Without a doubt solar is the big new renewable technology in the
I am sure most of you reading this understand what solar photovoltaic technology does. For those who are maybe a little vague on the subject here is a very brief overview, you can skip the next paragraph if you are already familiar.
Solar PV and FIT's
Solar pv or solar electric as I call it to easily distinguish it from solar thermal (hot water) is a technology that turns daylight into electricity. The more light there is the more electricity your panels can produce up to their rated output. The government feed-in tariff (FIT) scheme pays the homeowner a rate for all the electricity your panels produce. In addition you also get to use the electricity that you produce and sell any that you don't back to the grid.
What are the benefits of Solar?
Apart from the FIT payments the major benefit of having solar panels on your roof is to reduce the amount of electricity that you have to buy in from your energy supplier. According to a recent solar energy study the average savings on householder's electricity bills that had a solar electric system fitted was 37%.
According to many of the solar panel manufacturers and anecdotal evidence from around the world your solar panels should last at least 20 years. Although the performance of the panels does decline over time there are still systems in place that are still generating electricity after 40 years.
How you can cut your energy bills further
Solar is a big investment, even with recent costs falling a 4kWp system can cost around £8,000. If you are going to make such a big financial investment on your home then wouldn't it be prudent to try and reduce your energy costs beforehand. If the aim of investing in solar is to reduce your bills then it makes sense to reduce your energy consumption at home to even further reduce your energy bills.
Reduce lighting costs
A large percentage of the energy used in the home is spent on lighting yet changing your bulbs is the most cost effective way to save energy. You can buy good quality CFL lighting for a fraction of the cost it used to be and they reduce your lighting costs to around a fifth of what they currently are.
Want to save even more? You may not have heard of LED lights but they have advantages even over CFL bulbs, specifically they use even less energy, contain no mercury and last a lit longer, anywhere up to 20 years. By replacing your current Tungsten filament lighting with LED you can cut your lighting costs by 90%, you read that right, your lighting costs will be one tenth of what they were.
I have been testing LED bulbs for the last 3 years, today's technology produces a better quality, brightness and range of light, far less heat and lasts a lot longer. I have recently replaced my halogen recessed lights in the kitchen as they were forever overheating and blowing. The old 50 watt halogens have been replaced with 4.5 watt LED bulbs that produce a better light much closer to natural daylight making it easier on the eyes. You can get LED's that produce the more yellow light similar to halogen if you are feeling nostalgic. Suffice to say I won't have to change a bulb for years and it will reduce my lighting costs to a mere 9% of what they used to be.
How much can I save?
A kitchen with halogen bulbs is a great place to start saving. I had 8 halogens each rated at 50 watts. If we take that average cost of a kilowatt of electricity at 13 pence that means that it used to cost me just over 10 pence every hour I left the lights on, it now costs me half a penny. So if I left the lights on one hour a day over the course of a year it would cost me a grand total of £1.70 for lighting in the kitchen. Compare this to the old halogen lights it would have costs me £38. You can see how the savings soon mount up and by the way the cost of replacing the bulbs was £32 so I covered the cost in less than a year and I will not continue to save £36 every year on my electricity bill just for changing the bulbs in my kitchen.
Inspired to change?
I hope you have been inspired enough to make some changes at home or even at work and not only save yourself some money but do a little bit to help the environment. If you enjoyed reading this why not join me, Allan Burns, over at Free Solar Panels