Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Are You Facing the 'Right' Way?

Solar PV for Frugal Energy:

After my week of absence, I'm delighted to be able to incorporate a guest blog by Evo Energy for our frugaldom readers. I hope some of you will find this both interesting and informative.

Conventional energy costs seem to be on the rise once again with 5 out of the UK's 6 biggest energy suppliers raising their energy costs within the last three months. If, in your frugal household, you think you’ve already gone as far as you can with limiting your energy consumption and your bills are still coming in too high, it might be time to start looking at free energy sources. In this article I’ll be talking about how solar power has, within the last few years, become a realistic way to save on your energy bill and the various options to consider when switching to solar.

Up until relatively recently, Scotland’s slightly dreary climate meant that when it came to considering renewable energy for any household item more demanding than a calculator, solar power would not be one that leapt to mind. Technology, however, is ever improving, and the latest solar panels no longer need direct sunlight. In fact, on the cloudiest of Scottish days, many new solar panels will work at 40% efficiency. These technological improvements combined with a national need to reduce the amount of fossil fuels we consume has lead to a government scheme designed to encourage the uptake of solar power, the feed in scheme.

What’s the feed in scheme?

If you installed solar panels, during day light hours you will constantly be generating electricity, however, for a lot of this time you may not be using it. Unless you have rechargeable batteries installed this excess energy would normally just be going to waste but with the feed in scheme your spare energy would be bought from you by the government and sent into the national grid, where it can be sold to energy companies and used by other households. Any energy that is sold like this you will be paid for, meaning you can actually make money from your solar panels. The government has guaranteed to maintain this scheme for at least 25 years and buy energy from you at a rate that matches inflation.

Is it affordable?

Solar panels should be viewed as an investment, not only will you be saving money on your energy bills but, as mentioned above, you could actually be making money from your solar panels. Solar panels aren’t going to make you rich, but you can expect to make all your initial set up costs back within ten years (sooner, if energy prices continue to rise). After this you’re in profit, which, as an investment, is certainly a better deal than most savings accounts your bank will offer you.

If this is still out of your price range, there is another option for readers in England; you can still save money on your bills with free solar energy. Many companies that offer solar panels are actually prepared to cover the cost of the panels and installation in return for any profits made from feeding in your excess energy. You still save all the money you normally would on your energy bills by using free energy, you just don’t get paid for feeding energy back in. This means anyone who meets the land requirements can afford to switch to solar power. The success of this scheme means it is likely to be available in Scotland in the future.

What are the land requirements?

Different companies will have different requirements; if you're in England, to get free solar panels from Evo Energy, you need a minimum roof size of 23m² with an orientation from south-east to south-west. Other companies are likely to want something similar. Evo Energy does not currently operate in Scotland, unfortunately.

And when it’s not sunny?

As we’ve covered, as long as it’s light outside, modern panels still run at about 40% efficiency, but at times when your energy requirements are particularly high this won’t be enough. For this reason most people choose to stay connected to the national grid, this way when they need extra energy they simply top up from their normal electricity supplier. This also means you can run all your electrical appliances at night.

For those wishing to become totally self-sufficient it is also possible to install rechargeable batteries that can store energy for use when there is no sun; however, these batteries are costly and only really appropriate for households that have particularly low energy consumption.

If you think you might be interested in switching to solar energy there are a number of companies to choose from, some native to Scotland, all of which are worth taking a look at. For readers further South, Evo Energy has been voted renewable energy supplier of 2011 by The Renewable Energy Association and the Renewable Road show. It was also recently selected as the best provider by Martin Lewis’s Money Saving Expert and offers free solar panels.

Guest blog for NYK Media


  1. we looked into solar power and wind power when we moved to this house, but both were too expensive and we worked out that they wouldn't pay for themselves in our lifetime.

    Gill in Canada

  2. Hi Gill,

    I think for households like ours, here in Frugaldom, the ONLY moneysaving option would be if installation was completely free, panels lasted forever and produced enough energy that allowed us not to rely on the National Grid.

    However, when you look at how much power it takes to have the cooker, kettle, vacuum cleaner and iron on, we'd soon be feeling the cold - or else paying the price elsewhere for coal, logs, gas or whatever.

    There will be a simple reason why nobody intalls free panels in Scotland and it's bound to be financial - we simply can't generate enough power from what little sun we get. Canada (and elsewhere) could be the same.

    I wonder if it's true that if there's a power cut, you can't generate power from your panels anyway?

    Frugaldom faces East, so not a lot of help here as far as installing solar PV panels is concerned.

