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Personally installing solar panels the pros and cons

This post is in response to a thoughtful comment on yesterday’s post.

We installed an A-rated boiler 2 years ago and have also put in cavity wall and roof insulation.  Our gas bill is just under half what it was before we did this, even with the price rises.
We’ve also got a back porch of a kind and there isn’t space for a front porch.  Given that our house is more or less as efficient as it can be we are considering installing solar panels on our roof.

We wouldn’t normally have money burning a hole in our pocket – who does?  But we’ve been given some following a bereavement and it’s something we’ve been thinking about for a while.

First the cons:  well this is about the other things we could have done with the money – even given we have made our house as energy efficient as possible from an environmental point of view we could invest in a green project, pay for the woodland trust to plant trees, pay for other people to have insulation.
From a financial point of view we could put the money in a building society, invest in shares, or offshore wind.

Well the pros:  it obviously generates, some, electricity/heat in a more environmentally friendly way than the beauteous Didcot power station.  It also stimulates the market and hopefully encourages investment to lower costs for the future, it will be great to educate our daughter about science and the environment with, and with the feed in tariff it seems a relatively good investment that is relatively low risk (your mileage may vary, do not take investment advice from blogs!).

Of course not everyone is convinced by whether feed in tariffs are a good idea.  There is a lot to be said for and against them from a policy point of view.  In my view the biggest argument for them is that they will encourage market entry and thus bring costs down in the medium term, the biggest argument against is that it might be more cost effective to just insulate every house in the country.  For an individual though all this is irrelevant to making a decision.

Over all the only thing that I can think of that would be both a financially sound use of the money and also have similar green ‘credentials’ is investing in a green company like ecotricity or similar.  However I’m not sure it is as low risk because of the madness of the stock market and it doesn’t have the emotional resonance.  So if the numbers stack up and are comparable or better to other uses I think we will go for it.

It’s nice to think I am a rational creature and play with spreadsheets and ROIs and payback periods and opportunity costs but lets face it, most of the time most of us do things because we want to…

…still lets see what the cost is first!

UPDATE: worth reading the comments as John is a heating engineer and knows his stuff!

  1. “We installed an A-rated boiler 2 years ago and have also put in cavity wall and roof insulation.” … “It's nice to think I am a rational creature and play with spreadsheets and ROIs and payback periods…”

    Where I'm coming from is seeing solar thermal installations in houses which still have standard efficiency boilers with timer+thermostat controls, not insulated to the gunwhales, even with single glazing, and other places the improvements I was talking about could be made 🙁

    “…lets face it, most of the time most of us do things because we want to…”
    I think that's why those people have solar panels. It sounds as if you're taking an unusually rational approach to yours Rachel!

    Whilst still on technology one other gripe I have is with installers who put solar thermal in when a householder has a combi boiler, but install it so that the instantaneous weter supply function of the combi isn't used but just use the boiler to heat part of the solar cylinder. This is madness! By supplying hot water on demand a combi uses energy only when it's needed instead of putting energy into heating up a cylinder whether it gets used or not (and having it run cold if the kids all have a bath before you do!). If the house already has a combi then it's not rocket science to install solar so that it supplies hot water when it's available and the combi boosts the temperature when the solar store is lukewarm and takes over entirely when it's cold. Trouble is I don't think that's in solar installers' repertoire.

  2. On the issue of feed-in-tariffs and stimulating the market I'm sceptical. Solar thermal and PV already have a lot of development and production investment behind them, in other countries as well as this, and demand can be stimulated/maintained by requirements for new-build. (New-build could even be mandated to be sufficiently energy-efficient that solar would supply practically all its needs: “Tony's House” in Woodley/Sonning – – shows what could be done).
    But we don't currently have, and could really do with stimulating the market for, seriously upgrading the efficiency of existing housing stock. If the money currently going into feed-in tariffs were redirected into improving existing stock it might reap far greater rewards in national energy consumption and greenhouse gas reduction, as well as providing jobs in this country to a greater number of workers doing the improvements.

  3. Solar Panels says:

    I really appreciate the idea,
    that we are saving our globe from pollution.we really need such ideas to make this industry rich.

  4. soni says:

    Your post was very interesting. Thank for share a nice story. 'Really' A new innovation in the solar industry that caught many consumers' eyes is the growing trend towards combination solar hot water and home heating systems. These systems are custom-made to fit each home's sizes and needs and require well-accustomed system designers and installers.
    solar thermal installers

  5. edward says:

    This is really a good idea,very well written.Thanks

  6. Wind Turbine says:

    nice post good goning… keep it up

  7. Anonymous says:

    thanx for sharing really great information and stuff …

  8. I think that what is offered through the feed in tarrifs isn't just an opportunity to make money, but energy independance from companies that are quite clearly bleeding the planet for profit. The amount that is offered to you through providing clean energy back to the grid is actually half the price per watt than what consumers pay for fossil fuel energy. This is absolutely outrageous but you could still stand to benefit as an individual from renewable energy.

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