When is the most cost effective time to install solar panels?

Many people do want to have a thermal solar system installed. They give you some energy independence and they reduce your household carbon emissions effectively. They offer you a payback, for a front end investment, unlike oil, gas or electricity, but there is the front end investment that you have to find. Is there a way of reducing that initial investment for the average householder?

You can pay between £4000 and £8000 for a solar system; most of what you pay for is installation costs. There are some very high quality panels. Like the Genersys vacuum panel, which are expensive and provide a superior performance, but whatever system you opt for there are ways of bringing down the installation cost, which will improve your return on investment and shorten your payback period.

The important thing to understand is that installation costs are usually more than the cost of the equipment itself. Your installer has to usually install your system on a roof, and that usually involves scaffolding, which is expensive.

Therefore is you are undertaking works to your home which already incurs the scaffolding cost it is significantly cheaper to have you solar system installed at the same time. This means if you are having your roof overhauled or replaced, if you are undertaking works to your soffits gutter and other parts of your roof the scaffolding erected can also be used to install your solar panels, and that will usually save you several hundred pounds at least.

Similarly if you are building a home extension it is convenient, while all the tradesmen are on site to accommodate a panel installation with your extension works. The savings are great and your solar installer can work with your builders to enable you to save money.

Another way of saving money is if your plumbing needs to be upgraded or repaired. The most usual item of replacement is your hot water cylinder. These generally last no more than ten years (unless you already have a stainless steel one) and if your home is an a hard water area even after a few years the cylinder can clog up with lime scale which substantially reduces its efficiency and ends up costing you more in energy and in carbon emissions as the heat tries to overcome the lime scale before it gets to the water.

When replacing your cylinder you should think carefully about upgrading it to a larger solar cylinder. In hard water areas these can have a sacrificial rod fitted which attracts the scale, keeping it away from the internal cylinder heat exchangers. At the same time fit a twin coil cylinder; the top coil can connect to your existing fossil fuel system and the lower coil will be ready to connect to your solar system when you are ready. Again, the savings will be significant.

Of course if you are building your own home fitting a solar system becomes a no brainer. The additional cost is minimal and why you are at it you can design your home so that the solar will not only heat your water but will make a valuable contribution to your space heating.

Even if you are doing none of these things, fitting a solar system is always a worthwhile investment, provided that you have a southish facing roof which is not shaded. But if you are doing the works that I have described you would be wise to think about solar at the same time, because it will save you expense later.

As energy becomes more expensive so soalr panels will, so now is always a cost effective time to fit your solar system.



4 Responses

  1. Robert, you forgot to add one of the element contributing the recent state of solar thermal system cost which is the big mark-up along the each node of supply chain of every components (panel, pump stattion, controller, etc..) and sales channel from manufacturer to end customer.

    each node is about 25-50% mark up. am I right? That is why B&Q could sell a system only worth maximum of 1000 pounds in component costs as a 4000 pounds expensive gadget.

    anyway, you know better than me. I was mad about that orginally. but now I am used to it.

  2. Yuning

    the market is tiny in the Uk right now and there will always have to be larger margins in the supply chain than there are for more commodity type items. Prices and margins are not unreasonable right now, and although i would like to see them fall, i cannot see that happening without a very large increase in demand.
    Also, UK prices are quite consistent with present European prices.

  3. if you have any diy skills you can install them yourself. this cuts down greatly on the costs

  4. In the UK installation costs more than the product so you could save money, but there are problems with doing it yourself.

    DIY really depends on the type of solar system you install. Modern pressurised systems need to be installed by people who have knowledge of working with pressure vessels, and heat ciruit pipes which operate at temperatures which melt soft solder, so it really is a job for a specialist installer. You alos need to be able to work safely at heights on roofs.

    At Genersys if it were a DIY job we’d sell many more systems, but unfortunately having a good quality long lasting solar system needs the extra cost of professional installation.


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