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Solar panels – should you take the plunge?

A recent survey of solar panel owning Which? members found that 97% were satisfied with their solar system and 93% would recommend it to their friends or family. Are you warming up to solar power?

Most took the plunge in 2010 and 2011 when the feed-in tariff (FIT) was first introduced.

FIT pays owners of electricity-generating renewable energy technologies (such as solar panels or wind turbines) a fixed rate for a period of 20 to 25 years. The initial generous FIT rate meant that an average domestic solar photovoltaic (PV) system could pay back in seven to eight years, meaning the remaining years of FIT payments would be profit. This was seen as a very attractive financial investment by some and soon we saw nearly half a million houses in Great Britain with solar panels.

So, in order to control the spiraling cost of FIT (by the way, FIT is paid for by consumers, via a levy on electricity bills), in 2012 the government cut the rate of FIT by more than half.

So are solar panels still a worthwhile investment?

Should you buy solar panels?

We decided to look into this and calculated that, as long as you have the right roof (South facing, near to a 30 degree tilt and with no shading), solar PV panels could still be a worthwhile investment. This is because the cost of solar panels has dropped.

When we surveyed 1,400 Which? members in March 2014 and asked them how much they paid for their solar PV system, we found that costs had indeed dropped: from about £11,300 on average for a 3.6-4kWp system back in 2010 to £7,286 on average in 2013/14.

But with FIT rates being reviewed regularly by the Government, it makes more sense now than ever to get a good installation; an installation that will go without a hitch and reach its full potential to ensure your system will pay back with FIT.

Solar panel problems

One in five have experienced a problem with their solar PV system since it was installed. The main cause of problem, in 7% of cases, was to do with the inverter, which is a key part of a PV system, converting direct current produced by the solar panels into usable alternating current. More unexpectedly, 1% reported birds nesting under their panels!

Do you have solar panels? What has been your experience? Have you experienced any problems? And has the system met your expectations?

Comments
Member

I love the idea that ‘ they should pay for themselves in 12 years ‘ I sincerely hope this will happen, but I’ve given up dreaming. That’s a long way to go.

Member

We are looking at less than half that.

It is a complicated sum, of course, because FIT is only a (relatively small) part of it: the main saving is in electricity and gas you would otherwise have used. Our boiler has been off since we switched on the PV 14 weeks ago and we have had free hot water all that time. But on the other hand the capital cost is never going to be directly recoverable – it may add to the value of the house, or it may not.

And then there is the completely unmeasurable satisfaction we are getting almost every day. Some people won’t feel that at all, but it is possibly the greatest benefit of all for us.

Member
chris alger says:
20 July 2014

we have just accepted a quote to have solar panels fitted from SOLAR SSP UK LTD and have been trying, without success, to find out whether this company is reputable or not.
does anyone have any information that would be useful to us. we are still well within the 14 day cooling down period and if anyone has anything good or bad to say about this company this would help us greatly in ensuring that we have made a good decision.
many thanks

Member

I presume you’ve looked at Which? Local and Checkatrade? And done a Google Search?

Member

My wife and I visited a previous client of the installer we were contemplating using. Several houses in the same road had used him, one after another, and the one we spoke to recommended him without reservation. We are absolutely delighted with the service he gave and the meticulous standard of the installation, and also with the performance after 14 weeks.

Personal recommendation, therefore, was what guided us.

