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What are your biggest solar panel concerns?

Solar panels on roof

Today’s appeal judgement on solar subsidies might have you thinking about getting solar panels – and quickly, to get in before the new 3 March deadline. But there’s a lot more to consider before renovating your roof…

Solar households looking for a better rate of return through the Feed-in tariff (FIT) – the government scheme that pays you to generate electricity using solar PV panels – have been thrown a final lifeline. The high court has now decided to reject the government’s appeal against an earlier ruling.

This means the higher rate of FIT – 43.3p per kilowatt-hour (kWh), originally planned to be cut back in December – will apply for solar panels installed and registered before 3 March. After that, systems will get the new, lower rate of 21p per kWh.

Given all the headlines, the solar panels live Q&A session we’re holding over on Which.co.uk tomorrow is rather (though unintentionally!) timely.

Back in October, hundreds of you inundated our experts with your questions and comments during our solar panels live chat over on Which.co.uk, so we decided to run it again. I’ve summarised a few of the questions that came up last time round to get you warmed up…

The right roof position?

Solar panels need to be installed on a south-facing roof to make them work as efficiently as possible. But of course not everyone’s rooftops are perfectly positioned. So is it still worth bothering? Jim Kenney from Chelsfield Solar, a solar panel installation company, had this advice for one reader asking about his south-west facing home:

‘PV works well anywhere between east and west, so it sounds like your (south-west facing) roof is fine. Though you might want to find an installer who can give you an accurate estimate that compensates for orientation and inclination – it’s a pretty easy thing to do. From what you say I would expect your system to be about 6% below optimum south-facing.’

Is the cost coming down?

Long-term investment potential aside, you’ll still need to shell out for the cost of installing solar panels (unless you go for a rent-a-roof scheme – but that’s a whole different story). Given the increase in consumer interest, are the costs coming down?

Good news. Back in October, our policy expert Simon Osborn told several readers: ‘Costs have fallen by about 25% or so in the last year – so check that [your installer] is passing these savings on to you!’

According to the Energy Saving Trust, an average 3kWp system costs around £10,000 – read more about solar panel prices here.

Panel practicalities?

Thinking about solar panels? Then consider these factors:

Electricity meters: you’ll need to get a ‘generation meter’ installed so that the electricity your panels generate can be measured for your FIT payments. Ask for a full breakdown of your quote, so you can see if this is included in the cost.

Planning permission: usually you won’t need to get planning permission, unless in special circumstances – in conservation areas, for example – but speak to your local planning department before doing anything else.

Home insurance: solar panels shouldn’t affect your premium or cover – but you should inform your home insurer that you intend to install them.

Moving house: if you move, you could dismantle and take your solar panels with you, but you wouldn’t be able to continue to benefit from FIT payments.

Getting technical

I’ll be leaving the technical questions to our experts tomorrow, but suffice to say things got suitably geeky in our last Q&A, so you know where to come if you want to read about outputs, hybrid panels, inverters, evacuated tubes, shading assessment, optimisers and more…

You can join us live tomorrow from 12.30pm – sign up for an email reminder here. And while we’re sure to be discussing what the FIT ruling means for consumers, our experts will also be urging householders not to rush into any big decisions just to meet that March deadline.

What questions would you need answering before taking the plunge with solar panels? Has today’s FIT ruling made you think seriously about getting them installed?