As someone quite excited about all things renewable energy, when I found out just over three years ago that my new home came complete with solar panels on top, I was over the moon. They’d combine my passion for MoneySaving with my love of saving energy. But the relationship’s turned a little sour…
When you buy a new-build, housebuilders have to meet strict environmental guidelines (see My New-build Tips and Tricks blog post). They can do that in various ways, such as by providing solar panels, heat pumps, wood burners, insulation and even, at the time I bought, by including “cycle space” in your garage.
So, among other measures, all properties on the housing development I moved to came with solar panels on top (great). Yet there are two different types of panels.
“What’s wrong with that?”, you might ask. I should be pleased with my solar thermal panels. After all, both types save money. Well, yes, they do, but as solar thermal panels generate less energy, the savings are smaller.
See the table below and our Solar Panels guide for the savings.
|What do they do?||Rough yearly energy saving before incentive (£s)||Additional Government incentive scheme||Scheme launched||Typical est yearly scheme payment (£s)||Scheme payback period|
|Photo-voltaic (PV) panels||Generate electricity||£125*||Feed-in tariff (FIT)||April 2010||£630*||20 years (was 25)|
|Solar thermal panels||Heat your water||£60*||Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI)||April 2014 (announced July 2009)||Not yet known||7 years|
|*Source: Energy Saving Trust|
The icing on the cake
As you can see from the table, photo-voltaic (PV) panels are eligible for the Government’s feed-in tariff scheme, which means they get paid, usually by their energy supplier, for the energy produced, even if they use it themselves. PV owners on my new-build estate have been receiving this for the last few years.
An equivalent of the feed-in-tariff has been planned for solar thermal panels for some time. The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) finally launched the Renewable Heat Incentive for domestic properties April.
Thud (that’s the sound of me falling down to earth with a bump)
But new-build homes (other than self-builds) aren’t eligible for the scheme.
I wanted the house anyway, so it wouldn’t have made a difference to my decision to buy it.
Yet if I were a house buyer who’d heard of the Renewable Heat Incentive when it was first announced, and decided to buy a new-build home with solar thermal panels as a result, I think I’d be more than just a bit gutted right now.
DECC says that to be eligible for the scheme, you (or a previous owner of the heating system) need to have made some kind of financial contribution to installing the panels.
Why I think it’s ambiguous
But as far as I’m concerned, as a new-build owner I have made a financial contribution towards the cost – that cost was incorporated into my home’s sale price, which I’m paying a mortgage on. The mortgage, and therefore the heating system, hasn’t been paid off yet.
I’m not the jealous type, but…
OK, I am. I find the fact new-build homes with PV panels are eligible for feed-in tariffs, yet ones with solar thermal panels aren’t eligible for the Renewable Heat Incentive, very curious. I freely admit to coveting my neighbours’ PV panels!
I’d love to hear if you’re in the same position. Let me know on the forum thread or via Facebook below.