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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Can I export the electricity I generate using a solar PV system?
- Yes, one of the benefits of the Feed-In Tariff scheme is that you can earn an extra 4.5p per kWh that is generated then exported. All unused electricity will automatically be exported unless you connect batteries to your system. Your electricity company can fit an export meter or they can pay you based on estimated export rates (usually 50%) - sometimes your electricity supplier can authorise installers to fit the export meter instead. Do not confuse the export meter with the gross generation meter, which is fitted as standard on all solar PV installations.
- Are there any grants available for installing solar PV panels?
- The Feed in Tariff is a payback scheme rather than a grant scheme, and has replaced most grants for solar PV systems however, grants may be available from your local council - please contact them for details. The Feed-In Tariff pays you for the electricity you generate using your PV system, as well as any excess electricity generated, which you can export back to the Grid.
- Is efficiency important when choosing solar panels?
- Often not, the efficiency of any given panel relates to how effectively it can convert the sun's light. Given that the sun's light is free a panel can simply be made larger to offset a lower efficiency. Only when suitable roof area is at a premium does it make sense to choose high efficiency panels, this will maximise the amount of power that can be generated from the limited space.
- 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.
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