Anybody who is new to the idea of free solar panels will probably be wondering whether or not they are a good or bad idea. Most peoples initial reaction is that there must be some type of catch or some payment that needs to be made somewhere along the line. Unless you know why free solar is being offered it may seem like it is one of those too good to be true offers. So are free solar panels good or bad?
There are a number of private solar installation companies in the UK who will offer to install and maintain solar panels on your roof for 25 years without any cost to you. They can afford to do this because they get payments through the feed-in tariff scheme that was introduced in 2010. The feed-in tariffs are payments that are made to people who invest in having solar panels installed. You do not have to own the property yourself that the panels are installed on in order to qualify for these payments. These companies are able to claim back enough through the scheme in order to cover their initial cost of providing solar for free and have enough left over to make a decent profit from the scheme.
Many companies are now offering free solar including the British Gas solar panel offer as well as the Eon free solar panels offer. The deal works like this; if you own your home (including with a mortgage) and it is suitable for solar then the free installers will fit free panels. You gain by getting a reduced electricity bills as during the day the solar panels will generate free electricity for you to use in your home. The installer gets the payments provided through the FITs scheme. This could mean a return of 2 and a half times their initial investment, this is why companies are so eager to install solar on your home.
Free solar is not a good idea for everyone. This may seem like a strange thing to suggest, after all you get a fully working solar system installed and maintained by the company for 25 years. So when is free solar not a good idea? If you can afford to pay for them yourself then you are better of doing so as solar currently represents a very good investment. Aside from the fact that you will be getting a free supply of electricity for at least 25 years you will also be able to benefit from the government solar grants yourself. Remember investing in solar means that you will get your initial investment back in as little as 6-7 years at the current tariff rate and at current panel prices. That means that you could end up with tax free payments 3 times your initial investment over a 25 year period.
If you do not want to make the investment yourself but want to benefit from solar electricity then one of the free solar offers is for you. You may be retired and not want to tie up your money in solar so you may see free solar as a better option. There may be other reason that you may not want to tie up any cash that you have as it would be at least 6 to 7 years before your capital is returned in the form of the tax free FIT payments. If you can afford to wait then solar is probably the best no risk investment in the UK at the moment. If it wasn't such as good investment you wouldn't see big companies such as British Gas investing so much money to benefit from the scheme payments.
You wouldn't think there were any disadvantages to free solar, after all it costs you nothing and you are getting free electricity. You do however have to think carefully about this type of offer. The most important factor to consider is that you will be tying up your roof for 25 years, you need to consider what your plans could be over the next 25 years. With free solar installed you are not going to be able to invest in solar yourself at a later date. If your roof needs retiling you are going to have to remove the panels to do that and that will usually be at your own costs. The same is also true of paid solar so make sure you get your roof checked out in advance. What about a loft conversion, it is true that not many people convert their lofts but some do. Finally what happens when you sell the house with solar panels installed on the roof?
If you have taken your future plans into consideration then free solar can be beneficial. The savings that you make on your electricity bills will continue to increase every year as the utilities increase their prices. That's less electricity that you don't have to buy thus saving yourself money on bills. If you take advantage of new gadgets such as the devices that divert your surplus free electricity to heat your water via your immersion heater then you can also save on your gas bill too.
If you have the money or can remortgage to invest in solar then do so, get quotes to find out how much it is going to cost. When the installer comes to survey your home they will tell you how much you can expect to earn back from the feed-in tariff solar grants and how much better off financially you will be.
If you don't have the money to invest or just don't want to tie up your cash and still want to benefit from the free electricity that solar panels provide then consider free solar. If you haven't already insulated your roof space then do so before winter to save even more on your bills.
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Grants & Schemes
For every kWp of solar panels you install you could be earning up to £500 a year. That means a 3kWp system could earn you up to £1,500 a year for 25 years.
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