Choosing a residential solar energy system suitable to your needs requires consideration of a range of factors.
Do you want a residential solar energy system for heating water, for producing electricity or both?
Other factors to consider include the area of south facing roof for your solar panels, the existing water heating system (if you want hot water) and your budget. A competent accredited solar panel installer will be able to assess your situation and discuss with you the best configuration to meet your needs.
Regions of the UK
In England, changes to permitted development rights for microgeneration technologies introduced on 6th April 2008 have cancelled the requirements for planning permission for most residential solar energy water heating installations.
Roof-mounted and stand-alone solar panels are easily installed in most households, as long as they pay attention to certain size criteria and the general look of the area if you live in a conservation area.
In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, you must consult with your local authority regarding planning permission to facilitate installations of microgeneration technologies, including solar water heating and pv solar panels.
Solar water heaters
The typical installation cost for a solar water system is £3,000 – £5,000. Evacuated tube systems are more advanced in design than flat plate, and so tend to be more expensive.
Solar water heating systems generally come with a 5-10 year warranty and require little maintenance. A yearly check by the householder and a more detailed check by a professional installer every 3-5 years should be sufficient.
Solar PV Electricity
When it comes to residential solar energy panels, homeowners would be looking around the £5,000- £7,500 per kWp mark. Solar tiles are more expensive than standard solar panels and panels that are roof-integrated are more costly than those that are mounted on top of a roof. However, they blend into the look of your house a lot more.
If you plan on getting major roof repairs carried out, PV tiles may be an affordable option, as they can balance out the price of roof tiles.
By installing residential solar energy you could be saving up to 1.2 tonnes of CO2 a year and hundreds of pounds off your electricity bill.
Residential Solar Energy To Increase
The UK government has been widely criticised for not pushing renewable energy as much as other countries – such as Germany – to their people to encourage a mass switch to micro-sized renewable systems such as solar panels.
The German government has invested almost £10 billion in solar energy PV schemes, and installing heat pumps are a bonus for Swedish people. Other countries such as Greece and Spain are offering incentives to install solar panels.
A micro-scale solar energy revolution would be inspired by the government if they introduced rebate schemes alongside monetary incentives. And I don’t mean for a year or two. For widespread uptake of solar panels to occur in the UK, sustained policy support will be required.
A feed-in tariff scheme, which would reward people who invest in producing their own electricity via solar panels has been introduced in most European countries, especially in Germany where solar energy has really taken off.
Alternative incentives include grants to cover half of the initial costs of solar panels and their installation. If the UK government subsidised half the cost of some of the technologies, it would save 14m tonnes of carbon emissions a year, or 3% of all emissions.
A third option would be to offer discounts in the form of low-interest “soft loans” but this could lead to the life of the loan probably exceeding the life of most power units.
The solar energy industry has called for clear targets which it said would lead to greater certainty for investors and lower costs for consumers.