Member
Beverk says:
20 March 2015

MY PLANET
This is a sorry tale, I thought I’d got a great deal, a 4Kw 12x327panel system with immersion booster switch for £6 K and all was going well the EPC survey went ahead ..all ok with that and an installation date set but then…
Quote from a complaint to My Planet customer services, I have to tell you all about..
“I should have had a system ( 12 panels @327w etc).. installed today at 10.30 am start arranged but no one has turned up.
I was rang yesterday by your rep who said that your company head office had been in touch with him and couldn’t supply the 327w panels and that you wanted to substitute lower rated panels and a new contract drawn up and sent to me. I stated that this was unacceptable to me and could I speak to his superior. A person called subsequently rang me and stated that your company wouldn’t supply that panel (327w) at the price agreed and that the representative had made an error ( even though he had checked with his manager
that the price was alright before he offered it ). He went further to say that he would redraw the contract and give another £500 off the lower rated panel system 2.5Kw or it would be an extra £2000 for the contracted system specified.
I stated that this was also unacceptable and I expected you (My Planet) to stand by the signed existing and fully paid for contact.A cheque for £6000 was given to Mr Beale when the agreement was signed and was cashed by My Planet. I
also said that all his proposals to alter the contract and why be put in writing.”
This was a couple of weeks ago since then I have involved HIES, a trade organisation which offers mediation and a Ombudsman service. Although they broke the contract HIES accept that is was a genuine error by the representative and and that my options were to ask for my money back or take it to Ombudsman service which he said would take months to get my money back.I opted for contract cancellation and money back.
Since then they have been on holiday and the lady in accounts is off till next week and no one else can write cheques .Next they say its in the post or the computer is broke or the pen has ran out of ink.
Has any else used HIES to mediate or this Ombudsman, My Planet seem to be giving them the runaround .I know I was stupid but it all seemed so good.
HAS THIS HAPPENED TO ANYONE ELSE?

Member
Techfor Energy says:
3 May 2015

You will find a long and closed thread on My Planet on another of the forum discussions linked to the URL below, which is a good place to check your MCS company is NOT listed for RECC non-conformities.

http://local.which.co.uk/forum/thread?thread_id=6074

Member

I’m writing this in response to the article on solar panels in the October 2015 magazine.

We have considered solar panels and decided not to buy them. For us, the key issue is how long we are likely to stay in our current house.

If we bought a system for £6000 – £7000 and it took between 7 and 10 years to make energy savings equalling that amount we’d be out of pocket if we moved any sooner. You can’t just withdraw your initial outlay when you move. We’d have to remain here for some years after we’d recovered the cost of buying the system to make it financially worthwhile.

Obviously you won’t add much extra to the selling price of your house because you’ve installed solar panels. No-one with any sense would pay £10000 more for a house with panels if it was going to take 10 years or more to save that amount from their energy bills and they might not remain in the house for that length of time.

For people who expect to stay in their present home for long enough the advice in the article to buy solar panels now makes sense – before the feed-in tariff is substantially reduced. But the article should have made clear that it’s not worth installing a system if you won’t be there long enough to benefit from it financially.

Member

For some people a house with solar panels is regarded as a liability and detracts from the value of the property, and the closer the point of sale is to the time when components will need to be replaced the less attractive a property might become. On the other hand, once the feed-in tariff is reduced and demand for new installations is effectively suppressed, properties that do have the historic feed-in tariffs could attract a premium as micro-generation remains popular and financially beneficial for many.

Member
Sedigheh Jafari says:
18 August 2016

Julie, does anybody has used Ecohouse or Ge Technology for installation of solar panel in the house, if so do you recommend them? I would be grateful if you let me know?

Member
Dougie says:
8 June 2017

Ive had panels for 18 months or so now. they were installed by HELMS which is a company which is now liquidated. Ive been recording my savings and of course my fit payments and all is to plan so far. I received £450 in payments last year and of course i reduced my usage by around 50%, saving another £300. Based on these figures and not taking into account that the fit payment is index linked i should get my £9000 investment back in 12 years. Therefore i should earn another £12000 or so over last 13 years of contract.
My concern now is, when I signed contract HELMS said they would continually monitor my system for faults etc. If anything went wrong, i.e.: panel not working, they would notify me.
I FIT payments are paid by SSE HYDRO, do they monitor my system. If not, who does?

Member

SSE Hydro will not maintain your system , they are only concerned with monitoring your input/output to the grid . I see this company was in the Glasgow Yellow Pages ,they were a Glasgow company in Cambuslang , the directors are the same ones as PV Solar (UK) Investments and sorry to say a lot of Scots are not happy with them : https://www.yell.com/biz/helms-glasgow-6754878/ . Do you want to know why they went into liquidation Dougie ?? because they were the number one nuisance sales call company and the government hit them with a record fine (£200,000) by the ICO -over 6 million calls to British citizens . The company-PV Solar Investments is now “dormant ” There is only one director left and as he is listed in the PUBLIC domain and you probably live near him , its John Cahill (CA ) 43 Talbot Cresent -Coatbridge -ML5-5GB