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Is it possible to power our garden office with solar panels on its roof?

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Having worked from home throughout the pandemic, we are looking at building an office at the end of our garden. 

We would like to make it as eco-friendly as possible. Can we put solar panels on its roof, and would we need planning permission?

If we can, is it possible to power basic amenities such as lighting and laptops directly from the panels, without having to run mains electricity out to the shed office?

And there an efficient way to heat the outbuilding, without having to plug in an electric radiator?

Having solar panels installed is good for the environment, but can be a costly investment

Having solar panels installed is good for the environment, but can be a costly investment 

Grace Gausden, This is Money, replies: Powering your garden office with solar panels is definitely more environmentally friendly than using standard electricity.

However, it is an expensive investment, and should only be considered if you are sure you can afford them – and you’ll need to assess if the outlay risks proving a false economy.

The answers to your queries will depend on where you live, the sort of office you want to install, and how much sun you are likely to get. 

One of your questions was regarding planning permission, and fortunately most homes don’t need it to install solar panels.

However, if the building has a flat roof, or if you live in a conservation area, you will need to check with the local council before going ahead.

The roof will also need to be strong enough to hold the panels, and there needs to be enough space to house the inverter – the component that converts the direct current produced by your panels into ready-to-use alternating current. 

In your case, you will need to check that your shed office, of shoffice as they’ve been dubbed, has the capacity to hold the panels as, depending on its structure, it might not be capable. 

A very sturdy well-built garden office-type structure may be robust enough, a converted common or garden shed probably won’t. 

Energy supplier Ovo Energy suggests getting a qualified installer to check before making a decision on solar panels.

The supplier says that the best homes – or sheds if they can take them – to install solar panels on are those with south-facing roofs with a pitch of 30 to 40 degrees. 

It doesn’t recommend putting solar panels on a north-facing roof, but says an east or west-facing roof still works well – though homeowners will probably generate around 25 per cent less energy. 

You could make money from your surplus energy

Previously, homes with solar panels could take part in the Feed in Tariff scheme, where homeowners with solar panels got paid for surplus energy they produced.

However, this closed to new applicants in 2019, save for a few exceptions, and has been replaced with the Smart Export Guarantee. 

This now means licensed electricity suppliers must offer a tariff and make payment to small-scale low-carbon generators for electricity exported to the National Grid, providing certain criteria are met. 

If you were to have solar panels fitted, this would definitely be something worth signing up to, as it would help you make some money back from your investment. 

How much you make will depend on how much electricity you transport to the Grid, as well as your export tariff rates.  

You can choose from a number of electricity suppliers to pay the tariffs. Here is a full list to choose from. 

Air source heat pumps are one of the best ways to heat a shed or office and are eco-friendly

Air source heat pumps are one of the best ways to heat a shed or office and are eco-friendly 

With regards to heating the outbuilding, solar panels are able to heat water that is passed through a series of tubes mounted on the roof, which will then feed a single radiator with warmed water. 

However, solar panels will heat water best when you need it least, for example in the summer months.  

An air source heat pump could be a good alternative to look at, as it would provide both heating and cooling. 

The pumps would absorb heat from the air outside to heat your office and provide hot water, and they can still extract heat when air temperatures are as low as -15°C.

The pumps can also cut carbon emissions by up to 23.36 tonnes over 10 years: the equivalent of 30 return flights between Heathrow and Madrid, according to data from energy supplier EDF. 

Air source heat pumps work by extracting renewable heat from the environment.  

While they need electricity to run, the heat output is greater than the electricity input: making them an energy efficient method of heating your home. 

They are easy to install, but are best suited to homes with lots of outdoor space as they typically sit outside the home. 

If you don’t have this, it would be possible to install electrical mains and plug in a radiator to use as and when you need it. 

Shoffices have increased in popularity as more people work from home during the pandemic

Shoffices have increased in popularity as more people work from home during the pandemic

We asked insurance experts to answer your query about planning. 

