ASK THE AGENT

A. If you’re asking about value for money, then the short answer is “almost certainly not” – particularly if you are planning to move any time soon.

If that sounds a bit blunt, let me explain. Of course, it can be argued that anything which helps cut fuel bills will enhance the saleability of a home, and all other things being equal that may well be true. However, as with any other expensive home improvement – and an electricity-generating photovoltaic (pv) system can easily set you back a 5-figure sum – you will never fully recoup the cost when you sell.

But what if you are planning to stay put for a while? On solar water-heating, opinion is pretty evenly split between those who swear by it, and claim that their systems will pay for themselves within as little as 4 or 5 years, and those who claim the opposite. Back in 2008, for example, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors published an energy efficiency report which maintained that it could take anything up to 100 years to recoup the initial outlay – with systems which only have a useful lifespan of 30 years in the first place! Although this report caused a great deal of controversy, I think it’s only fair to say that the jury is therefore still out as far as the economics of solar water heating is concerned.

When it comes to pv systems, the economic case is weaker still. Indeed, arguably the only thing keeping the industry going is the artificially inflated price which your local electricity company is currently obliged to pay you for any daytime surplus electricity you manage to generate (and which everyone else pays for through higher utility bills!). I say “currently” because, not surprisingly, the Government is now reconsidering this subsidy.

Of course, some people believe that doing your bit to save the planet is far more important than value for money. If you’re one of them, and if you can afford it, then by all means install solar panels. At the very least, they’ll make you feel good.

If, on the other hand, your main concern is to find ways to reduce your energy costs, then I suggest you invest in decent loft insulation instead!