won’t be the last we hear of solar marking milestones. With experts predicting 10 million homes across the UK will have solar panels by 2020, now is a better time than any to make the switch.
Before installing solar panels in your home there are few questions to consider.
For starters, there are two types of panels: solar thermal or photovoltaic. The first use the sun’s energy to heat water and the latter are modules made up of photovoltaic cells that convert sunlight directly into electricity.
How many trees surround your property? And does your neighbour’s property shade parts of your own? This is a big consideration before placing that order and deciding where best to install panels.
You should also consider insolation – this is a measure of how much solar radiation reaches ground level under a specified time limit. This will be a good gauge of how many panels you actually need.
“There should be an initial comprehensive survey that should clearly establish the roof condition and structure. A mid-range large domestic PV 4kW system is around £6,000. It’s pretty quick to install solar these days – it can be done in as little as half a day (though scaffolding may be there for longer),” advises Leonie Greene, Head of External Affairs at Solar Trade Association UK (STA).
There is a common misconception that installing and maintaining solar panels will drain both your time and bank balance. But a report carried out by the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London and the Carbon Tracker Initiative found that the cost of solar has fallen by 85 percent in seven years.
With low cost an attractive feature, they predict solar panels could supply 23 percent of global power generation by 2040, and 29 percent by 2050.
Luckily, there is very little maintenance involved with solar panelling. According to CalFinder, dust build-up on your rooftop solar panels can reduce electricity production by seven percent.
But there’s no need to climb up to your roof, a hose down from the ground should suffice – or the rain will wash them for you. The life expectancy of panels is about 25 years so it’s a solid investment.
If you use electrical appliances in your home during the day, they will draw electricity straight from your panels. If you use electricity at night, then they take energy from the national grid and increases your energy bills. But this is set to change.
“There are currently around 4,000 domestic storage units in the UK. We are expecting these to become cost-competitive in the next couple of years and this market will take off. That means that householders will be able to use the solar power that they generate during the day in the evening,” confirms Greene.
If you are curious to know how much money you could save from home solar panels then the Energy Saving Trust solar energy calculator can help.
Perhaps the most important consideration is that solar power significantly reduces carbon emissions.
“[It’s about] the sheer necessity of doing your bit to replace polluting power with clean power – it can’t happen fast enough for the climate,” explains Greene.
“[It’s about] the satisfaction of independence; taking control of your own energy supply and being less at the mercy of energy utilities and volatile fossil prices. And increasingly the aesthetics of solar power are a big attraction – the newer in-roof products and solar tiles are extremely attractive.”
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