Ryan Fulthorpe, home insurance expert at GoCompare, replies: The current guidance provided by Gov.uk says an outbuilding should be single storey, with a maximum eaves height of 2.5 metres with a maximum overall height of 4 metres with a dual-pitched roof. Anything more than that would require planning permission.  

In extreme circumstances, you could be forced to make changes or even remove the outbuilding if it is found not to comply with local planning laws.

This guidance also suggests there is no requirement in the UK for planning permission should you want solar panels. However, there are a number of restrictions which can be found at the Government’s Planning Portal website.

For example, panels can’t be installed above the highest part of the roof, excluding the chimney, and they can’t stick out more than 20cm from the roof.

The panels are supposed to be placed so as not to have too big of an impact on the building, architecturally or aesthetically. 

If you no longer have any use for your panels, or they’ve broken and you’re choosing not to replace them, you’re required to take them down in a timely manner.  

As with all home improvements, but particularly for electrical and heating solutions and solar panels, you should seek the advice of competent professionals to ensure that work carried out is of a suitable standard.  

Finally, as with any other home improvements that you may undertake, you should inform your insurer in advance, otherwise it could affect any insurance claims in the future.

A spokesperson for Uswitch replies: You generally don’t need planning consent for solar panels. However, if you live in a conservation area or a listed building you should check first.

Also, if your solar panels would be visible from the roadside of the property you made need to apply for planning permission.

It’s best to check with your local council planning officer if you’re not sure.

Grace Gausden, This is Money, adds:  While it would be possible to fit solar panels to your roof, this is a long-term investment.

It could also be expensive to install air source heat pumps, as they typically cost between £9,000 to £10,000.

However, both are more environmentally friendly options than having standard heating running to the shed office.

You should take your time to do some research into how feasible it would be for you, and whether you would get enough energy from the panels to power the office. 

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.

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Topps Tiles founder breaks record for the most expensive mansion sold in Sandbanks

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A waterfront mansion formerly owned by football manager Harry Redknapp has broken the record for the most expensive property to be sold on Sandbanks.

Harbour Gate sold to a mystery buyer for a whopping £10million in the last week, almost £2million more than the previous record selling price on the millionaire’s playground in Poole Harbour, Dorset.

The six-bedroom house was sold by entrepreneur Barry Bester.

The Topps Tiles founder previously bought the property off Harry Redknapp and his wife Sandra for £6.9m in 2015. 

Since then he has spent £2million on refurbishing the mock-Tudor mansion, including having a £40,000 golf simulator built on the grounds.

Harbour Gate has broken the record for the most expensive property to be sold on Sandbacks, after going for £10million

Harbour Gate has broken the record for the most expensive property to be sold on Sandbacks, after going for £10million

The six-bedroom property was once owned by former football manager Harry Redknapp and his wife, who sold it in 2015

The six-bedroom property was once owned by former football manager Harry Redknapp and his wife, who sold it in 2015

If the sea is a bit rough, the new owners can always go for a swim in the indoor pool

If the sea is a bit rough, the new owners can always go for a swim in the indoor pool

As well as astonishing views, the house boasts a huge kitchen and breakfast room, dining room, lounge, and library

As well as astonishing views, the house boasts a huge kitchen and breakfast room, dining room, lounge, and library 

The £10million property also features a gym and sauna

The £10million property also features a gym and sauna 

The property has its own cinema room

The property has its own cinema room

Barry Bester, the founder of Topps Tiles, sold Harbour Gate for a Sandbanks record of £10million

Harry Redknapp, right, and his wife Sandra left Sandbanks and moved to nearby Poole in a brand new eco house

Topps Tiles founder Barry Bester (left) bought Harbour Gate from Harry and Sandra Redknapp (right) for £6.9million in 2015

The previous record sale price on Sandbanks was £8.09million, which was paid for the mansion next door to Harbour Gate in 2018. 

The £10million figure dwarfs the £400,000 price once paid for the same property in 1995. The Redknapps themselves bought it in 2001 for £3million, and lived there for 14 years, during which time Redknapp managed Spurs, Portsmouth, Southampton and Queens Park Rangers.

