Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Solar Panels

When we first got our new house, it was our plan to have solar panels fitted as soon as possible, but with all the building work required, and then everything else that was happening, dealing with my elderly parents and the death of my father, it got put on the back burner for the time being. Also, I was not quite clear how to proceed and who to contact, as there are so many different companies fitting them and I had no idea which were good, and which were cowboys! However, when we went to the Devon County Show recently, there were plenty of companies with stands, and we were able to talk and pick up literature.

My original plan was to have panels fitted by a company who would retain ownership of them, with free fitting, and the company creaming off the excess electricity generated, with the benefit for us being lower electricity bills. This idea came about because I’d heard some time ago that it would take 20-25 years to reap the benefits of a system that had been bought outright, and since my hubby and I are now both in our sixties, I thought we’d probably be in a nursing home before we’d see any benefit! However, talking to the companies at the show, they all stated independently of each other that we could look at a much more realistic time-frame of six to seven years, and this is definitely worth while for us, so we’ve decided to go for the outright purchase option.

Bringing the literature home, I was still not much the wiser as to which was best. A couple of them phoned us to arrange to come and have a chat and look at the house etc. but I said I couldn’t consider doing anything until July because of all my hubby’s retirement celebrations and our week away on holiday.

When we got back, one firm phoned us and we arranged for their representative to call. As soon as she started giving me the information I knew this was the firm we should go with, without seeing the others. They are locally based and service the whole of the Westcountry, and the Devon Police and Fire Service are among their clients, as well as Trago Mills (a well-known local enterprise). The panels they use are of German manufacture, and the company producing them has been in the solar panels business for 37 years – probably the longest of any company. Also, this local firm does not sub-contract the work to outside roofers/installers but employs its own. The representative pointed out that all the other companies who had given us literature had 08-numbers for contacting them, and it was not clear where they were based.

So we decided to go with this local firm, Devon Eco Energy, and they certainly don’t mess about! They are extremely efficient and everything is going ahead quickly, and according to plan.

It was pointed out to us that the feed-in tariff is due to go down at the end of the month, so it would be to our advantage to get the system installed before then, because it is fixed from the date of installation. This is the amount that is paid to us for the excess electricity that we generate, over and above what we use. This tariff was much higher a few years ago, but then the installation and materials costs were much higher too, so it’s swings and roundabouts really.

As it stands, we should be making a tidy profit from our system. We are very advantageously placed, living in Torquay, which is known as the English Riviera! It is one of the few places in the UK where palm trees grow! We have a large roof which is almost exactly south-facing, with no overshadowing buildings or trees, and the roof was replaced when we bought the house, so it is in excellent condition and the tiles are perfectly suitable for the attachment of the panels.

The firm’s rep pointed out that transferring capital from the bank into solar panels is actually a better investment these days than an ISA. Interest rates are so low nowadays, and the income from the solar panels is tax free and gives a much better return. She also mentioned that if anybody bought a system from them on our recommendation, we would get a healthy finder’s fee, which is also not to be sneezed at.

This morning the scaffolders arrived to erect the scaffolding. It brought back fond memories of last summer, when all the builders were around, and all the fun we had!

This is how much scaffolding they’d put up before I took Mum out this morning:

01 Scaffolding Going Up 8-7-14

It now extends right over the lean-to and into our patio beyond. The scaffolders said that it might interfere with our Sky satellite signal, but it all seems to be working fine, so no problems there!

The only ones who were not impressed today were the kitties. Just like last autumn after we’d moved in and the builders were still here, they had to be banished to the bathroom for the duration, locked in with their litter tray! Fortunately it was only for the morning today. We cannot have them roaming around outside when the back gate is left open so equipment and supplies can be brought in, or they will get out onto the road.

The panels should be fitted either tomorrow or on Thursday, and the scaffolding will remain up for about a week, in case of any teething problems.

We will also be supplied with a special monitor which can be connected to the Internet. It will tell us how much power we are using, and how much we are generating, at any given moment, and the website will allow us (I think) to plot graphs etc. of our performance! With a bit of careful management (using the washing machine, and cooking, etc. during the daytime rather than in the evening) will reduce our electricity bills quite significantly, and with a roof the size of ours, with 16 panels, we should be generating plenty to spare.

It’s all very exciting. The rep from the firm said that in a few years’ time, it will be obligatory for every new build to have solar panels (as they apparently do in Germany), and by that time probably about 75 per cent of houses in this country will have them.

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