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If you're thinking about installing a system to generate your own heat, make sure your home is as well insulated as it can be so your heat-producing system can be most efficient.
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The better insulated your home is, the less money you'll spend heating it. Find out more about different types of insulation, including draught-proofing, double glazing, and insulation for lofts and walls.
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Since the introduction of Feed-In Tariffs, there have been a number of organisations offering free solar PV panels – here's what to look out for and some questions you might want to ask before going ahead.
Please note that the number of organisations offering free solar PV panels may be significantly less than before as the UK Government significantly dropped Feed-in Tariffs for solar PV as part of their solar PV fast track review. In addition, a new “multi-installation” rate was introduced which will effect organisations installing these systems. If they install more than 25 systems then the tariff rate will be 10% less than what a private householder would get. What’s more there is a new EPC band D requirement which means that for any organisation wishing to offer solar PV panels for free, and to ensure they receive the highest rate tariff, they will need to ensure the property in question has an EPC band D or higher (A being highest).
A company installing solar PV panels for you will usually get the income from the generation and export tariffs for the site, while you as the customer will just get the benefit of reduced energy bills through some of the electricity generated being used on site. But some companies offer the generated electricity at a discounted price rather than free, so do check.
If you are considering an offer of free solar PV, you should work out what the annual benefit to you will be. If the electricity is to be free then the actual savings made will depend on how much electricity you use, and how much of this is used during the day (see How much you could save).
If the electricity is to be supplied at a discounted price, then this figure will be even less and you should consider whether it’s worth going ahead.
The Energy Saving Trust supports the uptake of microgeneration so long as the technologies:
These free solar PV offers are also referred to as 'rent my roof space' schemes with the solar panel owner simply 'renting' the roof space from you.
The amount of money you will save depends on the proportion of the electricity generated that is used directly in the home, rather than exported to the grid. This will depend on a number of factors, including:
With a typical PV system this would mean likely annual savings of £100 to £180. The proportion used in the home may be as low as 25% for a typical PV system, but could be over 40% for some users (based on figures from the Suncities Monitoring Data Review (Kirklees Council, 2007), A simple model of domestic PV systems and their integration with building loads (Firth, Boswell and Lomas, 2009) and Micro-CHP Accelerator Final Report (Carbon Trust, 2011).
The Energy Saving Trust has compiled a list of all the companies that, to our knowledge, are offering free solar PV. Please note that we do not recommend any particular company; we have not done any assessment of the companies on this list or their offers; and we do not assume any liability for any actions of the companies on this list. You should also check that any company or product is certified by the Microgeneration Certification Scheme and is a member of the REAL assurance scheme.
If you are approached by a company offering free solar PV, here are some questions to ask and the responses to look out for.
Q. Who’s paying for the equipment? Is that in full? Who owns the equipment? (and is that all of the equipment – meter, wires inside the building and so on – or just equipment on the roof or in the back yard?)
A. We would expect anyone offering this scheme to pay for the equipment in full. This includes the solar panels, the inverter, metering and wiring of system. All equipment is likely to be owned by the company with many handing over ownership after 25 years.
Q. Who’s paying for the EPC assessment? What happens if my property is an EPC band E or less?
A. We would expect the company offering the scheme to cover these points. The EPC assessment is important for them not you as the householder as it dictates the Feed-in Tariff they receive. If your property is a band E or less then the company would either have to accept a much lower tariff or arrange for your property to become a band D which is likely to mean installing new measures.
Q. Who gets (a) the generation tariff, (b) the export tariff, (c) the ‘free’ electricity?
A. We expect the company providing the free technology to receive the full generation and export tariff (use our Solar Energy Calculator to see what these figures are), and for you to benefit from the free electricity. If the company isn’t offering all the electricity for free then you should reconsider whether it’s worth going ahead as benefits may be minimal. We estimate the amount of ‘free’ electricity to be around £100 per year for a typical system in a typical home, though this could be as high as £180 if you use a lot of electrical appliances during the day.
Q. Is the electricity used onsite and exported going to be metered, or will it be assumed that 50% the deeming assumption in FIT) will be used?
A. It’s likely this amount will be deemed at 50%, as this is the standard unless an export meter is fitted. It is also likely that this amount will change in the future when smart meters are introduced.
Q. Who pays for maintenance and repairs (for instance, if the DC/AC inverter fails after eight years)?
A. All maintenance and repairs should be paid for by the company installing the equipment, as they are likely to be the owner of the technology. You should check for this in any agreements.
Q. Who will insure the equipment? Against what?
A. It’s likely that you won’t own the equipment so you should not have to insure it. It is therefore up to the company to insure their equipment against fire, theft, wind damage etc.
Q. Who will be liable if the equipment causes damage to my family or my neighbours? Or if it causes damage to mine or my neighbours’ building or electrics?
A. This may be difficult to answer as you would have to prove that the damage was due to negligence on the part of the company installing the equipment, such as faulty wiring. Any faulty work should be reported to the company immediately for them to rectify. It is also crucial that the company checks that the roof is strong enough so a structural assessment should be carried out.
Q. Are you in effect lending me money to do this, either as a loan or a hire purchase deal? If so... How long for? What is the annual equivalent interest rate (AER) on the money? Where is your consumer credit licence? Can I have 7 or 14 days cooling off please (depending on whether the deal was done in person)?
A. For most free solar PV offers there will be no loan agreement as the equipment will be owned by the company. However, if you are being offered the system as a purchase in its own right (equipment and installation) then you should consider very carefully any loans being offered, and should get independent financial advice before going ahead.
Q. What happens if I decide I want to pay off the remaining costs early? Can I have the FIT re-assigned to me?
A. This will depend on the contract drawn up between you and the company.
Q. What happens if I move house and the new owners don’t want to ‘inherit’ the deal?
A. It’s unlikely the company offering the panels will want to sell them back or allow you to sell them along with the house. Therefore the agreement will stick with the property and you will have to consider this when selling the property. This is one of the key questions you should ask anyone offering such scheme.
Q. Are you giving any performance guarantees for the equipment? (What happens if it stops working and generating FITs for you? Is that your risk?)
A. This should be the company’s risk as it relates to performance of the system and quality of products used. Most PV cells have manufacturer performance guarantees ranging from 20-25 years so this shouldn’t be a problem.
Q. Do I need to let my mortgage company and buildings insurer know that this installation has taken place? Will I need their permission?
A. We recommend telling your mortgage provider about this before going ahead.
Q. Who is responsible for addressing any planning issues or electricity distribution company notification requirements? Who pays any associated costs?
A. We expect the company providing the offer to be responsible for all of this. However, we recommend you inform your local planning office prior to going ahead. Solar PV is permitted development, but do find out about getting planning permission.
Q. What happens if the company which owns the equipment ceases to exist or goes into liquidation?
A. This will vary for each situation. However, because the system generates an income, the liquidators may decide to keep it running in order to pay off creditors.
Generating energy – what suits your home? Use our online tool to find the technologies that will work for you.