Solar Energy:


Photovoltaics for a family home, East Sussex

It’s a home refurbishment and green experiment in one. 

Julia Waterlow’s enthusiasm for sustainability and green construction led her to find out what practical steps a homeowner can take to introduce energy saving measures to an existing – and inadequately insulated - home.  The project that emerged from her ecorefurbishment ideas saw her bring a four-bedroom, early 19th century property, "Hollow House" in Lewes, East Sussex, up to sound environmental standards.

In June 2008 she asked Sussex company SolarUK to install photovoltaic panels on her garage roof.  The area of the array is 20m2 and rated at 2.43Kwh (peak time).  In the first year, the system generated 2410 Kwh of electricity. 

The solar panels, as well as her family’s better awareness of its day-to-day electricity consumption, means that she is buying very little from the grid.  Her bill for the six month period in the second half of 2008 was only about £80.

solar electricity

From April 2010, owners of new small-scale photovoltaic installations will receive a fixed, guaranteed premium for every unit of renewable energy generated, with a bonus for surplus power exported to the grid.  This feed-in tariff is being introduced through the Government’s Clean Energy Cash Back scheme.

Julia’s property also benefits from a solar hot water system, supplied by SolarUK in 2004, with some of the installation costs covered by one of the grants available for these projects. 

The 2m2 panel provides almost all the household’s hot water needs during the summer months (May to September).  Nor does the system shut down during the winter: the advanced vacuum tubes of the LaZer2 system absorb energy even on cloudy days, and the temperature is topped up by the boiler which comes on in the evening. 

Overall, the system provides around 70% of the energy required for heating the water.

solar water heating on porch

Other measures to reduce the house’s carbon footprint include more thorough insulation where possible, such as cavity wall insulation on the ground floor, as well as draughtproofing of doors and extensive composting of food waste.

solar energy schematic

Recent Government legislation means that new solar PV installations which are installed by an MCS installer such as SolarUK can benefit from enhanced Feed in Tariffs from April 2010. For more information see our Feed-in tariffs page.

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