What are the pros and cons of solar panels?

pros and cons of solar panels

If you’re thinking about getting solar panels installed on your rooftop, you’re not alone – there are almost 1 million solar installations in the UK already! To help you decide if solar panels are right for you, our experts have compiled a list of some of the major pros and cons of solar panels.

Note – if you’re looking for even more ways to reduce your living costs, you can save up to £400 per year by switching to Eversmart – we’re one of the UK’s cheapest energy suppliers. Get a quote in under 2 minutes here.

Read on for our top pros and cons of solar panels:

 

Advantages of solar energy

Advantages of solar energy

Save & make money

Let’s be honest – who doesn’t love saving money! A home solar system actually saves and makes money in 3 different ways:

1. Cheaper electricity bills

The more sunlight your panels soak up and turn into electricity, the less you will have to buy from your electricity supplier – which means cheaper energy bills! The exact amount you can save depends on a whole range of factors – such as the number of panels, which part of the country you live in, and your typical energy usage – but the Energy Saving Trust estimate that a typical household in the south of England could save as much £220 per year.

2. The Generation Tariff (formerly the Feed-in Tariff)

The old feed-in tariff, where the government paid you per unit of clean energy you produced, was launched in April 2010 ended in January 2016. The rates were much more generous than they are now, leading to a solar power boom in the early years of this decade.

The new scheme gives you a set amount of money per unit of electricity you produce (in pence per kilowatt hour). The rate you get varies depending on a number of factors – you can find out more on the government’s website.

The Energy Saving Trust estimate that you can make between £115–£160 per year from the generation tariff.

3. The export tariff

What happens to the electricity that you don’t get around to using? You can sell up to half of it back into the grid. The National Grid will give you 4.85p per unit of electricity sold. The EST estimate that you could make up to £105 per year from exporting.

So to summarise – a big installation in the right part of the country in the right conditions could make you up to £485 better off per year.

It’s good for the environment

Solar power is a clean and renewable energy source. It doesn’t produce carbon dioxide or any other harmful greenhouses gasses, and unlike fossil fuels it will never run out (at least not in the next few billion years!)

Experts estimate that you can save around 1.2–1.7 tonnes of carbon from being released into the atmosphere per year.

They are low-maintenance

A typical set of rooftop solar panels will last for around 25 years, making them a great long-term investment. Once installed, they require very little in the way of maintenance other than a quick clean every now and then.

They work in bad weather

It’s a common misconception that solar panels only work where it’s hot & sunny. They work just fine in the UK and they can still generate power even when it’s cloudy. The UK actually has the sixth highest solar capacity in the world!

 

Disadvantages of solar energy

Disadvantages of solar energy

Big up-front cost

Solar panels aren’t cheap – a new system typically costs around £5,000 to £8,000 to install. The good news is that energy saving products such as solar panels qualify for the reduced rate of VAT in UK – 5% instead of the usual 20%.

The system will pay for itself eventually, so to get the best value from your panels you shouldn’t be planning on moving any time soon.

It’s difficult to store energy

Solar panels only produce electricity during daylight hours, and you really have to use it there and then if you don’t want it to disappear back into the grid. You can use batteries to store the excess juice and save it for when you need it, but the battery arrays are expensive.

Technology is improving however and prices may eventually come down, making them a more attractive investment. The Tesla Powerwall is one example of domestic battery storage that could make storing solar energy more feasible in the future, but for now the battery and associated hardware costs just under £6,000.

You house & roof may not be suitable

For those of us living in the northern hemisphere, solar panels work best on a south-facing roof. If you roof faces east & west, the effectiveness of your panels will be reduced. Your roof also needs to be big enough to accommodate the panels (things like skylights, chimneys and dorma windows can get in the way) and should ideally have a pitch of around 30-40 degrees. Solar panels may not be a great idea if your roof is often shaded by trees or tall buildings.

You can’t install them yourself

Technically you could install your own DIY solar array if you really wanted to, but it’s not recommended. For starters, you won’t be immediately eligible for the generation tariff. The system would first have to be certified by an MCS-accredited engineer, who may be reluctant to sign-off a system that they didn’t install or supervise.

They might make your home more difficult to sell

According to research from consumer website Which?, two thirds of estate agents said that solar panels make no difference to a home’s value. 16% actually thought they would lower the price of a house, and just 8% thought they would increase property value.

That said, having solar panels can improve your home’s Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) and the benefits of the generation and export tariffs will be passed on to the new owners.

 

Have you recently had solar panels fitted? Do you think it was worth it? What advice would you give to somebody thinking about getting them? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below!

 

What is a standing charge? Standing charges explained

What is a standing charge?

