Costs, savings and maintenance

The benefits of installing and maintaining a PV system far outweigh its costs if installed properly and in a well-suited location. Even with the current Feed-In Tariff it should be possible to make a 40% return on your investment if you have a suitable roof, or you can get the up-front costs paid for using Green Deal loan.

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Costs

Costs for installing a solar electricity system have come down quite a bit in recent years with an average system (3kWp) costing £4,000-£5,000 (including VAT at 5%), with some 4kWp systems available for less than £5,000. Solar electricity systems cost more per kWp of capacity installed, but costs per kWp should reduce as system size increases. The larger the system capacity, the more electricity it will generate and the more money it will save you.

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Factors that can affect the amount you spend include:

  • The more panels a system has and the higher the generation capacity (kWp), the more it costs but the more it could save
  • Typically solar panels incorporated in a roof are more expensive than those that sit on top
  • Solar tiles cost more than conventional panels. However, if you need roof repairs where roof tiles need replacing, PV solar tiles can offset the cost of roof tiles.

If you can’t afford the installation costs upfront, you can get the installation paid for through the government’s Green Deal finance scheme. You simply pay the amount back through payments on your energy bills, which should never exceed how much money you’re saving by using the technology. This means that the solar PV installation should never cost you more money than you would be spending on your bill anyway. Applications are now open for the scheme, and if you’d like to combine a Green Deal with the Pay-as-you-generate Feed-In Tariff scheme you can now do this too – for more information on all things Green Deal visit our Green Deal pages.

Maintenance

The maintenance required for solar PV systems is generally small – you’ll need to make sure the panels stay fairly clean, and look out for any trees beginning to overshadow the panels. If the panels are angled the rain should clean them adequately – alternatively, you can clean the panels as you would clean windows. Some window cleaning companies offer a specialist service. Typically the system has a guarantee lasting for its lifetime of 20-25 years depending on the make and manufacturer. During the life of the system you may have to replace the inverter at a cost of £500, but your savings will be far greater than this and so will cover it comfortably.

Savings

A typical 3kWp system can generate around 50% of a household’s electricity needs, equal to around £140 in bill savings. Under the FIT scheme you can also be paid for every unit of electricity you generate (the Generation Tariff) and every unit you don’t use and export back to the National Grid (the Export Tariff), currently estimated to be 50-75% of the electricity you generate using the system. The Generation Tariff is currently set at 14.90p/kWh for installations in houses that are EPC rated as D or above pre-installation, paying the average household £370. The export tariff is currently set at 4.64p/kWh, paying the average household £50 a year. This adds up to £560 a year, with the average system paying for itself in 10 years and making £5,000 profit over its lifetime of 20-25 years including all installation and maintenance costs. For more information on the FIT tariff visit our FIT pages here.

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FAQs

What guarantees do solar PV panels come with?
It does vary from manufacturer to manufacturer but typically Solar PV panels will come with an output guarantee in the region of 20 and 25 years. The Inverter will have a shorter life, and your should budget to have this replaced once during the life of your system (25 years or more) and therefore has a shorter guarantee, typically around 5 years. The labour guarantee will depend on your installer and your should ask or study the fine print in your quote; 5 years is fairly typical.
Is there an approvals standard for solar PV panels?
Yes, solar panels can be approved by the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS). In order to qualify for the Feed-In Tariff scheme you must ensure that you use MCS approved panels.
How are solar PV panels fixed to the roof?
This will depend on the roof, but typically solar PV panels are fixed using rigid stainless steel brackets that are fixed directly to your roof rafters. The brackets hook out from underneath your existing tiles. Tiles or slates should not be drilled to fit the panels, nor should mastic/silicone be used to weatherproof your roof. Solar panels can be fitted to any roof type except thatched roofs.
Are solar PV panels fragile?
Solar PV panels are very robust; they are designed to withstand the normal stresses and strains subjected to them by nature. You can ensure that your panels are robust by purchasing only MCS accredited panels.
Can I heat water with solar PV panels?
Whilst PV panels do not directly heat water (this is what solar thermal panels do) they do produce electricity that can be used to do anything that you want to - even export it back to the grid for an extra payment. This electricity can be used to heat water if you have an immersion water heater.
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