Harbour Gate sits on arguably the best plot on the Sandbanks peninsula, backing on to the entrance to Poole Harbour which is usually teeming with passing boats.

It has a kitchen and breakfast room, dining room, lounge, cinema room, library, indoor swimming pool, gym with sauna and an office.

The master bedroom has a large en suite bathroom, huge dressing room and a balcony that looks out onto the water.

Outside there are two sun terraces and a private jetty that has ‘parking’ for two jet skis which are hoisted into the water by way of a hydraulic lift.

Harbour Gate has parking for two jet skis

Harbour Gate has parking for two jet skis

The waterfront property boasts huge bedrooms

The waterfront property boasts huge bedrooms

Overlooking the seafront, the house also has breathtaking views

Overlooking the seafront, the house also has breathtaking views

The property also comes with a three bedroom detached gatehouse which by itself would probably be worth £1million.

There is also a double garage which has a professional dog grooming bathtub and driveway parking for 10 cars.

Who is Barry Bester and how did he make his money? 

Barry Bester was the co-founder and former chief executive of the retail company Topps Tiles.

He was responsible for day-to-day operations of the business and primarily the sales and store management.

He served as the non-executive director of the company from 1984 to 2011. He also served as executive co-chairman until 2005 and as non-executive chairman from 2007 to 2011.

In 2013, he sold his entire holding in the company – 22,956,790 ordinary shares of 3.33 pence each at 70 pence per share – which represented 11.95 per cent of the company’s issued share capital.

 Source: InsightDIY

Steve Isaacs, of local estate agents Luxury and Prestige, who handled the sale, said: ‘We can confirm that the house has sold and it is quite a landmark sale as it is the most valuable house on Sandbanks to have sold.

‘We have a delighted buyer and seller for this beautiful home but as a matter of policy we never disclose details of our clients.

‘The house occupies arguably the best position on Sandbanks. It sits on a double-sized plot and comes with a lodge house on the grounds that would be quite a valuable house on its own merits.

‘It has had a lot of money lavished on it by the seller and every aspect of it if exceptional.

‘We have got unprecedented demand for high-end waterside homes at the moment, principally from buyers based in London and beyond.

‘There are now more buyers than there are sellers.

‘This has been fuelled by wealthy individuals relocating from London and other parts of the country as well as those looking for additional homes.

‘We have clients who have been able to run their businesses away from offices in town during the pandemic and want homes by the sea where they can work.’

The house that held the previous record for the most expensive property was The Moorings, next door to Harbour Gate.

Its former owners, entrepreneur Chris Thomas and wife Sue, built the palatial home on the 13,000sq ft of land before selling it in 2018.

The Moorings has five en suite bedrooms, three reception rooms, an office, cinema room, indoor swimming pool, sauna and steam room, gym, changing rooms, garden room and a wine room.

There is also a guest suite that has its own en suite bedroom, kitchenette and living room.

Outside, there is a gate house, a boat house, terraces and balconies make the most of the harbour views and the sunken garden leads to a private jetty.

The exclusive Sandbanks peninsula where a property has just sold for £10million

The exclusive Sandbanks peninsula where a property has just sold for £10million

There is also a grand wine cellar in the property featuring grey stone tiled floors and brick alcoves stacked with bottles of wine and champagne

There is also a grand wine cellar in the property featuring grey stone tiled floors and brick alcoves stacked with bottles of wine and champagne 

The area has been dubbed the 'millionaire's playground'

The area has been dubbed the ‘millionaire’s playground’

The £10million is a record for Sandbanks, above the £8million and £7million spent on neighbouring properties

The £10million is a record for Sandbanks, above the £8million and £7million spent on neighbouring properties

It occupies arguably the best position on Sandbanks and sits on a double-sized plot and comes with a lodge house on the grounds

It occupies arguably the best position on Sandbanks and sits on a double-sized plot and comes with a lodge house on the grounds

Local estate agents Luxury and Prestige said the new owner of the property was 'delighted'

Local estate agents Luxury and Prestige said the new owner of the property was ‘delighted’

Outside the property, there is a private jetty that has 'parking' for two jet skis which are hoisted into the water by way of a hydraulic lift

Outside the property, there is a private jetty that has ‘parking’ for two jet skis which are hoisted into the water by way of a hydraulic lift

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Government ‘committed’ to better redress scheme

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A “significantly enhanced” scheme will be needed to help the owners of severely damaged and crumbling homes with mica problems, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said.