Have you noticed that your energy tariff includes a standing charge, but you’re unsure what it means? In this article we’ll answer some of the most commonly asked questions about standing charges on your gas & electricity bills.

Standing charge definition

First things first, what is a standing charge?

Quite simply, a standing charge is the fixed cost you pay for having access to a gas and/or electricity supply.

It works a little bit like the line rental on your phone bill – you always pay it no matter what, and then you pay for individual calls on top.

The standing charge pays for things like network maintenance, meter readings, and in some cases government energy saving initiatives.

What is a typical standing charge?

It varies depending on who supplies your energy and which tariff you are on. As a very rough guide, it can range from 10p-80p per day for gas, and 5p-60p per day for electricity.

Eversmart Energy offers one of the lowest standing charges in the industry – 10.5 pence per day on most of our tariffs. You can enter your details and get a quote here.

What’s the difference between standing charge and unit rate?

Whilst the standing charge is a flat fee that stays the same from month to month, the unit rate is the cost you pay per unit of gas or electricity consumed. Going back to our phone comparison – if the standing charge is like your line rental, the unit rate is a bit like paying for individual calls.

Your unit rate is measured in pence per kilowatt-hour (p/kWh) for both gas and electricity. Again, the price per unit depends on your supplier and tariff. Together, the standing charge and the unit rate make up your energy bill.

Is there such thing as a zero standing charge tariff?

Yes. They’re not very common, but some suppliers do offer tariffs with no standing charge – including Eversmart Energy.

However… just because you don’t pay a standing charge, it doesn’t necessarily mean your bills will be cheaper.

Most people are actually better off paying a standing charge. The only people that will really benefit from a ‘no standing charge’ tariff are those who own properties that are empty for long periods of time – for example if you are away from home for several months of the year, or if you own a garage or workshop that is completely separate from your main property.

Workshop
A ‘no standing charge’ tariff may be suitable for buildings such as workshops, that are empty for long periods of time.

If your tariff has a higher standing charge, your unit rate will probably be cheaper and vice versa. If you pay no standing charge at all, your unit rate could be considerably more expensive. The best thing to do is find a tariff that strikes the right balance for your usage and circumstances.

If you think you would be better off on a no standing charge tariff, you can contact us to discuss your options.

Do standing charges apply on a prepayment meter?

Yes. The standing charge is subtracted from your credit every day. If you’re going away on holiday, it’s important that you leave enough credit on your meter to cover the standing charge.

Also be aware that if you run out of credit the standing charge will still be applied, building up a debt if you don’t pay it back.

Do standing charges apply on a smart meter?

The standing charge is determined by your tariff, not the type of meter you have – so it doesn’t make any difference if you have a standard meter or a smart meter. We have answered some common questions about smart meters in this article.

 

Do you feel you are paying too much for your gas and electricity? Eversmart offer some of the most competitive energy prices in the industry – you can get a quote in under 2 minutes here.

How do I find out who my gas and electricity supplier is?

How do I find out who my gas and electricity supplier is?

Have you just moved, or are about to move house? Or perhaps you’ve simply lost track of your paperwork. Whatever the reason, sometimes you need to find out which company supplies your gas and electricity. There are various ways to find out who your energy supplier is – read on to find out.

Before you do anything else… find a bill

It sounds obvious, but before you try anything else, see if you can dig out an old bill or letter from your energy provider. If you manage to get your hands on one, it should have the name and/or logo of your supplier on it, along with their contact details. It may also be worth searching through your old emails.

Obviously this won’t work if you have just moved house. If you’re moving into a rented property, there’s a chance your landlord or letting agency may know who your current supplier is.

If you still can’t find out, move on to one of the methods below.

Finding your gas supplier

Finding out who supplies your gas is easy – you just need to call the Meter Point Administration Service (also known as the Meter Number Helpline). Tell them your postcode and first line of your address, and they will give you the name of your current supplier along with your Meter Point Reference Number (MPRN).

Their number is 0870 608 1524.

The Meter Point Administration Service operates nationwide and calls are charged at 7p per minute.

Finding your electricity supplier

To find out who your electricity supplier is, you will need to call your local distribution company. The number you call will depend on which region of the country you live in – take a look at the map below to find out who to call in your area.

Finding your local distribution company
Call your local distribution company to find out who supplies your electricity. Click on the image to expand.

