If you don't want to rely completely on your energy supplier you may be able to generate your own. Solutions range from small solar-powered devices to whole house generation systems. They only work effectively, however, if your home is working efficiently.
The Government wants to encourage people to generate sustainable energy, so tariffs and grant are available for various schemes. See our Subsidies and grants page.
The home generation scheme that's been most talked about recently is solar panels. There's more information on solar panels below
Solar photovoltaic panels
What are they, and how do they work?
- Solar panels - also known as solar photovoltaic (PV) - capture the sun's energy to generate electricity which can be used to run your household appliances and lighting.
- Solar PV needs light - but not direct sunlight - to work: they even generate electricity on a cloudy day. The more they're able to face the sun, the more electricity can be generated, so it's best to have them installed on a south-facing roof.
- Given sunlight's free, once you've paid for the installation your electricity costs will be reduced.
- If you property's connected to the National Grid, you can sell unused electricity to them.
- The Government's Feed in Tariff (FIT) provides an incentive that requires suppliers to buy PV-generated electricity from householders for more than the standard supply rate, even if the generated electricity is used by the householder before it can be exported.
- Solar PV panels can be mounted on your roof or on the ground.
- Solar tiles (in place of normal tiles) are an alternative to panels; however they're more expensive and normally only considered where panels look inappropriate.
- Any house with an unshaded roof facing broadly south can potentially install a successful PV system. The stronger the sunshine, the more electricity is produced.
- Our recommendations are based on a 3.5kWp (kilowatt peak) solar PV system. Larger or smaller systems are available.
- Most installations can be completed within a day or two but allow for three. An installer accredited under the Government's Microgeneration Certification Scheme can assess your home and help you choose the best set-up.
- Installers will need to have full access to your property, as well as your electricity supply.
How much difference would it make?
- Solar PV is a long-term investment, as you'll only make a profit once the system has paid for itself. With the FIT, payback time could be about 12 years for a 3.5kWh system installed after 1 November 2012.
- Installing solar PV will not change the comfort of your home but you'll be making a big reduction in the carbon emissions from your home.
- If you use electricity more during the middle of the day than at night, then there's more chance of savings coming from not needing grid electricity (c. 14p/kWh)
Why don't more people do it?
- Solar PV panels will be visible on your roof unless you use solar tiles (see above) or a ground-mounted installation. You may not like the appearance or be a little worried about how it affects the future sale of your home.
- The guaranteed income and insulation against future energy price rises may be outweighed by a payback that's not attractive enough.
Things to consider
- Solar PV needs little maintenance: just keep the panels relatively clean and make sure trees don't begin to overshadow them. Panels tilted at 15° or more have the additional benefit of being cleaned by rainfall.
- Debris is more likely to accumulate if you have ground mounted panels.
- Currently we can't install on to flat roofs
What to do next
Find out what solar panels could do for your bills
If you live in the Bristol area, why not talk to our Energy Efficiency advisor? They can provide advice on whether solar panels would be suitable for you, and the different types of system you could choose.
Back to the Energy Efficiency home page