Can you get solar panels for free?

UPDATE: The Feed-In Tariff is now closed for new applications. To find out about the new scheme designed to replace it, click here.

It is great to see our customers interested in Solar PV, and we regularly answer questions about solar at our Green Deal Assessments. One of the questions we get asked a lot is, ‘I heard about a company that does free solar panels, is that too good to be true?’ Free solar companies have been around for a while, so we thought we would let you know exactly how they work and whether it could be right for you.

Can you get free solar panels?

To start with the easy question – yes there are companies out there that will install solar panels on your property for free. They make their money by claiming the feed-in-tariff payment from the government, but let you take advantage of the savings that can be made by using the solar system rather than the grid’s electricity.

What does that mean for you? On the one hand, you have to sign up to have panels on your roof for 25 years, and you won’t get a penny from the feed-in-tariff. On the other hand, you won’t have to pay any installation costs, usually get maintenance and insurance included in the deal, and you get to use all of the electricity the system produces.

Are there any free solar companies in my area?

As you may be aware, over the last few years the feed-in-tariff payments for solar have decreased significantly, meaning it is much more tricky for a free solar company to actually turn a profit – and in April the government plans to lower the tariff further, so these sorts of companies might not be offering free solar for much longer.

Having said that, there are legitimate companies out there offering the service, and most parts of the country can take advantage.

What criteria do I need to get free solar?

Because of the profit margin for the installers, only certain roofs will be eligible. You will need a south or near south facing roof, with minimal or no shading and enough space for the solar array.

Will free solar affect my mortgage or the resale of my home?

It is absolutely crucial that your installer complies with the Council of Mortgage Lenders Guidelines. As long as they do – remortgaging should not be a problem. Some solar ‘rent a roof’ schemes do not comply with this code, and there can cause problems when it comes to your remortgage. The key here is to check with the installer and your mortgage provider before you go ahead with the installation.

It is difficult to comment on the resaleability of a home with free solar. Usually, it is installed on a property where the customer is looking to stay long term, otherwise there is little benefit in it for them.

How to make the most out of free solar

Because you won’t be getting the feed-in-tariff, it is even more important to take advantage of the generated energy. This means you should look to use your appliances more during the day, and perhaps look at getting a solar optimiser like the Apollo Gem or the Optimmersion, which will ensure that you use 100% of the electricity you generate. This could mean you make savings of a few hundred pounds a year – adding up to several thousand pounds over a 25 year plan typical of a free solar company.

The one huge advantage of free solar!

Companies that offer free solar are making their money off the Government feed-in tariff, therefore they want you to be generating the most amount of electricity as you can. This means that if there are any issues once the panels get installed, it is in their best interests to come and sort the issue as quick as possible so normal service is resumed.

For most solar PV installations, the inverters will last about 10 years and in the case of free solar PV systems, the company that own the installation will cover the cost of replacing this too – allowing you to get the many of the perks of owning your own solar system, including free electricity to use in the house without having to maintain the system yourself.

UPDATE: The Feed-In Tariff is now closed for new applications. To find out about the new scheme designed to replace it, click here.

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