Here’s a list of distribution companies along with their phone numbers:

Region Distribution Company Phone Number
Northern Scotland Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks 0800 048 3515
Central & Southern Scotland SP Energy Networks 0330 1010 300
North East England & Yorkshire: Northern Powergrid 0800 011 3332
North West England Electricity North West 0800 195 4141
Merseyside, Cheshire, North Wales & North Shropshire SP Energy Networks 0330 1010 300
East Midlands & West Midlands Western Power Distribution 0800 096 3080
South Wales & South West England Western Power Distribution 0800 096 3080
London, South East England & Eastern England UK Power Networks 0845 601 4516
Southern England Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks 0800 048 3516
Northern Ireland Northern Ireland Electricity Networks 03457 643 643
Republic of Ireland ESB Networks 00353 1850 372 757

The distributor will tell you the name of your electricity supplier as well as your Meter Point Administration Number (MPAN). The cost of the call varies depending on which number you need to call.

 

While you’re here… Are you thinking about switching energy suppliers? You could save up to £300 per month by switching to Eversmart – get a quote here.

How to save energy when you drive

energy saving driving

The home isn’t the only place where you can save energy. According to a study by the AA, you can save as much as 33% on fuel just by making a few changes to your driving habits.

Check your tyres

As well as being dangerous, worn or under-inflated tyres can reduce fuel efficiency. Check your tyre pressure regularly – especially before a long journey.

Check your oil

Make sure you have the right amount of oil in your engine (especially if you own an older vehicle) and be sure to use the correct type of oil. Check your manufacturer’s handbook if you are unsure which specification you should be using.

Get your car serviced regularly

Most manufacturers recommend getting your car serviced every twelve months or every 12,000 miles, whichever comes first.

Lose weight

The more weight your car is carrying, the more fuel you will use. If an item doesn’t need to be in your car, leave it at home.

Your car doesn’t need to warm up

This is an old practice that belongs in the past. Experts say that modern engines need no more than 30 seconds to warm up, and that your car will warm up more quickly when it’s moving anyway. There’s no need to start the car several minutes before travelling – doing so will simply waste fuel.

Scrape ice in the winter

Using a scraper or a de-icer spray is better than leaving the car idling and waiting for the ice to melt.

Plan ahead

Getting lost and/or stuck in slow moving traffic wastes fuel. Plan your route and check the traffic news before setting off on a long journey.

Smoothly does it

Rapid starting and stopping eats up a lot of fuel. Pull away gently, look ahead and anticipate hazards to avoid harsh braking. Try to avoid coming to a complete stop by approaching junctions slowly and looking ahead.

Change gear early

The AA recommends changing gear when your revs reach around 2,000 rpm (in a diesel car) or 2,500 (petrol).

Be careful with the air con

Turning on the air conditioning causes your car to use more fuel. At low speeds, it may be better to just open a window instead. Save the air con for higher speeds, where opening a window would create extra drag and hamper your fuel efficiency.

Turn off unnecessary electrics

Your car’s electrical systems draw power from the battery, which in turn is charged-up by using fuel. Turn off things like lights, window heaters and de-misters if you don’t need them.

Things you shouldn’t do:

Coasting – Some people believe that rolling along out of gear will save fuel. According to the AA, the fuel savings are negligible (especially in modern cars) and it’s dangerous, as you don’t have full control of the vehicle.

Turning off your engine instead of idling – This is only advisable if you expect to be stopped for over 3 minutes (for example at a level crossing or in heavily gridlocked traffic), your engine is warm, and you have a good battery. Otherwise, the extra fuel needed to start your engine again will negate any fuel saved by switching it off. It’s also not kind to your battery.

Over to you!

Do you have any eco-driving tips of your own? Let us know in the comments section.

What is a smart meter and how do they work?

How do Smart Meters work?

The government wants a smart meter installed in every home and business in the country by 2020. In this article we’ll tackle some of the most common questions & concerns about smart meters, including; what are smart meters? How do smart meters work? How much do they cost? How are they fitted? And are they worth it?

Smart meters explained

Smart meters are designed to replace old, traditional gas & electricity meters. Smart meters communicate directly with your energy supplier, transmitting regular, accurate meter readings. This means no more climbing into your cupboard in order to give your supplier a manual reading. It also puts an end to inaccurate energy bills based on estimated usage.

Smart meters usually come bundled with an in-home device (IHD). Also known as an energy monitor, the IHD has a screen that displays how much gas and electricity you are using in near real-time. Seeing your energy usage and spending can help you adjust your lifestyle and save energy & money.

Smart meter diagram
A typical smart meter set-up for a dual fuel customer.

What does a smart meter look like?

The actual smart meter – the unit that’s usually tucked away in a cupboard or a corner – looks similar to a traditional electricity or gas meter. However when most people mention a ‘smart meter’, they’re actually referring to the in-home device – this is a sleek, small display that sits on a shelf or table top and displays your energy usage. It’s fairly small and discreet – perhaps a little larger and bulkier than an average mobile phone.

