Solar Panels Installation
Just over 2 years ago, my ex partner and my son moved out. This was a heart-wrenching moment. I was not happy about my son moving out, but I had found it very difficult to live with my ex. She would not let me do any home improvements, as she didn't trust me enough. This may sound negative, but after she had moved out, it left me with a house which was in dire need of renovation. I took this as an opportunity to make the house my own.
It has been a lot of hard graft, but the results are worth it. This is the first of a series of stories about the green home improvements I have done over the last 2-3 years. First installment Solar Panels.
Almost any Green Measure, be it solar panels, insulation, thermostats, solar thermal - hot water, heat pumps, will require an Energy Performance Certificate. This can be done relatively easily, but if you are doing any of these measures, it will need to be an approved surveyor who does it.
Why Go Green?
The main reason for going green, was mostly to save money. In the beginning, my gas and electricity bills were both about £100 per month each. Due to the house being rural, I am stuck with LPG as it isn't possible to connect the house to a gas main. LPG is expensive - over 40p litre.
Before Installing Solar Panels
The main requirement for having solar panels is that your house needs to be at least band D for energy efficiency. Most houses are, or can achieve this fairly easily. The main thing to do is have as much insulation in the loft as possible. Also if you have cavity walls, these can be filled with insulation.
My loft already had 300mm of insulation installed in the loft. It is a timer frame house, so I cannot have cavity wall insulation.
The other thing which is worth doing is to have under floor insulation installed. I would have had this done, but the space under the floor is only 40cm and the minimum requirement is 60cm.
I spent few months of getting quotes for Solar PV (Photo Voltaic) Panels. This was a bit of a roller coaster ride in itself. Some of the salesmen who came to give me prices were fine and easy to get on with, but one was downright rude and aggressive. He wanted a commitment on the night. Anyway he priced himself out of a job. His price was over £10k for an array of 16 panels.
The best offer I received was from Direct Solar, who quoted me £5k approx. for a 16 panel, 4kW system. No frills, no interest free period.
Before these could be installed, I had to arrange for an EPC. Because my house was a Band E, for energy efficiency, which was due mostly to me using LPG. So to get round this, the EPC had to be done the day the panels were installed. The EPC was duly done at a cost of £150. The panels were installed on 7th Feb 2014.
As well as the solar panels, I had a box installed which would divert any electricity being generated, which was not being used, into my water immersion heater. This reduces my dependence on LPG to heat the water.
If you need hot water reasonably quickly, there is an 'Over-ride' button which just heats the water in the tank using the immersion heater, regardless if there is electricity being generated.
Post Install - Some Teething Troubles
Teething trouble? Yes of course. The solar panels require a RCB, but the electrician who did the installation, very kindly used the RCB for one of my ring mains and connected both ring circuits to the one breaker. When I found this out, I emailed Direct Solar and told them that I wasn't happy about this.
The other trouble was that the SOLIC box did not seem to want to work correctly. So that was another return visit by the electrician.
Almost 2 years On
I've received payments for around £300 for the first year. Nothing massive, but it's better in my pocket than someone else's.
Because the panels were installed in Feb 2014, my generation tariff is 14.9p/kW and my export tariff is 4.64p/kW. The export rate is only applied to half of what you generate.
The Solic box does heat the water, but there is only enough for one shower a day. So the boiler does need to heat the water in the tank, but it does reduce my dependency on LPG.