Home Heating Guide: Martin Lewis Urges Consumers to Avoid Free Solar Panel Schemes

Martin Lewis, famed for his Money Saving Expert website, spoke about the benefits of switching to solar photovoltaic panels last week as he featured on the Jeremy Vine BBC Radio2 show. However, Lewis, who is an avid supporter of solar power, suggested consumers steer clear of ‘debt-based’ free solar panel offers. Home Heating Guide, the UK’s leading online resource for homeowners regarding all domestic central heating, boiler and renewable energy-related issues, advises all potential solar PV consumers research offers in depth and read all the small print before signing up for any solar PV offer.

Lewis, who has backed solar PV technology on his own website, talked about the financial rewards of making the switch to solar panels and highlighted the average annual electricity bill savings of £100 and the average annual Feed-in Tariff (FIT) payment of £800 as the incentives to have solar PV installed.

However, despite the personal finance journalist recommending ‘free’ solar installations from green energy firms and energy suppliers where they cover the cost of the solar panels and installation and in return take the Feed-in Tariff payments for generating your own electricity for the next 25 years, he hit out at companies offering a similar scheme that works more like a loan when you have to pay the costs of the panels and installations back using the Feed-in Tariff payments.

In his interview with Vine on Friday afternoon, Lewis said: “What they [the supplier] say is, you get the electricity saving – circa £100 a year – but they will keep the Feed-in Tariff generation of £800 a year. So they will put these on the roof, give you a 25 year contract and they will say you keep the £100 a year saving but we get whatever you get from generation the electricity.

“There are other companies out there – this is a warning – who say we will fit the solar panels on your roof, you give us a grand or two and then out of your earnings from solar panels it will pay off the costs – in other words it is a debt based system. I would not touch that with a barge pole.

“The companies that say we will give you these for free and we get all the Feed-in Tariff are fine because ultimately if something changed there is no risk to you. But if you’re borrowing and doing one of the debt-based solar panel companies, I wouldn’t do that.”

Free solar panel offers are becoming more readily available now that the Feed-in Tariff has influenced solar installations to soar to record monthly numbers consecutively in the previous three months. However, consumers should remain mindful that each offer is different and relies on the sustainability of the Feed-in Tariff for the future.

David Holmes, Home Heating Guide’s founder, said: “Offers are emerging weekly with different schemes presented as helping you pay the upfront costs of installing solar PV panels onto your home. These incentives are purely there on an encouragement basis, but you should always check exactly what you’re signing up for.

“Suppliers who are offering pay-back schemes on panel installations are relying on the Feed-in Tariff maintaining its current structure and position for the next 25 years, which is why Lewis is urging caution. But on the flip side, this shows that big companies are throwing their weight behind the Feed-in Tariff and will push the government to retain it after investing so much money into solar and renewable energy.

“The average solar installation, with the cost of panels, is around £12K. Therefore, this is not a cheap technology. So it is crucial to the solar industry that companies continue to launch new offers to help the British public gain the financial and environmental benefits of solar PV panels.”

For more information about renewable energy, go to www.homeheatingguide.co.uk.

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