Energy efficiency - going solar

Posted 9 September 2015 by Keith Osborne

How to improve your energy efficiency by using solar panels.

In recent years as energy prices have soared and the cost of fossil fuels on the environment has become increasingly pronounced, many homeowners have looked for other methods of powering their houses. Capturing the power of the sun using photovoltaic panels attached to the sloping roof has gradually become an increasingly popular option, though it requires significant up-front investment.

Typical purchase and installation costs for a medium-sized family home are around £7,000, so savings will only be realised in the medium to long term; if you are thinking about moving in the next couple of years it might be an idea to instead install solar panels in your future home.

As with all technology, economies of scale apply to solar power, therefore the more panels used the more overall cost efficiency there tends to be. Photovoltaic panels that sit on top of the roof tiles are cheaper than photovoltaic tiles which are incorporated into the roof in place of existing tiles.

An average system can generate 3,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year and it is a very low-maintenance technology. The panels need to be cleaned every few months to ensure that they are operating at maximum efficiency, but other than that they can largely be left alone to generate power.

Rainfall will normally clean the panels and they don't have to be exposed to brilliant sunshine in order to work, instead they operate equally well in Britain's normal overcast weather.

Before you install, have a look at your property and consider whether it is being overshadowed by trees, tall buildings or other obstacles that will prevent panels from operating properly. Remember, installing panels is a serious financial undertaking and so they have to generate a sufficient amount of electricity for the project to be viable, overhanging trees (especially ones you can't cut back) could make it a costly waste of time.

The lifespan of a solar panel is about 25 years, by which time it should have paid for itself many times over, but before you install, think about the cost and your own circumstances and decide whether it makes good financial sense to you.

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