He told Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty that he could not make any definitive commitments on it at the moment but “it will be a matter for Government to decide before the end of the month”.

Speaking in the Dáil, Mr Varadkar said Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien was committed to working with the homeowners to find a resolution to the problem and he acknowledged that a “resolution is long overdue”.

He also accepted that “we need a significantly enhanced scheme” which was being developed.

Mica is a mineral that can absorb and store water, resulting in excessive amounts in building blocks which over time causes cracks and crumbling in blocks. The number of affected homeowners in Donegal and Mayo is estimated at between 7,000 and 8,000 “and possibly more”, according to the Government source. Claims have also been made in Mayo, Limerick and other counties.

A 2018 redress scheme opened for applications in 2020 but required owners to pay 10 per cent of costs, unlike the pyrite scheme for Dublin homes which was 100 per cent Government-funded.

Mr Varadkar acknowledged that with the mica scheme the 90 per cent in Government funding did not turn out to be 90 per cent “because of other costs including rent when people move out of their house, engineering reports and such matters”.

Mr Doherty called on the Tánaiste to “lift the burden off so many families” and commit to establishing a 100 per cent redress scheme for homeowners and families “in Donegal, Mayo and other counties who are seeing their homes crumble before their eyes”.

He said that several family homes had been demolished including that of Donna and Mike Price and their three children. Their home “was reduced to rubble by a digger”.

He said “others continue to live in the conditions that put them and their children at risk with walls and ceiling crumbling around them”, and the problem had placed a heavy toll on their mental health and relationships.

“They cannot be allowed to wait any longer. They are victims of self-regulation, no-regulation and light-touch regulation regimes.”

Mr Varadkar, who previously visited Donegal to witness the impact of mica, said “not only have I seen it with my own eyes, but I have felt it in my fingers when I touched those walls.

“One can see how easily they can break and crumble. I know the devastation it has caused people.”

He said: “I agree that we need to bring forward an enhanced scheme, a better scheme, than the one we put together under the last Government to deal with this issue. We are committed to doing that.”

Speaking in Limerick on Thursday, the Minister for Housing appeared to open the door for a 100 per cent redress scheme for homeowners. When asked about the possibility, he said: “I’ve taken nothing off the table.”

Mr O’Brien said the Cabinet would “assess” documents to be handed into Government by Donegal and Mayo campaigners on Friday, adding: “I want to be able to bring improvements to the scheme, and try to bring a resolution to this in the next few weeks.”

“I’ll have to go to Cabinet with some of the changes, if they require additional expenditure, which I expect it will do so.”

On Thursday, Fine Gael TD Joe McHugh said the problem had become a “national emergency” and it was time for Government “to bite the bullet”over the mica scandal.

Mr McHugh said the original redress scheme – ostensibly offering homeowners 90 per cent of the cost of repairs – was reluctantly accepted at the time by those affected but was scuppered by changes made by Department of Public Expenditure officials.

“I believe to this day if that scheme was honoured in the way it should have been done, in terms of the conditions applied therein, we may not even be here today because that 90/10 [90 per cent redress, 10 per cent paid by homeowner] scheme effectively became a 70/30 and in some cases a 60/40,” he said.

Different caveats and different cost measures were brought into it, the Donegal TD told RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne.

“The scheme was politically signed off on, and like anything in politics, you have a policy as a government, and once the officials start digging down and delving into it, we came out with a scheme that is not workable.”

Separately, a survey published on Thursday by the Mica Action Group, found that mica householders are “suffering a major negative impact to their mental health” and that some are medicating for the first time ever in order to cope with the stress.