What does a smart meter look like?

How much does a smart meter cost?

Nothing! Your smart meter will be installed for free. If you switch over to Eversmart, you will receive a free smart meter fitted by a trained engineer plus a free home safety test. You can find out more about switching to us here and more about our smart meters here.

What are the benefits of having a smart meter?

There are two very big benefits of having a smart meter installed. The first is that your energy bills will no longer be estimated and you will only pay for the actual amount of gas and electricity you use. The second is having visibility of your live usage. The IHD displays your kWh usage and the amount you are spending. This is especially useful if you are a pre-payment customer, as the smart meter will tell you how much credit you have left.

We have listed a few more benefits below:

  • More accurate bills
     
  • No need to submit manual meter readings
     
  • Improved service – As energy suppliers get a better understanding of their customer’s energy usage and habits, they can offer better tariffs.
     
  • Remote topping-up – Pre-payment customers with a smart meter can top-up online or over the phone. No more walking to the shops just to top up your gas and electric!
     
  • Save energy and money – If you can see how much energy you are using and when you are using the most, it’s easier to make smart choices and lifestyle changes that will reduce your usage, bring down your bills and reduce your carbon footprint.
     
  • Helping to create the “smart grid” – The more people that have smart meters, the more energy suppliers can plan ahead and supply energy more efficiently. This saves money for both the suppliers and their customers.
     

Some other frequently asked questions:

How do smart meters transmit data?

Smart meters from Eversmart come with a mobile SIM card that transmits your usage data. It can also receive messages and updates. The SIM is completely free and you do not need to pay a monthly bill or any other fees for using it.

The SIM can roam between several networks, so there’s no need to worry about whether it will get a signal.

Do smart meters need the internet to work?

No. The smart meter uses a SIM card to communicate with the energy supplier. The smart meter also connects wirelessly with the IHD (it doesn’t use your Wi-Fi, as some people believe).

Are they safe?

There have been rumours and conspiracy theories floating around that smart meters are somehow harmful to your health. We can tell you that smart meters are subject to the same safety regulations and rigorous testing as other consumer technology products, as required by UK and EU law.

Smart meters do emit low-level radio frequencies, as do many consumer electrical products. Public Health England (formerly The Health Protection Agency) say that the evidence suggests the radio waves produced by smart meters do not pose a risk to health. The government has published a very detailed report on smart meters & health, which you can read here.

How are smart meters powered?

The smart meter is powered directly by your home’s power supply. Your IHD from Eversmart can be plugged in or powered by batteries. Note that if you turn off the IHD, the smart meter will continue working and transmitting data as usual.

Who will install my smart meter?

Your smart meter will be fitted and tested by a trained engineer.

How long does it take to fit a smart meter?

It usually takes up to one hour per meter (gas and/or electricity). So if you are a dual-fuel customer, it should take no longer than 2 hours.

The video below gives you a brief overview of the installation process:

Note that dual-fuel customers will need two smart meters – one for your gas supply and one for your electricity. Both are free and we will aim to install both in the same visit. You will only need one in-home display.

Can I switch energy suppliers if I have a smart meter?

Yes. Be aware however that if you already have an older 1st-generation smart meter, it may not be compatible with your new supplier. If you are unsure, check with your current supplier before making the switch.

Modern 2nd-generation smart meters can be switched seamlessly between suppliers.

Can I get a smart meter if I pre-pay for my gas or electric?

Yes. A smart meter will help you monitor your usage and allow you to pay remotely. They’re also ideal for people with limited mobility, as traditional meters are often difficult and inconvenient to access.

Can I get a smart meter if I rent my home?

Yes. As a tenant, if you are directly responsible for paying the energy bills, then you have the right to choose your own energy supplier. In most circumstances your energy meter belongs to the energy company, not your landlord. This means that you are free to switch suppliers and get your old meter replaced with a smart meter (Ofgem recommends that you still give your landlord a heads-up before getting a smart meter fitted).

IHD
An Eversmart in-home display (IHD)

How to get a smart meter

Eversmart Energy offer a free smart meter to every new customer. We also offer some of the best value energy tariffs in the country – you could save up to £300 per year by switching to us. You can get a quote in under 2 minutes here.

Should I switch to a small energy supplier?

Should I switch to a small energy supplier

For a long time the gas & electricity market has been dominated by the so-called ‘Big 6’ energy firms, leaving consumers with a limited number of options when it came to choosing a supplier. Today, there are over 40 energy providers including many smaller – or ‘independent’ – companies who can offer very competitive prices.

