Why are solar panels not a more popular option for home owners?

Home energy costs are on the rise, especially given the recent cold winter. Furthermore it’s hard to find any strong indicator that gas and electricity prices are set to decrease. Even the expected boost in gas production from shale gas is not assured (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-22300050)

On the other hand solar panel installations have never been cheaper; Complete Renewables are now offering 16 panel 4kW arrays starting at under £6,000. The Feed-In tariff is still providing government back payments, leading to returns of over 12%.

There’s also technological innovations such as Solar Cache, which allows homeowners to divert unused electricity generated during the day to heat their hot water. This can represent significant saving, especially for families who are mostly not at home during the day.

When solar is combined with other renewable technologies, there is yet more potential to save both money and energy. For example many of our customers who choose to install ground or air source heat pumps also install solar.

With this list of benefits, why doesn’t every roof have a panel array? Well there’s the obvious reasons; lack of funds, rental properties, short-term occupancy.  However this only discounts a minority of homes. One explanation we hear often is that homeowners believe they have ‘missed the boat’, that the Feed-In tariff used to a great deal, now it is hardly worth it. It is true that the Feed-In tariff was once more generous, however it still does still represent a quantifiably strong investment. Returns average around 12%, there are very few alternative options with these kind of guaranteed returns. The bank certainly won’t match those figures.

How about the lack of understanding that seems to shroud the industry? There has always been a stigma associated with renewable energies. The same scepticism that wind and wave generated power suffer from. Even heat pumps suffer this: ‘How can heat pumps possibly work in cold weather?’ is a question we hear often. The general public can often be reluctant to believe that a new technology which harnesses solar power (even indirectly, such as wind and heat pumps) can create the necessary power, in the way fossil fuels can. This is, of course, despite the fact that fossil fuels originate their energy from the sun themselves – organic compounds, etc.

It’s not that renewable technologies are any more complicated. Maybe it’s that mostly we’ve all lived through their infancy and development. We’ve heard the anecdotes about wind turbines that cost more in energy to construct than they’ll generate in their lifespan. Although maybe this points to another issue; a generally unenthusiastic media – when did you last read a positive story about renewable energy in the press? Maybe it’s just easier and more appealing to note the negative story. Let’s face it, our media is more interested in what’s going wrong than what’s going right.