Summer may be all but over but saving money can always give you a warm glow.
Solar power is becoming more attractive thanks to a new grant of up to £2,500 for installing solar panels (see www.lowcarbon buildings.org.uk) and, from next April, a "clean energy cashback" scheme which could pay hundreds of pounds a year to homeowners who generate solar power, even if they use it themselves.
Solar panels don’t need direct sunlight to work - though you will need a roof or wall that is more south-facing than north-facing, and which is not overshadowed by trees or buildings (see www.energy savingtrust.org.uk). And, in most cases, planning permission isn’t needed.
What do solar panels cost? Between £8,000 and £14,000, depending on the size of the system you build.
What’s the payback? As well as salving your green conscience, a typical PV system can produce 40 per cent of the electricity you use. And if your solar panels generate more electricity than you need - or produce it when you can’t use it - you can sell it to your power company, which will pay from 5p to 28p per kilowatt hour (kWh).
The "feed-in tariff" rate under the cashback scheme is due to be higher at 36.5p. Better still, this will be payable to households simply for generating the power - which they can then use for free. A further 5p per kWh is expected to be on offer for selling any surplus back to the national grid.