ENERGY bills are soaring with the average cost expected to reach £3,420 in October.
Could solar panels be the solution?
Some homes have saved hundreds of pounds by installing them – but the costs could take years to recoup and others have struggled to sell houses with panels.
Elliot Clark of the Center for Sustainable Energy says: “Solar panels are getting cheaper every year.
“But families need to figure out how much it might cost to install and what they could save before jumping in.”
A family living near Woking in Surrey is saving £80 a month after installing panels.
Natalie Ward, 36, husband David, 40, a farm manager, daughter Harper, four, and son Ethan, three, have seen their monthly bill plummet from £100 to £20.
The Wards took the plunge into solar energy in March this year after joining Surrey County Council’s program to cut household bills.
They sold a second car to find the £8,500 for 16 panels, a 6kW battery, a submersible diverter that heats their hot water using leftover electricity and a bird screen for the panels.
They now consume so little from the grid that their electricity bill has fallen sharply, although their electricity has gone from 17p to 27p per kilowatt hour.
Natalie, who runs her own business, Latched, selling athletic wear for pregnant and nursing mothers, says: “It took us less than a day to install and we saved a fortune.
“Doing this through a community system has taken the anxiety away and it’s great to think we’re doing something positive for the environment.
“It makes the most sense to use as much of the energy ourselves as possible rather than selling it back to the grid, so we only use our devices in the middle of the day.”
But Natalie admits they can’t completely avoid the spike in energy bills during the colder months.
She optimistically estimates that they will recoup the cost of the panels in about five years.
The Eco Experts (TEE) suggest that if energy prices are at the level of the expected October price cap hike, the average household could pay off £5,420 worth of panels in seven years, with the panels saving families an average of £738 a year.
The major financial benefit of solar panels comes from using the electricity to power devices in your home.
Any surplus can be stored in a battery – costing at least £2,000 – or sold to the grid.
But the old feed-in tariff, which closed to new customers three years ago, and the new Smart Export Guarantee set by energy companies are far less generous.
Electricity is currently worth 28.3 pa kWh rising to at least 40.3 pence in October. When energy companies buy electricity from their customers, they pay on average just 3.9p per kWh, according to the TEE.
Even the most generous deal with Scottish Power pays just 5.5p per kWh, they say.