free solar panels UK

Are Free Solar Panels Any Good?

A question that is often asked is whether or not free solar panels are any good? This is quite a good question as many people would assume that if they are getting something for free then it would be substandard to one that you would otherwise pay for. In most peoples experience things that are given away for free are not as good or there is some sort of catch or scam involved.

To answer the question directly the free solar panels on offer are the same ones that you would pay for. This raises the question as to why they are given away for free when you get the same panels if you paid for them, why would someone pay for something that you can get free?

The reason companies are offering panels for free is because of the feed in tariff payments that replaced the old solar panel grants prior to 2010. These tariff payments are made to people who generate electricity using solar. The idea is to encourage people to install solar photovoltaic panels that will contribute towards the governments carbon reduction commitments.

is free solar any good

How the feed in tariff works

The feed in tariff or FiT for short is a payment made to individuals or companies for all of the green electricity that they produce. They currently pay 43.1 pence for every kilowatt of electricity that you generate. To put this into context you probably pay around 13 pence for every kilowatt on your electricity bill so this is currently a really good incentive to install solar.

Due to the generous payments you can get (which will increase every year and are guaranteed for at least 25 years) this has spurned many private companies and even the likes of British Gas to give away free solar installations in return for getting paid the generous FiT incentives.

How the free solar panel offers work

When you see companies offering free solar panels it means that they will install a solar system with a value of many thousands of pounds at no cost to you. They make their money back by receiving the tariff payments through the government scheme. You benefit by getting to use the free electricity the panels generate.

The type of panels the companies install are the same ones you would get if you paid for them yourself. They want to install the best performing panels because the more electricity the panels generate and the longer they last the more money the company makes.

Is it better to buy my own panels or get the free panels?

If you have the money then by far the best option is to pay for the solar panels yourself. You can find out more about solar panel costs here. This means that you will be able to claim the tax free payments which means you would earn back about 2.5 times your initial investment over a 25 year period. Under the scheme you will have recouped the cost of the panels after about 10 years which leaves the remaining 15 years of earning a tax free income which could top a thousand pounds every year.

If you do not or cannot make the initial investment but want to cut your electricity bills then free solar is for you. If for example you are retired and you do not want to spend the money on solar because the payback period is too long, then a free system will give you the benefits of free electricity without the investment.

Who would benefit most from free solar?

To get the most out of free solar panels you need to be at home during the day. Solar only produces electricity during daylight hours and so if you are not at home to use the electricity then you will not be able to benefit from it. If you do not use the electricity generated it gets fed back into the grid. The company that installed the panels will earn 3.1 pence for every kilowatt sold back to the grid but you will not benefit at all.

How do I apply for free solar?

You have to apply directly to the company with the offer, there are several companies around the country that will provide a free installation. To find a company near you can use the free installer map or browse through the list of free solar panel companies.

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