Representatives of the mica action group are to hand in their survey as well as a document calling for 100 per cent redress which will “detail exactly what is needed to end the homeowners’ turmoil and allow them to move forward”.

“It can only be hoped that it is treated with respect and gravity, and is acted upon with urgency,” said Lisa Hone, a spokeswoman for the group.

Ms Hone said 483 registered members of the Mica Action Group responded to the survey, and they admitted to “dealing with unrelenting anxiety about safety and finances, the distress of having homes demolished and worries about future homelessness”.

“A common theme running through comments from defective block homeowners was the constant nature of the anxiety seeping into all corners of their lives, with 50 per cent feeling unsafe in their home.”

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Homes you can let in the top 10 UK rental hotspots revealed

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The rental shortage hotspots have been revealed, with the Isle of Wright, West Devon and Cornwall leading the way.

Rental shortages are so acute that in some towns and villages in these areas, there is only one property available to rent.

In the West Devon market town of Tavistock, for example, the only property listed on Rightmove to rent is a basement studio flat costing £460 a month. 

The rental shortage hotspots have been revealed, with the Isle of Wright, West Devon and Cornwall leading the way

The rental shortage hotspots have been revealed, with the Isle of Wright, West Devon and Cornwall leading the way

In other areas, the listings are reading that ‘viewings are fully booked’ within a day of the property being advertised online.

Rightmove’s findings were based on more than 400,000 rental listings in June and July this year and comparing them to the same period two years ago.

It revealed the true extent of a lack of homes to rent compared to pre-pandemic levels, with the Isle of Wight topping the list with a fall of 82 per cent in available rental stock.

We have picked a property in each of the top 10 rental shortage hotspots to provide a snapshot of what is on offer to rent in each of these locations. (Scroll down for the selection of property listings.)

The Rightmove research did not analyse what type of homes were hardest hit – such as a flat or family homes – and instead focused on locations only.

The areas with the biggest reduction in stock compared to the summer of 2019 are in seaside locations and holiday resorts.

The only property to rent in the West Devon market town of Tavistock is a basement studio flat costing £460 a month

The only property to rent in the West Devon market town of Tavistock is a basement studio flat costing £460 a month

Tim Bannister, of Rightmove, said: ‘Landlords in the typical tourist destinations around Britain have been chasing the huge surge in demand for holiday lets this summer, which has led to a temporary drop in the stock available for permanent tenants.

‘However, as the summer holidays are coming to an end, agents are now reporting more landlords turning their attention to longer-term tenants as a more secure and stable option for the rest of the year and into 2022.

 Landlords in the typical tourist destinations around Britain have been chasing the huge surge in demand for holiday lets this summer

Tim Bannister – Rightmove 

Jeremy Leaf, north London estate agent and a former RICS residential chairman, said: ‘As the commitment to commute has declined, so has demand to live in coastal or country areas increased. 

‘Others have enjoyed being by the seaside so much they have turned temporary stays into more permanent ones.

‘The result has been an increase in demand, which supply has struggled to match, particularly recently in the staycation season. Other owners have taken refuge in the short let and Airbnb market, which also kept longer-term rental stock levels down.

‘Although traditionally September and October are the busiest months for rentals, the demand and supply imbalance is likely to continue at least until the end of the year when poorer weather should dampen demand to the extent that rents will inevitably soften.’

Properties to rent in ‘shortage hotspots’… 

1. Three-bed semi-detached house, Isle of Wight, £895 per calendar month

This three-bedroom semi-detached house in Brading on the Isle of Wight is available for rent for £895

This three-bedroom semi-detached house in Brading on the Isle of Wight is available for rent for £895

This property on the Isle of Wight is available to rent for £895 a month via letting agents Hose Rodes Dickson.

It is in the town of Brading, on the east of the island, and within reach of the railway station and main bus routes.

It is semi-detached, unfurnished and has three bedrooms. It is available to rent from October 18.

