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Today's energy saving tip ...

Many homes in the UK don't have the recommended level of insulation in the loft space. Consider getting your loft fully insulated before the winter months approach.

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How to apply for solar energy grants ...

Until 2010, the DTI ran the low carbon buildings programme which provided grants for householders wishing to install microgeneration technologies including solar power systems.

These grants were replaced by a government scheme or feed-in tariff in April 2010 designed to pay for any surplus energy produced by solar panel systems which is fed back into the national grid.

Feed-in tariff payments can vary depending upon the type, size and location of a solar power system so it's important to do your sums before applying. For full information on feed-in tariffs and how to apply, visit the website.

Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive

The Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive is a government incentive to promote the use of renewable heating. Successful applicants who stick to its rules, receive quarterly payments for seven years for the amount of clean, green renewable heat their system produces. The scheme is open to home owners who live in England, Scotland or Wales. To find out more visit the Ofgem website.

Free Solar Panels

Following the introduction of the governments feed-in tariff, a growing number of energy and installation companies are offering to install solar power systems for free. They provide and install the equipment which can cost £10,000-£14,000 if bought outright, and they get paid for the surplus electricity you don't use which is pumped back into the national grid.

While you don't receive the feed-in tariff payments with a free system, you could reduce your electricity bills by around £140 a year, or more if you use more energy during the daytime. A free system contract would usually include free maintenance by the installation company too.

It's important to understand all the facts before signing up to any free solar panel system. Do your homework and read the guide provided by the REAL Assurance Scheme.

Paid Solar Panels

The main benefit of buying a solar panel system is you get to keep the feed-in tariff payments from your electricity supplier for the solar power you don't use.

The potential risks are that the government could reduce the feed-in payments or even abandon the whole scheme alltogether leaving you with an installation that cost £10-14,000 and only saves you around £140 year. Given the governments enthusiasm for green energy that seems unlikely but the scheme is currently under review and you should consider any risks carefully.

In addition, you will also have to pay for the maintenance of the system and any additional premiums your home insurer may charge if you want it covered by your buildings policy.

Choosing A Solar Installation Company

Before contacting solar power installers, you first need to be sure solar panels are right for your property and circumstances. You can get free advice from your local energy saving advice centre or try the free tool provided by the Energy Saving Trust here.

Once you've done your homework and are sure a solar panel system is right for you, you can find a database of approved installers at the MCS website.

You can also find out which company has been voted the best installer at the British Renewable Energy Awards.

Energy Saving Tip: Consider replacing any old lightbulbs with the latest energy saving versions. They can use up to 80% less energy and last around ten times longer.