Recent breakthroughs in technology mean that solar heating is now more efficient and cost-effective than ever before. Whereas traditional solar panel based heating systems relied on a traditional boiler, new style systems use a combination boiler as a back-up, rendering the whole thing more energy efficient. It almost goes without saying that if the system is more energy efficient, the user will save money, and may even increase their feed in rate.
All that aside, there is a question of how popular solar heating is. While the basic technology has been in place for years, the cost of the product meant that few people were able to take it up – the costs simply didn’t match the savings – and it wasn’t until the UK government introduced incentives (such as Feed In Tariffs) that solar panels became something of a ‘must have’ item.
However, since August of this year, the FIT rate dropped from a maximum of 21p per unit to 16p per unit and analysts have been watching to see what effect this may have. While it will be some time before we get true data, there was an inevitable spike in system sales prior to August, the early signs are encouraging.
From January to March 2012, around 100,000 solar panel systems were installed in homes around the UK (with 99% of those partaking in the FIT scheme). To put this into context, these numbers are backed up with research data that shows that 83% of UK residents are fully supportive of solar heating systems.
These numbers are certainly impressive and point to a large amount of good feeling surrounding solar heating.
But the question of the FIT does continue to raise its head. Many are suggesting that while the spike of early summer is unlikely to be repeated any time soon, the fall in the FIT rate shouldn’t effect solar panel system sales much, if at all. Why? Simply put, because the systems are now cheaper.
In the early days of the scheme, systems were still quite expensive so it made sense for the FIT to be a little high. As the cost of systems fell, it was felt that the FIT was in danger of over-incentivising people which negated the point of the scheme. So, while it may seem unfair that your neighbour receives an extra 5p per unit of electricity fed back to the grid, it is very likely that your system cost far less to buy and install.
With electricity prices continuing to rise, and advancements in technology making solar heating more accessible and cost-effective than ever, it seems there is no end to the popularity of solar panels.