2. Three-bed semi-detached, North Devon, £975 pcm

This three-bedroom semi-detached house in Fremington, North Devon, is for rent for £975 a month

This three-bedroom semi-detached house in Fremington, North Devon, is for rent for £975 a month

This North Devon home is in the village of Fremington, three miles west of Barnstaple.

It has three bedrooms, a driveway and a single garage. It is available to rent to non-smokers without pets. 

It is being let for £975 a month by letting agents Phillips, Smith & Dunn. It is available to rent from September 20.

3. Studio flat, West Devon, £460 pcm

This basement studio in is the only property in Tavistock available to rent on Rightmove

This basement studio in is the only property in Tavistock available to rent on Rightmove

This basement studio flat costing £460 a month is currently the only property available to rent on Rightmove for tenants looking in West Devon’s Tavistock.

It is two minutes from Tavistock town centre and includes a garden and off-street parking. It is available via letting agents Mashroom.

4. Four-bed house, Northumberland, £1,500 pcm

This detached house in Northumberland has four bedrooms and is available to rent for £1,500 a month

This detached house in Northumberland has four bedrooms and is available to rent for £1,500 a month

This four-bedroom unfurnished farmhouse is in the countryside near Gunnerton in Northumberland.

The detached property includes a large front garden, outbuildings and a half acre paddock. It is available to rent for £1,500 a month via letting agents Galbraith.

5. Three-beds, Blackpool, £650 pcm

Viewings on this property to rent in Blackpool are 'now fully booked', according to the listing on Rightmove

Viewings on this property to rent in Blackpool are ‘now fully booked’, according to the listing on Rightmove

Within a day of this three-bedroom property in Blackpool being advertised online, the listed read that viewings ‘now fully booked’.

The rental is being handled by Tiger letting agents and the semi-detached property is being let for £650 a month.

6. Three-bed detached house, Torridge, £925 pcm

This detached home in Torridge has three bedrooms and is for rent for £925 a month

 This detached home in Torridge has three bedrooms and is for rent for £925 a month

This three-bedroom home is in Milton Damerel, in the local government district of Torridge in North Devon.

It is available to rent via letting agents Kivells, from September 20 and is unfurnished. It has been recently decorated and costs £925 a month.

7. Three-bed semi-detached house, South Tyneside, £620 pcm

This family home in Hebburn has three bedrooms and is available to rent for £620 a month

This family home in Hebburn has three bedrooms and is available to rent for £620 a month

This semi-detached home is in the town of Hebburn, on the south bank of the River Tyne.

It is available immediately and is being rented unfurnished via letting agents Reeds Rain. It has three bedrooms and a enclosed garden.

8. Three-bed detached house, Neath, £950 pcm

This award-winning rental home has three bedrooms and costs £950 a month

This award-winning rental home has three bedrooms and costs £950 a month 

This detached chalet bungalow is in the village of Crynant, in Wales’ Neath.

The property won the LABC Cymru award for Best Individual New House and the NPRCB Building Excellence Award for 2020.

It has three bedrooms and costs £950 a month to rent via letting agents Payton Jewell Caines. However, the listing online had set a deadline of September 15 at 5pm for tenants to apply.

9. Three-bed cottage, Cornwall, £950 pcm

This Cornish cottage is costs £950 a month to rent and is available either furnished or unfurnished

This Cornish cottage is costs £950 a month to rent and is available either furnished or unfurnished

This cottage in Cornwall’s St Just includes a feature fireplace, three bedrooms and an enclosed garden.

It is available to rent for £950 pcm via letting agents Marshall’s, and is available either furnished or unfurnished.

10. Three-bed semi-detached house, North Tyneside, £800

This family home is in the village of Shiremoor in Newcastle Upon Tyne and costs £800 a month to rent

This family home is in the village of Shiremoor in Newcastle Upon Tyne and costs £800 a month to rent

This semi-detached family home is in the large village of Shiremoor in Newcastle Upon Tyne.

It has three bedrooms and is available to rent via letting agents Your Move for £800 a month. It is available immediately and is unfurnished.

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