As a SAP assessor solar panels were always something I tried to avoid.  There are limitations to most customer’s budgets.  Solar panels used to cost £10,000 or more.  They were out of the question.  Solar hot water systems were often used as a cheaper alternative.  I had a customer who was quoted £8000 for a large solar hot water system suitable for a large family.  This is still a lot of money and you also need somewhere to put the 350 litre twin coil hot water tank that is used in most systems.  A few companies now make a system with a small combi boiler that doesn’t need the huge twin coil tank.

Solar panels have come down in price quite a lot.  At around £4000 for a small domestic system the solar PV (electric type) is cheaper than most solar hot water systems.  You can sell the electricity to the government under a system called Feed In Tariff.  A lot of people don’t like the Feed In Tariff.  They feel that they don’t get enough money.  Many people use the electricity from their solar PV panels to run their immersion heater all day, giving them a full tank of hot water when they come.  So the solar PV panels give you hot water anyway and are smaller and cheaper than some solar hot water systems.  Any surplus electricity can still be sold to the national grid.  They do work in the English climate and don’t need direct sunlight to actually operate.  They produce less electricity on a cloudy day but you would be surprised how much they can produce.

What do I think of solar panels?  They are something I still try to avoid as my customers dislike the unnecessary expense and they’re not essential for most houses to pass the SAP test.  I also appreciate that they alter the appearance of the building.  They’re big bulky things that cover most of the roof and some customers think they’re ugly.  You can put them on the back of the building sometimes, but if you have a sloping roof facing south and that is above your front door they will have to go on the front.  The advantages are that they’re a lot cheaper than they used to be and that most people who have one love to tell you how good they are.  Solar panels are starting to look like good value for money.  They help lower the CO2 emissions in a SAP test but bear in mind that to pass SAP the house also needs to be designed to a very high level of fabric efficiency – the heat loss through the roof, the windows and the walls – so you can cover the roof in solar panels and still fail if the insulation and glazing isn’t up to a very high standard.  They are not a quick fix for passing the SAP test.

Solar Panels – Are They Really The Enemy?