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Thinking of investing in Solar?

Look around any residential area and you’ll not be too surprised to see solar panels adorning the modern day skyline. In fact solar is fast becoming a standard part of modern day life. Nowadays you don’t think twice about buying solar powered lights for your garden and those panels that you once despised for being an eyesore, are now beginning to look like an attractive option.

So, if you are considering going solar, what are the main things you have to consider?  Well first will be what type of system you are going for. In the UK domestic setting, there are two main types of panels and systems in use:

1) Solar power (electricity) is the conversion of sunlight into electricity by using photovoltaics (PV).  PV cells are made from layers of semi-conducting material, usually silicon. When light shines on the cell it creates an electric field across the layers. The stronger the sunshine, the more electricity is produced – this electricity can be used in any application in your home.  Groups of cells are grouped together in panels or modules that can be mounted on your roof.

Solar power can cut your electricity bills (although be aware greater savings will be made during the summer than the winter as daylight quality and quantity will be less during the winter months) and cut your carbon footprint.  In addition if you qualify for the government’s Feed-in Tariffs, you could be paid for the electricity you generate and you may even generate enough electricity to be able to sell some back to the grid.

2) Solar water heating uses free heat from the sun to warm domestic hot water. Solar water heating systems use solar panels, called collectors, fitted to your roof. These collect heat from the sun and use it to heat up water, which is stored in a hot water cylinder. A boiler or immersion heater can be used as a back up to heat the water further to reach the temperature you want.

Solar water heating will provide hot water throughout the year (although as in PV systems, the system will generate less heat during the winter, so use of a boiler or immersion heater is a must), cut your bills and your carbon footprint.

Both systems can offer genuine ‘green’ solutions for helping you cut your energy bills and your carbon footprint.  However, you will need to talk to your heating engineer to see what system is right for you. As always, use an experienced professional.  The CIPHE advises homeowners to be wary of companies offering free installation – you will need to do your research to see if this method will still give you a decent energy cost saving and therefore still be worthwhile. It is true the initial costs for both systems may seem heavy and take years to fully pay back their installation price, but if your property offers the ideal setting for solar and you are determined to stay in your home long enough for the system to pay for itself, solar technology can be an extremely good investment.

The CIPHE would like to thank the Energy Saving Trust for the information included in this blog. Consumers can find out more on solar from the Energy Saving Trust website