Make hay while the sun shines
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