    If only the e-cat could prove itself worthy of investment and commercial development!

  3. Coal and wood also uses our labour. I often wonder if there is any heat (not much)in wooden logs? If you are at home during the day, you use heat and electricity. How much does it cost to go to work; transport (petrol, bus fare, insurance, wear and tear, MOT), Lunch, newspaper..? It used to cost me Fifty pounds a week to go to work. I was only earning one hundred and fifty quid!

  4. Got to say that I love my logs, costly as they are. Of course, there are those who simply order them pre-cut, pre-seasoned and pre-packed, so not labour involved, but those are the ones who only play at frugal countrylife.

    I'd far prefer to be working from home earning enough to scrape by than be commuting in exchage for a small fortune or relying on benefits, for that matter. It costs my son over £40 per week (excluding lunches) to go out to work for minimum wage, so his generation have no chance of earning enough to fit solar panels.

    I get quite mad when I hear about all the things that are available 'free' and yet decent, honest, hardworking frugalites simply don't qualify. If there's a company out there wants me singing their praises then get in contact - I'll happily revue and blog about your wonderful products. I do have a south/southeast facing outbuilding roof, once we fix the roof! LOL

  5. I think there's nothing wrong with claiming benefits. A old man once said to me:

    "You only get what you're entitled too."

    I think its far better handing out benefits to you or me than using it to fund wars and nuclear weapons.

    Most farmers get payments from the E.E.C so that they can survive - even the queen. Saying that. I think C.A.P is very unfair and there a lot of very poor smallholders in the countryside.

  6. Dave, I agree, benefits are essential, as are farm payments, subsidies, tax breaks, grants and any other financial handouts that are needed to make life seem 'normal' for the masses. My point is, I'd prefer to be debtfree and poor but own the roof over my head than rely on any third party - Government or otherwise. Smallholding and work-from-home incomes are more lifestyle choices for many. I've never had enough money to be able to make that sort of choice, so frugal living is the way to go, for me.

    As per the old man's belief that you only get what you're entitled to, surely it's the entitlements system that must be wrong, in the same way the entitlements to massive credit limits and massive bonuses etc are wrong (IMO).

    Soapbox moment... stepping away from the computer. LOL

  7. I admire your frugal stance and lifestyle Frugaldom.

    I've never had much money either. I'm rich on paper (own a small farm) but poor in pocket.

    I just think we live in a world of 'have's and have nots'.

    My Soapbox moment would be to put everybody on a 3 day week, so we could all have a job and a good living. Anybody got a writing job vacancy?

    If the Euro ministers (today's news) can write off fifty percent of Greece's debt. Why can't our banks do the same for us?

  8. Dave, I've never faced the actual downshift or move to the country, as I've never lived in the city (or anywhere close). It's simply a way of life to me that's slowly adapted to reflect my dislike of debt. I've never had much interest in a high-flying career, so muddling along has always been part of normal life. I have, however, spend a great deal of time spending on things that many see as utterly ridiculous for my 'situation'. Where there's a will there's a way, as they say. It's all there for the taking, we just need to find the route to suit. :)

  9. Downshifting to the country is good. But its also very lonely. You need friends and neighbours to help you do it. Its far too hard and lonely living in the countryside without other like minded people nearby. I think the whole idea of Greenbelt needs to be looked at. People should be able to build affordable housing. Saying that I think if one lived on the outside of a village with public transport, pub,shop, community centre, allotments... You would probably have everything you need. Even solar panels! Sorry for digressing!

  10. Dave, how would you like to do my next guest blog post? If you downsized or moved to the country, your views will be completely different to mine because I simply haven't got a clue about city-living, or even big town living. :)

  11. I would love to write you a guest blog. I will send you an article (soon) and see if you like it? Or perhaps you would have a 'town versus countryside' section on the Frugaldom Forum?

    I pesonally think that life in the city and the town have a lot to offer. The countryside is peaceful and healthy but you (I) can't make a living.

    I suppose everything is subjective and you can only talk about your own experience?

    Why can't we all get a million pound cheque in the post from a long lost relation?

    I will get to work writing!


  12. I feel a new post coming along soon... how much earnings equate to a 'living'? LOL

  13. Interesting debate going on here.

    I've worked in the city, worked in the town, been at home raising children, then worked AND raised children, they've all grown and flown the nest and I now live on the farm raising chooks and veggies.

    Through them all I had to make choices, you can earn either enough to live on or enough to pay someone else to enable you to live in a manner you choose.

    All you have to do is choose the way you want to live and then try to earn enough to make it work.

    None of it's easy!

    Sue xx


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