Solar – never mind the payback it gives generously!

Friday, June 14, 2013

When talking about  solar energy in the home one of the first questions most people ask is “How long will it take to get my money back?” 

I find this so frustrating as the very same person has most probably recently bought themselves or are considering buying a new   Smart 3D 51" Plasma TV costing in the region of £2k or are perhaps considering a new/second hand car costing possibly £5k upwards.

Do they ever stop and ask what ‘pay back’ the TV or car will give them?  No.

The TV will continue to cost you – TV licence; electricity; satellite/cable subscription etc, etc.
The car will continue to cost you– Road Tax; insurance; servicing; fuel; general wear and tear depreciation.

A solar PV (electricity) or Thermal (Hot Water) installation starts giving the moment it is installed.  With installation costs within the region of £3k - £7k depending on the size yes, calculations can be done to show projected savings and ‘pay back’ but what people do not seem to grasp is what else they are gaining,  take PV for example:

Even on a cloudy day in the UK we generate solar power.  During the day, any electricity that you use in the house ie: washing machine, dishwasher, vacuum cleaner  etc uses the  free electricity that your panel is generating. 

On top of the ‘free’ electricity you get to use your electricity supplier pays you for what they deem is half of the electricity your panel produces (Feed In Tariff – FIT).  Although the PV installation has a generation meter which measures how much electricity your panel produces, the majority of homes do not have an export meter to measure just how much electricity is fed back in to the grid.  This means that if you use all the electricity you generate during the day by running your appliances you will STILL receive a FIT payment for half of it.  This FIT payment is guaranteed for 20 years.

Yes, you still have to pay for electricity used at night but immediately your installation is in  your electricity consumer meter readings are greatly reduced.

With Solar Thermal, again solar energy is being produced all year round, obviously you are not going to supply all your hot water during winter months by solar alone, but you will find that it will raise the water temperature a few degrees and pre-warm the water in your cylinder which means a thermostatically controlled boiler will not need to work quite as hard as it would otherwise.
If you would like to know more about solar PV or Solar Thermal please,  give Rob or Lin a call on Oxford 01865 424869 or email

Making energy costs stand still

Friday, June 14, 2013

Reducing energy use and CO2 emissions had long been a passion of mine since a teenager and I decided that if energy efficiency was going to be my business I should start walking the talk and lead by example.  When I established Solaflair back in 2006 I also set about turning my own 3 bed semi-detached east/west facing house in to a low energy home. 

(It is a big mis-conception that for solar to work you need a south facing roof. Yes in an ideal world, a South facing installation is the perfect situation and will give you the best results but an East West configuration will also give you up to 85% of optimal performance.)

Before you can start on reducing your energy costs if you do nothing else  you should insulate, insulate  and insulate, once you have done that everything else can be done in small affordable steps. 

Once the loft had been insulated and I had changed every single light bulb in the house to low energy bulbs the next thing I did for my home was to install a solar thermal hot water system.  This consisted of two 15 evacuated tube collectors, one on each side of the roof. The first year it was installed our boiler was turned  off in April and was not switched on again until towards the end of October, giving us a decent saving on our gas bills.

Next came the wood burning stove with back boiler to boost  our hot water supply.  In addition to it being plumbed in to the hot water cylinder the stove boiler also feeds two radiators  (one each in the two main bedrooms used). This naturally decreased the use of our boiler during the winter months.

Next up was a PV installation – a 4kW system, again with panels on both the east and west facing roof.  In the ‘old days’ when Economy 7 was the electric tariff to be on we got used to using the washing machine, tumble dryer, dish washer etc during the evening to make best use of the cheaper electricity.  Well when you have PV you train yourself to run the big electrical items during the day!

There are lots of energy saving things we do around the house such as using a gas hob to heat a kettle in the evening but switching to a small 2 cup electric kettle during the day. Using a saucepan lid for more efficient heating when cooking among other things.  Also each week I record all my meter readings weekly at   Once you start monitoring things  it’s amazing how much more you can cut down your usage even further. 

Rummaging through some old paperwork the other day I found an old utility bill from May 2006, when I compared it to my last utility bill I realised by taking the actions above although costs have increased dramatically I had actually made my energy costs stand still over the past 7 years!





May 2013

May 2006


May 2013

May 2006

kWh used


kWh used






Cost per unit


Cost per unit

4.3 pence

2.36 pence


13.572 pence

9.22 pence

Total Gas Bill


Total electricity bill






If you would like more information about what you can do to reduce your utility bills please call 01865 424869 or email

With over 35 years experience in the Energy and Gas Industry Rob originally trained as a gas engineer with British Gas, moving on to become a lecturer in Gas safety at Oxford College as it was then before ultimately spending 7 years as a Gas CORGI inspector and RSA D32/3 Assessor in the 90’s.