Go green and save

Covered mag, presented by Gocompare.com
  • | by Rachel England

The average household spends around £1,200 a year on energy bills and creates almost twice as much CO2 as an average car.

Measures like using energy-efficient lightbulbs and turning thermostats down can certainly help both planet Earth and your wallet (up to £7 a year per lightbulb and 10 per cent off your fuel bill per degree reduced, in fact!), but what can homeowners do if they want to make a much bigger difference?

Installing renewable energy technology into your home isn’t as daunting a prospect as you might think – just a small installation can reap huge financial benefits for a relatively low outlay, and most people can take advantage of it.

In a domestic setting, solar panels and wind turbines are usually the best options for those looking to go green, and there are plenty of sources of advice and importantly, funding, available to help.

But first, the facts. How much money can renewable energy technology save you? There are two ways you can make money; firstly there are the obvious savings in energy costs – if you’re producing your own energy, you won’t need to buy as much from your energy provider, if any at all! Depending on the size of your property and the kind of technology you’re using, you could slash your bills by up to 40 per cent using solar panels, or as the DECC (Department of Energy and Climate Change) estimates, shave £140 a year off your energy costs. The Carbon Trust gives a greater example still, citing the case of Mr and Mrs Robertson, who bought a derelict cottage in Scotland, installed a modest 2.5kW wind turbine and are now reaping fuel savings of £350 a year. And as energy bills rise in the future, these savings will become even bigger.

The second financial benefit is the Feed-In Tariff scheme (FiTs). Here, homeowners are paid for any surplus energy they generate and feed back to the National Grid (the Export Tariff), and they receive a financial incentive for the energy they generate overall, regardless of where it ends up (the Generation Tariff).

The Export Tariff pays a standard three pence per kilowatt hour of electricity generated, while the Generation Tariff’s payments depend on the size, type and date of the installation. The Energy Saving Trust estimates that a modest domestic solar installation could reap around £800 a year from FiTs – and this isn’t including the added advantage of fuel bill savings.

But what about paying for the technology in the first place? Granted, on paper it doesn’t look cheap. A small-scale roof mounted wind turbine can cost around £2,000, and an average sized solar-electricity system around £12,000, but there are lots of schemes in place to make the investment financially viable. Loans are available from a variety of sources, and the FiTs are designed to yield a greater monthly income than the loan repayment. In many cases, the ‘pay-back’ time for domestic renewable technology is two to five years, and after that any revenue is simply money in your pocket. There are also a number of grants available to help finance a renewables installation – homeowners in Scotland, for example, can apply for grants of up to 30 per cent of the total installation cost (a maximum of £4,000).

Sound appealing? Here’s a handy checklist for getting started with producing your own power:

Have a think about which technologies would best suit your home

The Energy Saving Trust has a useful selector tool here.

Investigate the financial benefits

How much money do you stand to make? What about payback times?

Look into funding

There may be grants and offers available for the options that you’re interested in.

Shop around

When you’re searching for suppliers and installers, make sure you find one you’re completely happy with. They should be prepared to answer all your questions and won’t try to give you the hard sell. Make sure they’re certified with the Microgeneration Certification Scheme.

And finally...

If you have any questions, call The Energy Saving Trust on 0800 512 012. The organisation is tasked with helping you go green!