14 2 mins 14 yrs

Ever considered buying solar panels for your house? I have (!) but was not sufficiently convinced I would get payback. And yet I see more and more people  sticking them up on their roofs. So, just how GOOD an investment are they?


“Solar panels are one of the least cost-effective ways of combating climate change and will take 100 years to pay back their installation costs, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) warned yesterday. In a new guide on energy efficiency, Rics said that roof panels for heating water and generating power are unlikely to save enough from bills to make them financially viable in a householder’s lifetime. In the case of solar panels to heat water for baths and showers, the institution estimates the payback time from money saved from electricity and gas bills will take more than 100 years – and up to 166 years in the worst case. Photovoltaic (PV) panels for power – and domestic, mast-mounted wind turbines – will take between 50 and 100 years to pay back.”


Now call me short-sighted BUT when the payback for such an investment is greater than my lifetime, I’m thinking that it’s not one I want to pursue! Is this just one more green con – superficially attractive, governmment endorsed – and utterly useless?

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14 thoughts on “UP ON THE ROOF….

  1. I lived in Greece over 20 years ago, and we had a solar panel on the roof, this gave hot water from April to October. I don’t know the figures for UK, but I’m sure it would help if the Government allowed the cost to be written off on your income tax, and if the whole purchase and installation was VAT free.

  2. I got 2 solar panels put on my roof 4 winters ago for heating water. They work very well, look very well, and mean we don’t have to heat water for half the year. Water heating costs in winter are also significantly reduced.
    To be honest I haven’t a clue what they cost or how much electricity I pay every month. The panels were subsidised at the time, and the calculation was that they’d be amortised after 5 years even based on the much lower electricity prices then.

  3. Noel/Jon,

    Yes, the UK subsidy was withdrawn and this had caused a disencentive. I like the concept but hate the financial payback. I favour all new tech but it DOES have to make economic sense. Why has the Royal Instititute taken such a severe view if it is not right?

  4. I’d cover the roof of any house i may one day be able to afford with plastic sex dolls if it meant it weaned us off the Middle East and Russia.

  5. Solar may still be expensive, but costs are expected to fall rapidly in the next few years:

    "Today, a fully installed solar p.v. system costs a homeowner $7 to $8 per watt of capacity, which means a total system cost of about $35,000 for a typical house. Assuming an average experience curve, that means that with rising output, costs should fall to about $4 per watt by 2012, then $2 per watt by 2021, continuing to fall steadily until reaching a cheaper than cheap 50 cents by 2039, according to Exponential Solar’s model."

  6. Its important to look at the economics, but this is not the only factor

    If these panels were more widespread, ( even assuming the technology never evolved ) there would be less pollution, less money going to bad countries such as Saudi, Venezuela, Iran, ( as noted ), less leverage that bad countries have over us, less foreign exchange defecit, less wear and tear on national grid, less dependence on that grid, etc etc.

  7. Alison- although it would look funny I’m not sure if sex dolls would secretly attract more from the M.E. or if it would deflect. Unless they are solar powered, however, you will still have higher electricity bills. That’s also the most amusing comment… I’d agree and add some hippy tree-hugging stuff about saving the environment.

    —jesting aside— There are more options on the way, and less expensive models becoming available. There’s even a new idea using microwaves (not the actual thing that heats food… the waves employed by it to radiate/warm up your left-overs) which would work at night and therefore be more useful where it is more cloudy like the UK or freaking Seattle/Portland where I currently live.
    for more info, and some cheaper ideas (but sold from the US I believe) check out the ads on the page.
    http://www.ecogeek.com

    Before anyone’s panties are in a bunch over how liberal and leftist this all is… let’s remember being fiscally smart and relying on foreign oil is something the right appreciates too.

  8. "remember being fiscally smart and relying on foreign oil is something the right appreciates too."

    That’s right Aisha – let’s get those drills going in Alaska!

  9. Troll and I would like to install solar panels on the house that we buy. We’re thinking about a windmill, too. Here in the states, if you put a system in, you get a HECK of a lot of the cost back as tax credits. Knowing that I would have backup power for several key electrical processes in the house would be worth the cost for me. The water pump and fridge, for instance. Great not to lose those in the event of a prolonged power outage. Plus, it is nice to think that you’re harnessing energy in that way, isn’t it?

  10. Daphne- Yes, why not, the Alaskan Wildlife Preserves are about as replaceable/renewable as petroleum. It’s like killing two birds with one stone… and some wolves, and priceless habitats, and Kodiak bears, and ad infinite-um. Get it.. down to the finite? I’m so pithy and pun-ny 😉

    Monica- Yes, huge breaks in the US these days.. good to take advantage of these deals before they go the way of the Dodo. Also heat pumps on the refrigerator help harness the heat given off by refrigerator coils to heat the house. My dad saved big bucks this winter on household heating this way!

  11. Using solar panels to reduce dependence on mid-east oil is a non sequitur. The vast majority of electricity is generated from coal and natural gas (at least, that’s true in the US. Not sure about the UK…). Putting over-priced solar panels on your home is not a way to stick it to the Saudis…

  12. AISHA-So, if I understand you correctly, your father took an interior heat source which directly contributed to the interior heating added "heat pumps"? Ummm….something wrong here. The only thing most of us trying to add efficiency do is add a vent to the rear of the ‘fridge to move the heat outside during cooling season and leave it alone during winter.
    And yes, it would be a crime to use about 0.0003% of those gorgeous gravel covered mud flats on the ANWAR coastline with their 6 months of total darkness to replace any foreign oil with domestic production. What are we thinking? BTW, if every rooftop in the USA were covered in solar panels, it wouldn’t decrease the daily oil usage by any measurable amount until our transportation can switch to substantial use of plug-in hybrids, hydrogen, or CNG. Ziltch.

  13. –If every rooftop in the USA were covered in solar panels, it wouldn’t decrease the daily oil usage by any measurable amount —

    What’s your source for that information. I don’t believe it. In New York, Florida, and Hawaii a lot of electricity is produced by burning oil

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