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?