I've been thinking about whether we should invest in some solar panels. We have a large south facing roof on our 5 bedroomed house and currently pay about �100 a month for gas & electricity (the gas just runs the hot water and heating - we don't have any gas fires/appliances). We have two children, soon to be three.
Roughly how much could I expect to save a month?
What was your initial outlay and for how many panels?
Do they incur any maintenance costs?
Does your electricity supplier buy any "unused" electricity back, or has this now stopped?
My husband is unsure about it, but if I go to him with enough info, I think I might convince him.
I have solar PV, but got it before the tariff reduced. You need to ask installers what the payback period is, based on hours of daylight, array size and orientation. They'll do the calculations for you. Our system has a payback period of 7 years, with our tariff guaranteed for 25, which is a far better return on investment than the bank. If you have a smart meter, your energy provider buys any electricity you export, otherwise they assume you export 50% of what you generate. You also get Feed-in-Tariff for each unit generated even if you use it. We paid about £6k for our system, we get paid £7-800 a year for electricity, and our bills went down by about £200 a year. If you're in NW England, PM me and I'll refer you to my fitters (they have a referral scheme, but I'd recommend them anyway).
I second what InMySpareTime said. We're in Wiltshire. Our roof is south facing and we had solar PV installed in June 2012 when the Feed In Tariff (FIT) was higher than it is now. However, the installation price was also considerably higher so our payback period is also around 7 years at current rates. It cost around £13k at the time to install the panels, and so far we're getting around £2k per year back. There have been no maintenance issues, the rain cleans the panels and so far we've had no issues with it. My only complaint is that Southern Electric takes ages to process the FIT payments - it can be up to 3 months before we get the money back.
So, when it's sunny we use the electricity which the roof generates, plus we get paid for generating it. Any unused electricity is also then sold back to the grid (this is where the FIT money comes from).
If you have the money, and a suitable roof, it's a no-brainer.
Might be worth looking at money saving expert website. I seem to recall that since the feed in tarif reduced they calculated it might not be worth it financially, although that depends in you electricity usage.