Generate Your Own Energy: Solar PanelsGenerating your own energy at home is a great way to save money on your energy bills and reduce your dependency on non-renewable forms of electricity. One form of renewable energy for people to harness at home is energy from the sun – through a solar panel. Developments in renewable technologies mean that the solar panel is more effective – and affordable – than before.

With the Energy Saving Trust arguing that micro generated energy such as that gathered from solar panels could provide 30% to 40% of the UK’s electricity by the middle of the century it’s a great time to see what all the fuss is about. Firstly, it’s important to get to grips with the basics of how solar energy works before looking into installing a panel of your own.

How Solar Panels Work

Solar is an ideal source of renewable energy. It’s always there in abundance with no damaging emissions polluting the atmosphere as a result of using it. Solar panels work by harnessing light rays. The heat transfer system uses the collected heat to heat water which is collected by a cylinder that stores the hot water (keeping it hot for up to 24 hours) for later use.

One misconception is that you need continuous sunlight for a <#66#>solar panel to work<#> – actually solar panels will convert any form of light that hits it and will still be effective even on cloudy or dull days. In general solar panels are connected to a home’s water supply and the energy is used to heat water, but it’s also possible to use for other purposes, such as heating a swimming pool.

According to the Low Carbon Buildings Programme, a solar panel can provide almost all of your hot water during the summer months and about 50% the rest of the year round.

Types of Solar Panels

There are a number of different varieties of solar panels. You should make your decision based on the size of your home and the space you have available.

An integrated solar power system fits within the roof tiles. This works well as a more subtle and aesthetically pleasing choice, however can work out more expensive. This choice will also depend on the space you have available on your roof.

A roof top system works in a similar way except the collectors are more prominently visible on the roof itself rather than hidden away.

Alternatively, if you have the space in your garden, you can install a standalone system, where the collector sits on the ground away from the house altogether.

Installation and Maintenance Costs

It’s essential that you use a reputable and accredited professional to supply and install your solar panel. The equipment is very heavy and its suitability to your roof will need to be checked prior to installation.

Prices will vary from system to system, but typically will cost in region of £2-3,000. Once installed, most solar panels have a 10 year warranty, and, aside from occasional MOTs, shouldn’t require extra money being spent on them.

It’s also worth contacting the Low Carbons Building Programme to see if they are able to offer a grant to assist with costs. This is a government led scheme that enables people to receive assistance with their micro generation projects.