Small-scale renewables can help you earn money as well as reduce your carbon footprint – but what’s it really like to turn your home into a mini power station? In 2011 our Finance Director, Pam, installed solar photovoltaic panels on her house. She tells us about her experiences…
Our three-bedroom bungalow already had loft and cavity wall insulation, and five years ago we added a solar pipe to channel sunlight into the ensuite shower room, as it has no external walls and therefore no windows. After Dan, our Business Development Officer, installed solar panels on his home, I began thinking about whether it was the next step for us. Although it would be a significant investment, it seemed like the right thing to do. I hated the fact that we were wasting energy from the sun that could be used to power our home.
Dan had already done lots of research into the solar panels and I used the same local family firm that he had chosen. I contacted them in October 2011 and they arranged an installation date, which fortunately was before the rate of the government’s Feed-in Tariffs changed, meaning I could get maximum return for my investment. The company were working flat out to set up as many installations as possible before the deadline.
We already had a mortgage from Ecology and added the cost onto our mortgage using the C-Change Energy Improvements scheme. This gives a discount of 1% off Ecology’s Standard Variable Rate (currently 4.90% – the overall cost for comparison is 5.0% APR) for money borrowed to install energy efficiency or renewable energy measures.
Before the installation, the company came to my house to assess where to put the panels and where the meters would be fitted inside my house. Although there was some shading from trees, there was enough space to get reasonable exposure to the sunlight.
The panels were installed in November 2011 and the process only took a few days, although the scaffolding was up for about a week. We didn’t really have to prepare the house – we just ensured that the installers could access the area inside the house where they would install the meter and inverter. Domestic users can install up to 15 panels, so we had eight panels on our main roof and seven on our extension. Because the back our home isn’t overlooked, none of our neighbours really noticed the difference!
Now that the meters are installed, we can look at how the panels are performing whenever we want. It gets very addictive, especially in the summer! It makes so much sense to use the energy from the sun – I can’t understand why all new buildings don’t have renewables and recycling built in.
We filled out our paperwork for the Feed-in Tariff and submitted the documents via our energy supplier. We had to wait a while for the registration to go through, because lots of people sent in their paperwork just before the Feed-in Tariff rate was cut. We received our first payment in July 2012, giving us £614 for the initial six months of operation. We’re really pleased with the return, especially when we factor in our reduced energy bills.
My one tip for anyone considering installing solar photovoltaic panels would be do to your homework on the firm. Picking the right installers can mean a very smooth operation – and vice versa!
Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage. An early repayment charge may be payable if you repay all or part of your mortgage within the first four years.