Solar panels capture energy from the sun and convert it into electricity for your home, which can lead to significant savings on your energy bills.
When you install solar panels on your roof, you can generate your own solar power and reduce your carbon footprint. But that’s not all. In addition to providing your home with environmentally friendly solar power, solar panels can help you cut your energy bills in half. What’s more, you can sell any surplus energy back to the National Grid if you generate more then you need, which helps you save even more money.
How Do Solar Panels Work?
Solar panels are made up of photovoltaic (PV) cells that work to collect sunlight and convert it into electricity that is suitable for powering household appliances. The solar panels absorb sunlight through the photovoltaic cells to create a direct current (or DC electricity) and this electricity then travels to an inverter. The inverter is a key part of a solar panel system as it converts direct current electricity into alternating current (or AC electricity), which is fed into your home to power any electrical appliances.
When your solar panels don’t generate enough energy, you can still get electricity from the National Grid. But if they produce more energy than you need, the extra energy can be stored in a solar battery or you can send it back to the grid. As of the 1st January 2020, the UK government’s Smart Export Guarantee initiative requires all large energy suppliers to pay households for any excess energy they send back to the grid, meaning you can receive export payments if you generate more electricity than you use.
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Solar Panel Prices
The price of solar panel systems vary depending on not only the type of building you live in but also the type and size of system you need. A Solar panel system for the average UK household tends to cost between £4,000 and £7,000, which is around 60% to 70% cheaper than they were back in 2010.
With this in mind, we recommend you ask an accredited installer to assess your home and give you some advice on the right type and size of system for your property. You should also get at least a few quotes from different installers to ensure you get the best deal.
Our table below shows you how much money you can expect to spend on a solar panel system, including installation.
|Solar Panel System Size||Number of Solar Panels||Household Size||Average Price|
|1kWp||4||1 person||£2,000 to £3,500|
|2kWp||8||2 people||£3,500 to £6,000|
|3kWp||12||3 people||£6,000 to £7,000|
|4kWp||16||4 to 5 people||£7,000 to £8,500|
|5kWp||20||5+ people||£9,000 to £10,500|
In case you’re wondering, kWp stands for kilowatt peak of a solar panel system, so kWp is the amount of energy the system can generate at peak performance.
How Much Money Will You Save By Installing Solar Panels?
When you use the electricity created by your solar panels to run household appliances, the electricity doesn’t cost you a penny. So, the more electricity you generate from your solar panels, the more money you can save as you won’t be importing as much energy from the National Grid. You can even earn money by exporting surplus energy to the grid.
Savings on your bills can be increased by using your free electricity during the day, which is when your solar panels produce electricity. For example, you can put your dishwasher, washing machine and tumble dryer on at some point in the day. You can also charge any gadgets, such as a cordless hoover, laptop, tablet and even an electric toothbrush. The more things you put on or charge during the daytime instead of in the evening, the more money you should save.
If the majority of your household spends more time at home in the evenings, you may want to consider investing in a solar battery when getting a solar panel system installed. Solar batteries store your free energy when you’re not using it so that you can use it some other time, like during the evening.
The Smart Export Guarantee (SEG)
Another way to save (or earn) money is through the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG), which is a UK government initiative that started in January 2020. This initiative requires a large energy supplier with more than 150,000 customers to offer an export tariff to pay you for any surplus electricity generated by your solar photovoltaic panels that you send back to the National Grid. To get the SEG tariff, you’ll need to meet certain criteria, such as the installation must be MCS-certified, the installation must be 5MW capacity or less and you must have a meter that can take export readings.
You do have to sign up for the SEG tariff with an energy supplier so that you can be paid for putting excess electricity into the grid, so make sure you do this as soon as your solar panel system is installed. It’s worth pointing out that you don’t have to use the same supplier that you purchase your electricity from to benefit from the SEG.
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Are Solar Panels Suitable For Every Home?
Although a great option for lots of properties across the UK, solar panels are not recommended for every home. The best way to find out whether your home is suitable for solar panels is to get a professional installer to assess your property. The following questions will help you determine if solar panels are suitable for your home:
- Do you live in a leasehold or rented property?
If your home is leasehold or you live in a rented property, you cannot install solar panels without getting permission from the freeholder or landlord.
- Will the solar panels be installed on a south-facing roof?
Even though solar panels still work on east-facing and west-facing roofs, unshaded south-facing roofs are the best type because they get the most sunlight.
- Have you got a pitched or flat roof?
The ideal roof pitch for solar panels is between 30 and 40 degrees, however, the slope of your roof can actually be anything from 10 to 60 degrees for it to be suitable. If your roof is flat, you can still get solar panels installed but they will need to be mounted onto frames to enable the panels to tilt upwards.
- Is your roof structurally sound?
Before you purchase solar panels, you should call in a professional to inspect your roof to ensure it’s safe and undamaged. If you live in a newly built house then you shouldn’t have to worry about this, but you should get your roof checked if you have an older home.
Do Solar Panels Work On Cloudy Days?
Yes, they do. The UK is known for its cloudy and rainy days but solar panels can generate power in all weather conditions because they work on daylight, rather than heat or sunlight. So, whilst solar panels work well in hotter temperatures, they can produce lots of solar energy in overcast weather as well. Experts have even said that solar panels work most efficiently in colder temperatures and too much heat can actually make them less efficient, making the UK an ideal location to install a solar panel system.
