Consumer watchdog, Which?, has today warned that consumers who opt for free solar schemes are losing out to the tune of £10,500. While the homeowner receives a free solar system and reduced electricity bills, the consumers’ association says that they are still being ripped off.

As regular SPP readers will know, these free solar schemes (run by companies such as A Shade Greener, ISIS Solar, HomeSun and British Gas) work by installing the system on the customer’s home at no charge (providing reduced electricity bills through the solar energy generated) and in turn, the company offering the panels keeps the Government subsidy, or feed-in tariff.

The UK’s feed-in tariff (FiT) is currently set at 41.3p per kilowatt hour of renewable energy produced from a solar PV system, meaning the company will earn a handsome profit from these systems.

However, Which? calculates that a homeowner could save as much as £10,500 by taking out a loan to buy their own system instead.

The report outlined, “Even if you were living in the UK’s sunniest region, the maximum you would save is £412 a year off your electricity bill, compared with the £1,313 that free solar panel companies such as British Gas and ISIS Solar will collect from the feed in tariff.”

“You’d be much better off paying to install your own system and keeping the lucrative FiT income.”

While the cost of installing your own system is fairly high, averaging approximately £19,000, Which? suggests that taking out a loan to install the panel and keep the feed-in tariff will work out as far better value in the long run.

For a closer look at both sides to this story check out the Solar Power Portal Blog.