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208 years to pay back cost of solar panels?

As energy bills spiral and environmental awareness grows, more householders are turning to green ways of saving money on fuel and cutting their carbon footprint.

But a new Greener Homes Price Guide by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors’ Building Cost Information Service claims some green upgrades are better value for money than others.

One of the worst performing alternative energy sources in the guide is solar power. The guide says the cost of installing solar panels is around £4,000 to £5,000, with resulting energy savings of as little as £24 per year – meaning it would take some 208 years to pay back that initial installation cost.

Other, more traditional methods, fare better. Cavity wall insulation can cut energy bills by up to £145 per year, paying back installation costs of between £440 and £2,400 in as little as three years.

The BCIS claims the guide will help homeowners make informed choices on how best to improve their homes, whether to reduce carbon footprint or energy bills.

BCIS Executive Director, Joe Martin, says:

“We all have a role to play in helping to reduce our carbon footprint, be it through changes to our behaviour or by choosing greener alternatives.  The reality is, however, that most people struggle with the cost, time, and effort it takes to make these changes.

“The Greener Homes Price Guide gives consumers a comprehensive heads-up about the costs and effectiveness of green upgrades, whilst protecting them from being duped into changes that won’t save them money or do little to reduce their carbon footprint.”


  • Barry Johnston of
    Posted January 20, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    This is an interesting calculation. I first must declare an nterest as MD of a solar company. I have seen some figures which are wildly over optimistic as well as some which are equally pessimistic. Of course it is all about what assumptions you make in your calculations. I have seen one solar heating (not electric) calculation which assumes that panels are over 90% efficient. The reality is usually between 25 and 50%. Just to add to the debate, for my take on the subject please visit Comments / challenges / improvements would be welcome! Thanks from Barry.

  • Total Solar Energy
    Posted October 7, 2008 at 9:26 am

    a little unfair. solar power is making great strides in its efficiency. soon it will hit the tipping point of being as cheap as fossil fuels

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