Direct Line magazine

Reduce your power bills with renewable energy

Updated on: 22 May 2020

A wind farm and solar panels.

Energy bills can be a real pain in the pocket, which is why increasing numbers of people are looking at ways they can produce their own energy or cut down on their usage. Here are some of the options you might want to consider.

Fitting solar panels

Solar panels use energy from the sun to create electrical power, which you can connect up to your home’s main electricity supply.

Panels are likely to set you back between £5,000 and £8,000, and according to the Energy Saving Trust, in the south of England you should be able to generate around 3,800 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity per year, or around 3,200 if you live in Scotland.

You used to be able to earn a bit of income from solar panels too, but the government has gradually reduced this amount over time because the panels have proved so popular. Once the cost of fitting the panels is factored in, you probably won’t lose out financially, but don’t expect them to be a big money maker.

On the plus side, you’ll have peace of mind knowing you’re producing your own renewable energy and are reducing your carbon footprint. Bear in mind, not all houses will be suitable for solar panels and you almost certainly won’t be able to fit them if you live in a listed property. Panels are best suited to properties which are south-facing and where no trees or other buildings shade the roof. You can find out more info at the Energy Saving Trust.

Use wind energy

You’ve probably seen the giant white wind turbines in coastal areas used to generate electricity, but if you have enough space you can install a smaller version on your own land.

The blades of the turbines harness the power of the wind so it can be used to produce electricity. The only cost to you is to get the turbine installed, but once you’ve done this, it should generate more than enough power to make all your electrical appliances and lights work. Turbines can either be mounted on a pole and be free-standing, or you can mount one on the roof of your property. Ideally you will need to put it somewhere where you have a pretty persistent breeze – a hilltop is ideal.

A roof-mounted wind turbine will set you back up to around £3,000, while a pole-mounted system can cost you anything between £10,000 to £30,000. Pole-mounted turbines might cost much more, but they are far more efficient than building-mounted turbines, and will produce a lot more electricity.

As with solar panels, you will receive a tariff from the government for each kWh of electricity generated by your turbine. Find out more about wind turbines at Renewable UK.

Fit a heat pump

Heat pumps can extract heat from the ground or air, and supply you with heating and hot water. You should be able to cover the £7,000 to £11,000 cost of fitting one in around five to seven years of savings, and running costs will depend on how warm you want your home to be, how big it is, and how well insulated it is. You’ll still have to pay electricity bills because heat pumps are powered by electricity, but your savings will come from the fuel you are replacing.

According to the Energy Saving Trust, if you’re replacing a non-condensing gas system with a heat pump then typical fuel bill savings are in the region of £335 to £495 a year, or from £70 to £100 a year if you’re replacing a condensing gas system.

Moving your thermostat down by just one degree could save you as much as £90 a year

How to reduce your energy usage

If you can’t install solar panels, a heat pump or a wind turbine at your property, there are still lots of things you can do to make your home more energy-efficient and save money at the same time.

First, make sure you don’t leave appliances such as televisions and PCs on standby overnight. Turn them off properly every evening, ideally at the mains. The Energy Saving Trust says doing this could save you around £30 a year.

And when it comes to replacing any of your electrical goods, always go for the most energy-efficient models you can find to help keep your bills to a minimum, and choose LED bulbs rather than halogen lighting.

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