Confessions of an ignorant solar panel owner
I’m known to boast about my energy efficient flat and share my love of my solar panels. Trouble is, until recently I knew nothing about them. How do I look after them, what type are they – and where exactly are they?
My neighbours must have thought I’d had a bit of a funny turn this week. I’ve been circling our building trying to work out where our solar panels are.
I’ve seen them on other buildings – shiny, big… and pretty obvious. But mine were nowhere to be seen.
Confession one – anyone seen my panel?
I’ve hunted through contract documents – you’d think there would be a drawing of some sort to detail where they were – but nope, nothing there. So I gave in and called the company that installed the panels.
I was pretty chuffed when the guy on the phone knew where they were at the mention of my road – it didn’t sound like he was verifying the details on a computer as he answered so quickly.
Bingo – they’re on the flat part of the roof!
Confession two – solar PV or thermal?
Whenever I say I have solar panels the first question on everyone’s lips is ‘thermal or photovoltaic (PV)?’. My typical response is ‘I don’t know but my energy bills are pretty cheap’. That answer seems to bide me a bit of time, but it’s pretty embarrassing to not know.
Well, I can now say that I’m the proud owner of solar thermal panels – they heat my water and are potentially saving me £60 a year on my gas bill. They typically cost £3,000 to £5,000 to install. Lucky for me they came with the house, otherwise I think I’d struggle to reassure myself that I’d break even by the time I’m 78!
Confession three – FIT or lazy?
I’ve always been a bit intrigued as to why people ask if my solar panels belong to the FIT scheme – also known as a feed-in tariff. Well I’m now feeling slightly jealous that I could be making money on excess energy generated by our panels (if they were of the PV variety).
But as it is, they’re solar thermal. They’re not eligible for the scheme but might allow me to take advantage of the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme in 2012. I could receive a payment for every kilowatt hour of renewable heat they produce.
Confession four – in need of some TLC?
Other than telling people I love my panels – and shouting at the roof from time to time – my other concern is how to look after them. So far I know that I have to check the tubes and give the panels a quick clean – I think I’ll be getting a professional to do that bit!
I’ll be logging on to our solar panel Q&A today with some questions I’m still seeking answers for.
Is renewable technology something you’d like to have in your home? Are you put off by the prospect of getting your head round it all? If so, ask your questions on our solar panels Q&A – Thursday 6th October from 12.30-2.30pm.
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