How solar panels can make light work of your energy bills
Domestic solar panels should save you money and cut your home's CO2 emissions, but they're not for everyone - Julia Gray explains if they are right for your home
Solar panels are relatively inexpensive and straightforward to install compared to many other types of renewable-energy technology. Panels are usually fitted to a pitched roof, but they can be mounted on a wall, a frame on the ground or a flat roof.
Although they work on cloudy days, the panels need a sunny position to be most effective - somewhere south-facing that gets sun most of the day is ideal.
There are two types of solar panel. The ones that generate electricity, called solar photovoltaics or solar PV, are most popular. Visit www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/renewable-energy/electricity/solar-panels to see how they work.
An average 4kWp domestic solar PV system costs around £5,000 to £8,000, according to the Energy Saving Trust, but it could earn you money through the Government's Feed-In Tariffs scheme. Providing your system qualifies, the scheme pays you for the electricity you generate and use, and also for any surplus electricity you supply to the national grid. The other type of solar panels, solar thermal panels, heat water.
The Energy Saving Trust says that a typical system costs around £3,000 to £5,000, but the savings made are likely to be moderate. As well as the solar panels, you'll need a boiler or immersion heater to give you additional hot water and sometimes make the water heated by the panels hotter, especially in winter. You may also have to change your boiler and hot-water cylinder to ones compatible with the panels.