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Life with solar panels

posted by  Eilidh | 6 months ago

Generating your own energy by installing solar panels is a great way to both save and earn money whilst doing your bit to create a cleaner energy future. Here we talk to ScottishPower employee Vicki Dickson, who tells us about her experience since installing solar panels four years ago.

What made you think about buying solar panels? My husband works in renewables and is passionate about self-generation and doing your bit to be greener. We have a large south facing roof so it seemed like an ideal option.

What research did you do before-hand? We did quite a bit of research into the feed in tariff (F.I.T) and into how much electricity we would be likely to produce over the year. When it came to choosing a company we went with one we had used before for our double glazing, checking to make sure they were MCS accredited.

Is your house south facing? Can most homes get solar panels? We have a 16 panel installation. Eight of our panels are south facing and the other eight are south west facing. The panels literally catch the sun as it moves round. Most homes can get solar panels, obviously the more south your roof faces the more sunlight it will receive and  the more kw’s the panels will generate. Watch out for shadows too, like large trees or your neighbour’s house.    

How much did they cost? Our 4kw system cost us circa £8,000 when we had it installed back in December 2013.

Was it any hassle to install? It was really no hassle at all. It was installed over two consecutive days. On the first day they installed the panels on both roofs and positioned the inverter in our loft space. They were only on the roof for a couple of hours. The panels immediately looked unobtrusive and any wires and frames were discreet and not visible from the garden below. The second day the electrician arrived and completed the electric work and commissioned the installation. The electrician then explained how it all worked and talked us through applying for our F.I.T tariff.

What impact have you seen on your energy bills since having solar panels? We have seen a positive impact in terms of the value of our energy bills.  As a family of 5 living in a large old house we pay on average £97 a month for our gas and electricity usage.  This month I am £93 in credit for my electricity and have received my latest feed in tariff cheque for £220.  It would be great if we could find a similar solution for our gas!!

Have you done anything else to reduce your energy costs? Working for ScottishPower meant I had the opportunity to be involved in the trials of our solar batteries. We had these put in last year and we can now monitor what we generate, what we use real time, what we store and use later and then what we export back to the grid. It’s fascinating. It made us acutely aware of the electricity we were using and encouraged us to make some small changes. Being able to store the energy instead of it going straight back to the grid also means we can take advantage of the energy generated during the day in the evening.

Have you had any problems with your energy supply since installing solar panels?  We have had no problems at all. We have always had connectivity and the only difference in our bills is that the electricity one is down!

How long will your panels last for and do you need to do any ongoing maintenance? We got a 25 year guarantee on our panels and the F.I.T when we got the solar panels installed. We have had our panels four years and there has been no maintenance required.

Any regrets? Would you do it again? No regrets at all. The way we looked at it not only could we do our bit for greener living but we felt our money was making us more interest on our roof than it was in the bank! Not only that but our house has been revalued at £15k more since the installation of the panels.

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