Free Electricity or Free Hot Water – Which would you choose?

With all the hype around Feed-in Tariffs during this last 12 months many home owners have invested in Solar PV (photovoltaic) panels.  When you see a roof full of Solar panels it’s likely to be a PV system which generates free electricity.  As well as reducing your electricity bill, these panels attract a feed-in tariff which basically means the owner gets paid by their energy company for every unit of electricity they generate themselves, whether they use it or not.  The current rate is 21p/unit and this means a PV system can be worth up to £1000 a year in income and savings.  Prices have come down dramatically since we started installing PV systems 18 months ago.  Back then you would pay up £17k for a full size 4kWp system, now we’re selling this size from £7,995!  It’s still a lot of money though and not everyone has that amount of money to invest even though they may want to embrace renewable technologies such as this.

However, PV is not the only option for joining the Solar revolution.  There are also great benefits to be had from a Solar Thermal systems.  These are the systems where you see maybe two or three panels on a roof.  Some of the panels are what we call ‘flat plate’ and look a bit like a PV panel only larger and some are made up of a series of tubes and these are quite visible even from a distance.  A Solar Thermal system heats your hot water instead of generating electricity.  I think many people have been put off these systems in the past because of misleading reports that you end up with no hot water in the Winter.  Well I can tell you this is most definitely not the case.  It is true that a Solar Thermal system won’t generate as much free hot water in the Winter as it will in the Summer but across the year, it can provide up to 60% of your hot water requirements.  And when  the sun isn’t shining, your hot water tank is still connected to your boiler or immersion and will switch on automatically if your water isn’t hot enough.  The great news though is that you will save on your heating bill.  The amount you can save depends on what fuel your home uses but ranges from £55 to £105 a year.  Solar Thermal systems are cheaper than PV systems so you can do your bit for the environment and make some real savings with prices ranging from approx. £3500-£5000.  The Renewable Heat Incentive scheme recently announced by the Government will mean that anyone who installs a Thermal System now will be entitled to a one-off premium payment of £300 towards the installation cost.  Then in the Summer of 2013 they will be eligible for a new tariff scheme similar to the feed-in tariff for PV.  So I see Solar Thermal becoming as popular as PV in the next 12 months and we’re going to be offering this service to our Customers alongside PV within the next couple of months.

If you’ve already had a PV system fitted and used up all the good roof space, you might think that you can’t have a Solar hot water system.  But there may be a way!  Many people who have a Solar PV system can’t actually use all of the energy they generate during the day because they are out working so it ends up being exported to the national grid.  It’s worth more to you to use it though because you will buy less electricity from your energy company and your electricity bill reduces.  So, one of our suppliers has come up with a very clever new gadget called the iBoost that diverts some of the energy produced by your PV system to the immersion heater.  It’ll run your immersion during the day to heat your hot water using free electricity.  Clever software makes sure it knows when there’s not enough energy coming from the sun and switches the immersion off so your system will revert to its normal water heating program.  Best of both worlds! 

If you’re interested in learning more about how any of our solar systems could work for you, why not call me today for an informal chat.