Going solar might be a great decision for anyone that owns a house or building which needs electricity and heat all around the year. So yes, it is a good decision for many... However, given that it implies a considerable initial investment, it is wise to go through this process paying attention to certain aspects that might affect the result of your solar switch. So here I sum up 5 points to take into account before going solar:
1. Do You Know What It Means To Go solar?
Obviously, before taking the decision of going solar, you need to know where you are heading to. There are basically 3 things you can decide to do in order to save energy (and money!).
First, you should think of the “passive techniques”, or passive solar, which means designing the building in order to best take advantage of the local climate. This is using the energy of the sun for the heating and cooling of living spaces, using the building itself to optimize the use of natural energy instead of applying mechanical systems (active solar). You should consider window placement and glazing type, thermal insulation, thermal mass, and shading. Passive solar design techniques can be applied most easily to new buildings, but existing buildings can also be adapted. So, the first wise step in the process of going solar is to optimize the use of natural energy by means of the design of the building.
Going solar also refers to active techniques, which imply mechanical systems. And in this regard, there are two things you can do, depending if you want to use solar energy for heating or for electricity. Solar hot water (or thermal) systems capture sunlight to heat water for domestic use (to heat a swimming pool, or for a radiant heating system). On the other hand, you may want to use solar energy for electricity, for which you’ll need solar panels (solar photovoltaic system). This system uses photovoltaic panels to produce electricity by transforming the energy it captures from the sun. Unfortunately, shading a photovoltaic (PV) system, reduces its output considerably, so be sure you place the panel in the most suitable position to make the best out of it!
Read more: Go Green, Go Solar!
2. Have You Checked for Local Grants and Other Incentives?
A very tempting fact about going solar in the UK is that there are some incentives by the government's Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) that will make your investment easier. Although there are no more solar PV grants since 2010, you can still make some money from the government’s Feed-in Tariffs (FIT) if you choose to install them. This tariff will pay you (each month or year) for every Kilowatt Hour of electricity your panels generate. Payments depend on how much electricity you generate with your panels and how much you “sell” back to the national grid. There are some requirements to qualify for FIT, such as being a UK resident and owning the property, and that the panels are installed by a qualified installer.
Application Deadline for Solar PV Feed in Tariff
Read our guide on how you can still benefit from the solar PV Feed in Tariff before it ends in March 2019.
In the case you decide installing a solar thermal system for heating water, you might be eligible for the Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (Domestic RHI). This is a government financial incentive to promote the use of renewable heat. People who join the scheme and stick to its rules, receive quarterly payments for seven years for the amount of clean, green renewable heat they make at their domestic property. Heating systems eligible for the scheme are either: a) biomass only boilers, and biomass pellet stoves, b) air source heat pumps, c) ground source heat pumps, d) flat plate and evacuated tube solar thermal panels.
3. Did You Know There Are Solar System Warranties?
Even though solar systems are built to last and usually almost no maintenance is needed after the initial investment, there are solar system warranties which you should be aware of. When making your purchase, don’t forget to ask the supplier about this since it might not be included on the bid.
There are usually two types of warranties offered. One is the panel and inverter manufacturer warranty, which is usually 20-25 years on panels and 5-10 on the inverters. The other warranty is related to the quality of the work of the installers, which guarantees that they make no holes in the roof likely to lead to leaks (this usually covers from one to ten years).
Read more: How To: Choose a Solar Panel
4. Did You Know That Incorporating Solar Panels Will Actually Increase the Value of Your Property?
It has been found that installing solar PV panels increases home value by about 3,5 to 4 percent, which on average covers installation costs. This fact is interesting when you are assessing the return on your investment! Similar to when you invest on a new kitchen, solar installation will add value to your property as well as cutting your electricity bills. This investment will increase the sale price of your property and also its “consumption value”, which refers to the benefit of having an environmentally friendly energy source. Value will increase even more in neighbourhoods that favor green-branded products, which is hopefully a tendency that will get more popular through the years.
5. Have You Checked for Different Suppliers and Their Respective Offers and Products?
Since going solar might imply a considerable initial investment, it will be very helpful to compare cost and information from different suppliers. Taking a look at various bids and offers will allow you to construct a clear picture of what to expect, and what suits your needs better in order to receive the best service for the best price. Whether you are considering solar PV or solar thermal, you can try GreenMatch.co.uk to get all the relevant information about solar energy and also requesting quotes to the best suppliers in your area.
Hopefully this information is helpful and will serve you as a checklist if you are planning to take some solar action. But even though these 5 points pretty much sum up what you need to know, you can always learn more about the particular mechanisms, say solar panels, or solar thermals. Give it a chance and go solar!