Moral Money: our reader hopes to make eco upgrades without causing a family feud
Dear Moral Money,
My husband and I want to get solar panels and a heat pump fitted to our house, as our gift to the planet – but our children feel as though it is funded from their inheritance, and it wouldn’t be their choice of how to use the money.
I have just got a quote of £8,000 to fit solar panels to our house. It would be another £8,000 for a heat pump, but I believe we will qualify for a grant to cover more than half of this. We want to do this due to the environmental benefits of reducing our carbon footprint by about 70pc, compared to the current gas boiler central heating system.
These steps also come with reduced energy costs, but in actual fact it is likely to take the best part of a decade to recover the costs. We are in our 80s now, so not sure we will ever benefit from that.
This is our children’s point – they would sell the house on our passing and the energy efficient upgrade is unlikely to be reflected in an improved sale value. They think the changes are basically being funded from their inheritance and would prefer we not proceed.
It isn’t that they don’t think environmental issues are important, but they say they would use their inheritance to make an impact in a different way.
We don’t want to fall out with them, but we were also looking forward to being a positive contributor to change for the sake of our planet – maybe even a good influence in the neighbourhood as we have already shared some of our research on this subject with others.
Is this an acceptable use of our money or should we give more credence to the children’s wishes given we are unlikely to achieve a return on investment during our lifetime?
From a pure economic point of view, it is a fact that investing in the technology that aims to make our homes “greener” takes time to pay back. It is therefore reasonable to consider whether you intend to be in the house long enough to benefit.
If not, then you do need to do the sums around whether the value of your home will be improved enough to justify the cost.
A good quality installation has a 25 to 30 year lifespan and provides a more cost-effective home. As features like solar panels and heat pumps are set to become increasingly common, it is hard to see that the resale value of your house will not be improved if it were sold at some point in the 20 years or so following installation.
I also think there is a marketing advantage when it comes to selling your home because you have demonstrated that you have invested in the house and modernised its utilities.
We have no specifics about what your children would rather do with the money that will make up part of their inheritance, but you alluded to the fact they are aware of, and are making, ethical choices around environmental issues.
This points out how we all have our own way of contributing. What you find possible and rewarding may be different to the younger generation.
For some, investing £16,000 in their home is not feasible, but they may be much more committed to cutting their carbon footprint with other day-to-day measures, such as using public transport, cycling or using an electric vehicle, and taking UK-based holidays.
As clients of mine, I am aware that you spend part of the year abroad, flying back and forth a couple of times a year, as much for health reasons as recreation.
From your children’s perspective, the changes to your home may look a little more like a carbon offset exercise, rather than a carbon reduction, which you could achieve by simply being less peripatetic.
Most important in all this is what you think is important and want to do with your money. Your primary reason for the energy efficiency upgrade is to do what is in your gift toward reducing global warming.
You didn’t set out to achieve a better return on the money that it is achieving in the existing investment portfolio, or even to achieve a breakeven point during your lifetime. You want to make your home more environmentally friendly and can afford to do so.
You will benefit from feeling good about your “gift to the planet”, and that is a great use of resources.