Make hay while the sun shines

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Eco Homes -

A dose of vi­ta­min D could be just as ben­e­fi­cial for your house as for your health, dis­cov­ers Es­ther Shaw

With the sun osten­si­bly now start­ing to show it­self, home­own­ers may be toy­ing with the idea of har­ness­ing some of that en­ergy with so­lar pan­els. Just six per cent of home­own­ers use so­lar en­ergy at the mo­ment, ac­cord­ing to Ovo En­ergy, but al­most 20 per cent are plan­ning to in­stall so­lar pan­els in the fu­ture. This means that more than a quar­ter of all Bri­tish homes could be run­ning on so­lar en­ergy in the next few years.

While the ini­tial ex­pense can be high, pho­to­voltaic pan­els can even­tu­ally pay for them­selves by bring­ing down the cost of en­ergy bills. You can even make money from them: house­hold­ers get paid for the sur­plus elec­tric­ity they gen­er­ate via the Gov­ern­ment’s Feed-in Tar­iff (FIT).

Richard and Jane Still­well were early adopters of so­lar pan­els, tak­ing the plunge when the FIT scheme was launched in 2010. “We don’t re­gard our­selves as ‘green war­riors’ but were at­tracted to the scheme by the gen­er­ous re­turns on of­fer at the time,” says Richard. “We paid £12,500 for 16 pan­els – the max­i­mum num­ber per­mit­ted on a res­i­den­tial prop­erty.”

The six­tysome­thing cou­ple, who live in Great Roll­right on the edge of the Cotswolds, were con­cerned that the so­lar pan­els would be an eye­sore. They had the pan­els at­tached to their slate roof; “aes­thet­i­cally, the im­pact has been min­i­mal”, says Richard.

The move has paid off for the Still­wells, whose five-bed­room home, Tyte Court, is for sale for £1.65mil­lion through Strutt & Parker.

“More than half our an­nual elec­tric­ity bill is cov­ered by the en­ergy we pro­duce,” Richard says. “And our pan­els yield an in­come of more than £1,500 per year via the FIT.”

Lee and Penny Bate­man, 70 and 69, were also among the first users of pan­els when the FIT scheme started. “We were quick to jump on the band­wagon,” says Lee, who lives in the ru­ral vil­lage of Woodleigh in the South

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