Thursday, 19 August 2010

Are free solar panel installation schemes a good idea? Article update.

Free Solar Panel Installation Offers - UPDATE

There's been much hype in the national media recently about companies offering free solar panels and installation. One company in particular is quoted as aiming to offer free solar panels to 2.5 million homes in the UK.

Of course, there is usually a qualifying criteria - for example which part of the UK you live in, the amount of available roof space, the direction that roof points in and whether the roof is shaded by overhanging trees or structures on your own or neighbouring property are all taken into account besides other criteria unique to that particular company.

What do you gain from a free installation?

For a start, the solar panels and their installation is carried out free of charge to yourself. Once the installation is complete, you get to enjoy the daytime energy cost savings for using your own produced energy.

You'll also benefit from a hoped for increase in your property's value should you decide to sell it at some point in the future. The 'deal' stays with the property rather than the owner so everything is just transferred to the new owner.

After 25 years, you'll also own the panels out-right. (25 years being the normal period of such agreements).

The money you would have spent on the installation can either say in your savings or be used to fund another home improvement etc.

What do you loose by having a free solar panel installation?

You'll forfeit any subsidies or grants payable to yourself for the installation and any excess energy which is 'sold back' to the national grid will be credited to the company that 'own' the panels rather than you the homeowner. Think of it as letting your roof to a 3rd party for their own financial gain.

If you do sell your property before the end of the agreement, prospective buyers may be put off by the 'taking over' of an agreement they weren't originally involved in. There could be extra legal hurdles to jump through to complete a sale. Some people have reported having to remove panels to attract a buyer.

You may own the panels outright after 25 years (or whatever the agreement period is for) but you'll then be responsible for their maintenance and replacement of failed units if you want to continue enjoying the energy savings they produce.

(It should be noted that although todays panels are usually rated to last for 25 years, many perform for 5 or 10 years afterwards without replacement).

We haven't seen anything that outlines who's financially responsible for the panels i.e house insurance cover in case they're damaged by fire, structural collapse or storm damage etc. We're assuming faulty panels would be replaced by the installer f.o.c? Worth asking if you get the opportunity.

Remember there's no such thing as a free lunch

Most independent consumer watchdogs are warning homeowners to explore such free panel offers with their "eyes wide open". Remember there's no such thing as a 'free lunch'.

Some have gone further by comparing the cost savings of a free panel scheme compared with taking a 10 year personal loan for your own installation and enjoying all the rebates and tariffs. Unsurprisingly, the figures came out in favour of funding your own installation.

Indeed, some believe we could soon see these 'free-fitting' companies starting to offer extra incentives like cash sums up front or a share of the energy generated profits as more of these companies spring up around us. They'll all be chasing the same housing stock / addresses after all.

Free solar panel installations still have a place

However, that option may not be available to everyone, so the free panel schemes do have an important part to play in the mass uptake of renewable energy generation in the UK. if you're approached by a free solar panel 'deal' company, after getting their figures, why not use Solar Panel Quoter to get up to 3 independent quotes in writing from other local solar panel installation companies and draw your own comparisons.

Either way, early uptake of either a free panel offer or installing your own system is essential if you're to make the most of the rebates and energy tariffs. We've already seen other european countries reducing their tariff levels (which apply to new applicants after the tariff change), claiming financial ruin if they keep them at their inception levels, such is the popularity of such schemes. Remember, the feed-in tariff scheme is fixed at 25 years starting from this April (2010) just gone, and applies to photovoltaic (electricity generating) installations only.

You'll find more information and news stories on renewable energy on our popular daily renewable energy blog - and free installation schemes in our recent blog post: click here to read their free solar panels article.

photo credit: gary soup

1 comment:

  1. UPDATE:
    British Gas have announced their own 'free solar panels' scheme for UK households.

    In fact they've gone one better by offering two schemes - a choice of either free panels & installation or a 'buy your own' on a 0% interest loan over two years.

    However, they're not doing it out of the goodness of their hearts - the article I read suggested a total income of £7 billion pounds a year from the 12 million households whose roofs would qualify.

    "The sudden allure of solar power is less to do with planet-saving and more to do with companies or individuals banking the lucrative feed-in-tariffs (Fits) for every unit of electricity generated – currently 41.3p per KWh, irrespective of whether you consume the power at the time or not."

    Click here to read the full article.