If you've £8,000 to £14,000 knocking about, you could get back more than double that in payments for the energy you produce. Some firms will also let you buy solar panels on credit. However, if you don't have the cash upfront, panels aren't for you. The interest on the loan could dwarf the savings.
This is all about the Government's feed-in tariff (Fit) scheme, which means electricity companies must pay people who produce electricity from renewable energy sources such as wind or the sun.
The Energy Savings Trust (EST) says a typical £12,000 2.9kWp (kilowatts peak, the rate it generates electricity on a sunny day) system could earn £1,100/year in payments. It's not guaranteed and depends on system size, location etc. Yet the key to this is:
A typical system could cost c.£12,000, but over 25 years the feed-in payments could net you £27,500.
The Government says the feed-in tariff payment for solar panels will run for 25 years from the date that a system is installed and registered, and will rise with inflation (linked to the Retail Price Index).
Industry predictions are rife that feed-in tariffs are likely to be significantly reduced for systems installed after 1 April 2012. So if the sums do add up for you, consider acting now.