free solar panels UK

Can You Really Get Solar Panels Free In The UK?

There has been a lot of coverage on television and in the papers recently about the free solar panel offers currently being run by some of the solar installation companies including British Gas. Some of the coverage has been favourable and some negative, there will always be doubts in people's minds when you are faced with an offer that is seemingly too good to be true.

I get a lot of questions regarding the free solar offers that more and more companies are providing. The most common questions are if these are truly free and if there are any hidden costs. Surely somewhere along the line someone is going to pay? As with anything that is being offered at no cost the funding has to come from somewhere.

Will I Have To Pay Anything To Get Free Solar Panels?

free solar panels installed on domestic roofPeople are used to free offers but there is always usually a catch, either paying for postage, paying for delivery or installation or some other hidden cost. The company's currently offering free solar panel installations really are doing so at no cost to you. There really are no hidden charges for having the panels installed. There may however be circumstances that you will have some expense which we will cover in more detail but these will not affect a majority of people.

Why Are Companies Giving Away Solar Panels?

Firstly the companies offering these systems are not technically giving you the panels. The solar system they install belongs to the company and will do so for 25 years from the point of installation. After that time the company will usually hand over ownership to you, generally at no additional cost.

The reason these offers exist is because of the feed-in tariff that was set up by the government in 2010. This tariff replaces the old solar panel grants and pays people who generate renewable energy such as solar and the payments come from the electricity supplier, not from the government. The installer will get these payments guaranteed for 25 years, the total amount over that people will more than pay for the companies costs twice over giving them a very nice tax free profit. Yes these FIT payments are tax free.

Are There Any Hidden Costs?

So what everyone wants know is if there any hidden costs? There are potentially some costs that you may incur and you should ask your installer about these. Firstly when a survey is done on your home to see if it is suitable for solar they should also do a structural survey of your roof to see if it will support the extra weight of the panels. It may require that your roof needs strengthening which could potentially cost up to £500. You should check to see who pays for this if it is needed.

If the solar panels ever need removing you may have to pay for this too. Ordinarily the installer will endeavour to remove the panels at their own cost if you need access to the roof for maintenance or for a new roof to be put on. If the installer allows you to keep the panels after the 25 year contract has ended then you will then be responsible for removing the panels. Building regulations state that you should endeavour to remove the panels once their productive life has finished which could be as long as 30-40 years hence. However how your local planners will be able to tell if the panels have stopped working is unclear. You will most likely have to hire a company to remove the panels at some point at your own cost.

How Do I Benefit From Free Solar Panels?

Whilst it will not cost you anything to get the panels installed the panels will still be owned by the installation company. You will benefit by reducing your electricity bills and getting approximately half of your electrical energy for free. The people who will benefit most from this deal are those that are at home during daylight hours.

Solar power can only be generated during the day so if you are not at home to use it the electricity gets fed back to the grid. The installer will get the payments for the energy sold back to the grid. If one the other hand you are at home for most of the day and you run appliances such as a tumble drier, air conditioner or other high power domestic appliances then you will likely benefit more then others.

Is This A Good Deal?

If you are at home most of the day then this offer is ideal for you. If you have the money or are able to get a loan to pay for the installation yourself you would be much better off by more than doubling your initial investment. If you are more interested in making a difference to the environment and your motives are not entirely financial then you could switch to a green electricity tariff at no additional cost then what your electricity is costing you now.


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