Will You Need Planning Permission to Install Solar Panels?
Planning permission is not generally needed to install solar panels on a residential building as they fall under permitted development rights, provided all limits and conditions are met. If you want to install solar panels on a listed building, a world heritage site or in a conservation area, you will need to get in touch with your local planning authority first. Separate acts and rules apply to England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, so we recommend you always contact your local planning office to find out whether you need to apply for planning permission before installing solar panels on your property.
Solar Panel Maintenance
Solar panels require little maintenance but they do need to be cleaned regularly to help extend their life. To ensure your solar panels remain efficient and in top condition, you should get an installer or certified cleaning service company to check and professionally clean your panels at least once a year. A competent engineer will remove any dirt and debris, check any issues with shading and make sure all the fixings and pieces of equipment are safe and secure. If you look after your solar panels by getting them professionally cleaned, you can expect them to last up to 30 years or more.
Advantages of Solar Panels
There are many advantages of generating free electricity from solar panels, including:
- Lower electricity bills
As you don’t have to pay for the energy produced by your solar panels, your electricity bills should be significantly lower or you may even be able to eliminate these bills.
- Earn money back on your investment
Thanks to the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG), you can earn money every time you sell surplus energy to the grid via your energy supplier, helping you to earn back your initial investment.
- Energy independence
Installing solar panels to produce your own electricity minimizes your reliance on the grid and you could even become completely independent of the grid if you use a solar battery to store free electricity for use on rainy days and in the evenings.
- Cut your carbon footprint
The solar energy your panels generate is a renewable resource, so not only is it free but it’s also better for the environment.
- Solar panels have a long lifespan
Studies have proven solar panels can generate free electricity for decades, and some can last for as long as 30 years or more.
Disadvantages of Solar Panels
There’s no denying that solar panel systems offer several benefits but they aren’t without their drawbacks. The disadvantages include:
- Expensive to install
One of the biggest disadvantages of installing a solar panel system is the high upfront cost. But as we mentioned earlier, the solar energy is free and you can earn back money by selling surplus energy to the grid, so your solar panels should pay for themselves in the long run.
- Solar panels don’t produce electricity at night
Although solar panels work in all weather conditions, they only work on daylight. This means you’ll have to rely on the grid for power at night. Having said that, you could live completely off the grid if you store some of the energy produced in the daytime in solar batteries for use at night.
- They take up quite a bit of roof space
Solar panels require a lot of space, but this won’t be a problem if you have a large roof. And while most solar panels tend to be sleek and compact, some aren’t very attractive and may affect the aesthetic appeal of your property.
|Roof Space m2||System Power Peak||Estimated Cost (£)|
|+/- 8||1 kWp||from £2,500|
|+/- 14||2 kWp||from £3,000|
|+/- 21||3 kWp||from £5,000|
|+/- 28||4 kWp||from £6,000|
Best Solar Panel Manufacturers
The table below lets you compare power outputs, efficiency and product and power warranties from the best solar panel brands.
|MANUFACTURER||POWER OUTPUTS||HIGHEST EFFICIENCY AVAILABLE||PRODUCT WARRANTY||POWER WARRANTY|
|JA Solar||340W – 550W||21.3%||12 Years||25 to 30 Years|
|LG||360W – 455kW||22.1%||15 to 25 Year||25 Years|
|REC||355W – 410W||22.2%||20 Years||25 Years|
|Sharp||360W – 540W||22.7%||15 Years||25 Years|
|SunPower||320W – 420W||4.5 kW||25 Years||25 Years|
Founded in 2005 and based in China, JA Solar is well-known for manufacturing affordable solar energy products for homes and commercial buildings around the world. The company has a good reputation and offers a large range of high-performance solar panels that come with an above industry standard warranty. JA Solar modules have also been praised for their design, efficiency and reliability.
With over 50 years of experience under its belt, LG has become the solar panel manufacturer of choice among installers. The company’s long-standing commitment to quality and innovation has led LG to deliver premium solar panel modules that achieve more than 90% performance, even after 25 years of use. All solar modules from LG undergo testing procedures that are up to two times stricter than international standards and come with a 25-year product and performance guarantee for peace of mind.
Otherwise known as the Renewable Energy Corporation, REC with headquarters in Norway was founded in 1996 and is a solar panel manufacturer dedicated to providing homeowners, businesses and utilities with affordable solar power. The company calls itself ‘Solar’s Most Trusted’ and has so far manufactured a whopping 40 million high-quality solar panels to empower people all over the world.
Boasting 60 years of experience in the solar industry and delivering more than 50 million cutting edge PV panels worldwide, Sharp sure knows a thing or two about manufacturing reliable and efficient solar panels. The company has a portfolio of high-performance modules for residential and commercial buildings and even offers suitable options for farms, factories and free-field installations.
SunPower is a leading manufacturer of solar panels and has been pushing the boundaries of solar innovation since 1985. The company delivers record-setting efficiency and unmatched reliability, which explains why its solar panels are the technology of choice for some of the world’s top experts and companies. Having installed more than 35 million solar panels over the last 35 years, SunPower is a name you can trust to offer high-performing solar technology for your home or business.