But despite the fact they are considerably cheaper, many people are nervous about switching to a lesser-known supplier – but should you be?

What is an independent energy supplier?

Basically, any company that isn’t one of the Big 6 – British Gas, EDF Energy, E.ON, npower, Scottish Power or SSE– is considered as a ‘small’ or ‘independent’ energy company.

Back in 2014, the energy regulator Ofgem announced plans to open up the electricity market and encourage healthier competition between suppliers. These plans included several proposals that would “level the playing field” and make it easier for independent firms to compete with the big boys – such as greater transparency when it comes to wholesale energy prices.

As a result, dozens of new suppliers entered the market, offering lower prices thanks to smaller overheads and freedom from some of the government obligations placed on the Big 6. Eversmart Energy was one of these companies – offering competitive pricing and refreshingly modern customer service through text and social media. We started supplying in 2016, and two years later we’re still going strong and still proudly independent!

Is it safe to switch to a small supplier?

A recent survey from Citizens Advice revealed that 1 in 3 people don’t feel confident switching energy suppliers. Another study from Money Saving Expert asked people what puts them off from switching – the number one answer was being unsure about using an unfamiliar firm.

Money Saving Expert noted on their blog: “While our poll shows many are wary of smaller suppliers, and feedback on new small suppliers is often limited, previous MSE polls suggest some smaller firms can actually offer a better customer experience than their big-name counterparts.”

Ofgem have also attempted to ease concerns about the stability of some smaller suppliers. If an energy company ceases trading, regulations are in place to make sure you are transferred smoothly over to a new supplier.

Whenever you switch energy suppliers, there’s very little hassle and no interruption to your supply. If you do decide to switch to an independent, you could save up to £300 a year!

How do independent companies keep their prices so low?

Eversmart Energy offer a free Smart Meter to every customer – this allows us to reduce operational costs and pass the savings on to you. Like many independents, we’re smaller and more flexible than some of our bigger competitors, with fewer overheads and lower operational costs.

We also understand that people’s lifestyles are changing, along with the way they like to communicate. If you don’t have the time to speak to us over the phone, we’re happy to communicate via text, social media or Facebook messenger – whatever works for you! We like to think we do things the smart way.

How do I make the switch?

Switching energy suppliers is quick, simple and hassle-free. You can get a quote and find out how much you could save here.

10 simple ways to save energy around the home

energy saving tip

Saving energy doesn’t have to be difficult – following these 10 simple tips will help you cut your energy bills and reduce your carbon footprint!

Switch to energy saving light bulbs

They may be a little more expensive, but energy saving bulbs last much longer and will save you money in the long-run. Replacing all of the traditional light bulbs in your home with LED lamps of the same brightness will save you around £35 per year!

Turn off the lights when you leave the room

Lights are responsible for around 7% of the total electricity used in the average home. If you can get into the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room, you can really take a bite out of your energy bill!

Use a washing up bowl

It sounds incredibly simple, but using a bowl when you do the dishes (instead of keeping the hot tap running) can knock around £25 off your annual gas bill and £30 off your water bill, according to the Energy Saving Trust.

Wait until it’s full

Don’t turn on your washing machine or dishwasher until they are nice and full. Doing so will significantly reduce your electricity and water bills.

Turn appliances off at the wall

Putting your electrical appliances on standby mode isn’t the same as turning them off at the wall. Even though they look like they are off, TVs, computers, games consoles etc. will continue draining power in when left on standby. Make a habit of flicking the switch on the socket.

Don’t overfill the kettle

The UK has a nasty habit of boiling too much water when making a cuppa, resulting in £68 million of wasted energy each year. Next time you make a brew, only heat the amount of water you need – or better yet, get a smaller kettle.

Set your fridge to the right temperature

Most fridges have a thermostat – find out where it is and set it to the right temperature. Your fridge should be between 3 and 5°C, and your freezer should be around -18 °C.

Take it easy with the oven

Pre-heating your oven doesn’t take as long as some people think – around 10-15 minutes is just fine. Turning it on earlier just wastes energy. You can also turn the oven off a few minutes before the end of your cooking time (especially if it’s electric).

Take a shower

Showers are far more efficient than baths, in terms of water and gas usage. If everybody in a family of four replaced one bath a week with a quick shower, you could save up to £20 a year on gas bills and £20 on water.

Get a Smart Meter

A smart meter gives you a near real-time view of your energy usage and will help you identify & cut out energy waste. You can get a free smart meter fitted by a trained engineer when you switch to Eversmart – find out more here.

 

Sources

http://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/home-energy-efficiency/lighting
http://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/home-energy-efficiency/saving-water
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-23175220