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Using solar energy in the home


1st Jan 2015 Home & Garden

Using solar energy in the home

If you want to know how to get your home producing green, efficient energy, you may want to consider solar powering your home. Here's all you need to know about using solar energy 

Installing Solar panels can be a great way to contribute towards the environment, providing up to half of the home’s energy, as well as saving you significant cash over time.

There are two types of Solar Energy you can install in your home, Solar PV (photovoltaic), which generates electricity and Solar Thermal, which only heats water.

Is Solar Energy Right For You?

A man holding his daughter and pointing at a house with solar panels Credit: Halfpoint

Depending on whether you opt for Solar PV or Solar Thermal, installing your system can cost anywhere between £3,000-£7,000. The pay offs are definitely worth it in the long term especially with feed-in tariff, which pays you money for producing your own energy.

"Installing your system can cost anywhere between £3,000-£7,000"

According to Money Saving Expert, if your system costs £7,000 to install, over a period of 20 years the feed-in payments could generate savings of around £16,000. Initial pay offs might take a while to be seen so this is particularly good if you’re a home owner intent on staying in your home for a long time.

If your house has a south-facing side and is not shaded by trees or tall buildings then you might want to begin considering Solar. But you might be wondering which type is right for you. 

Solar Thermal

a shower head Credit: surachetsh

The most popular way of utilising solar energy is to preheat cold mains water so that less gas, oil or electricity is needed to supply hot water. This is usually achieved by putting a solar panel measuring 3–4m2 (3.6–4.8 sq yd) on the roof, facing roughly south.

Although solar panels work best in sunny weather, they still function in cloudy conditions and could provide about half your hot water energy needs over the year.

"Although solar panels work best in sunny weather, they still function in cloudy conditions"

An installed system costs between £3,000 and £5,000. DIY kits cost from £1,200. Grants are available through the Low Carbon Buildings Programme.

Solar PV

An eco house Credit: RonFullHD

This is slightly more expensive, costing anywhere between £5,000-£7,000 per kWp. Standard roof mounted panels may not be the most attractive addition to your home, but they are the cheapest.

"Standard roof mounted panels may not be the most attractive addition to your home, but they are the cheapest"

More subtle options include built-in panels, which are within the roof, or solar tiles at the more expensive end, which replace traditional tiles. With Solar PV, the energy travels into your home and any excess energy can be sold on to the National Grid.

There are also options to get free Solar Panels – but just be aware that with these schemes there may be fewer opportunities to profit from the energy you produce through a feed-in tariff.

Top Tip: Make Sure your Panels are clean!

Your solar collector panels will perform best if they're clean and free from dust, so give them a wipe-over once in a while. A small amount of detergent on a damp, soft-bristled broom will do the trick.

If you take good care of your collectors, they'll probably outlast your tank. Then you can just connect those reliable old collectors to the new tank.

Banner credit: Teamjackson

Image of a promotion for Reader's Digest solar energy in partnership with Fusion-8

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