DIY tips

After the furore over price hikes in energy bills, we desperately need to find ways to bring the cost of heating our homes down.

But does that simply mean wearing another jumper or using less energy, as some company representatives like to advise us? Or is there another, better way to keep warm this winter; namely, by switching to solar panel energy instead?

Solar panels are one of the easiest ways for homeowners to be less reliant on energy providers, being relatively inexpensive and straightforward to install compared to many other kinds of renewable-energy technology. Panels are usually fitted to a pitched roof, but they can be mounted on a wall, flat roof or frame on the ground. Although they work on cloudy days, panels need a sunny position to be most effective.

There are two types of solar panel – ones that generate electricity (solar photovoltaics or PV), and ones that heat your home’s water (solar thermal). With both, you’ll cut your utility bills and CO2 emissions, but the benefits don’t end there.

Solar PV panels, which are the most popular, can also earn you money, thanks to the Government’s Feed-In Tariffs scheme. If your PV system meets certain qualifications, the scheme pays you for the electricity you generate and use and also for any surplus electricity you supply to the national grid. This could give you savings and income of around £645 a year, according to the Energy Saving Trust. Use their solar-energy calculator at www.energysavingtrust.org.uk to work out how you could benefit from the scheme.