Solar Powered Energy
A little over two years ago my wife and I purchased a family home that had solar panels (14 panels to be exact) installed onto the roof. Initially these unsightly additions actually put us off buying this house but after living with them for two years I can honestly say I would have more installed if there was any roof left to place them on!
Yes, they are not the prettiest of things but the benefits far out way this. Luckily the previous owner had also had his reservations regarding having these installed so the company that installed them offered him an attractive 'Feed In Tarrif' otherwise known as FIT. Along with the sale of the house this has now been transferred over to myself meaning I get paid for the electricity these panels produce.
The 'Feed in Tarrif' is the most important part if you are looking to install solar panels as an investment. Many people believe that once installed, your household electric comes from the energy they produce but this is not the case. One still pays for the energy they consume on a monthly basis, there is no discount and no free electric produced. Here's the good bit though, the energy produced by your solar panels feeds directly back into the national grid and every quarter you need to send off your meter readings to the energy provider that is linked to your installation. They then calculate how much energy (specifically kilowatts) have been produced by your solar panels and then pay you for each unit produced. This is why getting a good FIT deal is important, they pay you the amount agreed for each kilowatt produced.
Our energy bills are approximately £100 per month (we have no gas, everything is electric) which works out as £1200 per year. Our solar panels actually pay us on average £200 per month working out at £2400 per year! Obviously the summer months are much more productive than the winter months as there is more daylight and clear skies but I have taken the yearly figure and divided by 12 to give you a monthly average.
So in short, we pay £1200 for our electric and we get paid £2400 for the electric we produce. Not only only does that mean we have free electric (in essence) we also have £1200 spare each year to either help cover other bills or go towards holidays or use as and when we see fit. The money is paid directly into my bank account so how I spend it is entirely up to me.
I cannot stress enough how glad I am that we brought this house, especially as the solar panels were actually putting us off buying at first. Please don't let them put you off buying a future property as they actually earn you money (provided they have a good FIT applied to them).
Solar panels also require very little maintenance (a clean once a year to be precise) and are given a lifespan of 25 years on average. There is no damage to the roof if these are professionally installed which many companies offer for free as a sweetener to get you to sign up.
Things to be aware of
Obviously it goes without saying that if you are having solar panels installed, make sure they are installed on the 'South facing' side of your roof to maximise the amount of sunlight they will soak up.
The more solar panels the more rewards so pick a location large enough for as many as possible to be installed.
If your buying a house that already has solar panels installed (like I did) make sure the seller has agreed to transfer the rewards over to you as well as ownership of the panels and have your solicitors draw up a document stating this before committing to buy. Many people have been caught out on this and although they actually own the property and the solar panels attached to it they do not own the Feed in Tarrif contract and as such the previous owner was getting the rewards of the energy the new owners were producing!
Solar panel installation differs hugely between different companies, some companies may seem like the cheaper option but in the small print they may actually own your roof space so can use it however they want. Make sure the ownership of the solar panels and roof space stays entirely in your name.
The 'FIT' (Feed In Tarrif) is the most important part of any solar panel installation, go with the company offering the highest rate per kilowatt and also the longest lifespan of that contract. Our solar panels are on a fixed price feed in Tarrif until 2035 so we know as long as the solar panels are kept in working order we should be rewarded a similar amount each quarter until 2035.
It is also worth checking your solar panels once a year or so, they need keeping clean and clear of any bird mess, moss and anything else that could affect their efficiency and performance. We had a small issue last year with a pair of doves that decided to nest in the gaps between the solar panel and roof (the solar panels are raised approximately 10 centimetres off the roof to allow air circulation to stop damp and moisture accumulating).