Solar panels have increased in popularity over recent years as more home owners in the UK take advantage of nature’s greatest resource – energy generated by the sun. Photovoltaics, or solar PV, are a type of solar cell that uses semiconductor technology to convert energy from sunlight into electricity.
The good news is that the price of solar PV has been steadily decreasing – and as new technologies develop new ways of making solar energy components – their price is likely to decrease further.
Many people may have the stereotype that switching to renewable energy is difficult or a waste of time and money however this could not be further from the truth. Using sustainable energy can be very financially rewarding, quick, and easy when you know the facts and use a trusted solar panel supplier and installer.
In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about solar panels including
- how many solar panels you’ll need,
- the cost of installation, to
- the financial and environment gains you stand to make by using them so that you and your family can take advantages of the many benefits of renewable energy.
How do PV solar panels work?
Inside a solar panel, there are a group of cells connected electronically that are grouped into the frame of the panel. These cells are made of different types of semi-conductors (the most popular is silicon) which absorb sunlight and convert it into energy.
An electrical circuit is formed as each conductor is attached to both positive and negative terminals and it’s from this that electrons can be taken as electricity.
There are two types of PV systems - stand-alone and grid-connected. The stand-alone PV system is the type of solar panels you’ll have on your roof - the grid-connected system is designed solely for commercial use.
What are the advantages of using solar panels in the UK?
As the popularity of solar panels continues to increase all over the country, more people are wondering what benefits they could receive by switching to renewable energy.
There are several major benefits including a reduced electricity bill. This is helpful to so many households, especially when consider that electricity bills have increased by an average of 7% per annum in recent years.
Another valuable benefit that solar panels provide is they give you the chance to earn money back through something called the Feed-in Tariffs (FiT). This is an initiative from the government to help home owners be more responsible in their use of energy and, as a reward, homeowners earn extra income from paybacks for the electricity they produce. These FiT payments are tax-free, index-linked and they’ll be paid to you for 20 years after installation – a powerful incentive to invest in solar panels.
Solar panels and renewable energy they produce also reduces your carbon footprint. Solar power doesn’t emit any carbon dioxide or other pollutants like traditional electricity generators which are severely damaging to our environment.
Solar panels work all year round so, although they reach their full potential and produce the most electricity in the summer months, you get your money’s worth even on rainy and cloudy days.
Almost no maintenance is required – all you must do is keep them clean and ensure no trees overshadow your solar panels. The task of cleaning is made significantly easier as normal rain will wash away any dust that the panels collect, meaning that you can relax and enjoy your free energy.
Are there any disadvantages of solar panels?
For many, the greatest disadvantage of solar panels is their high entry cost. However, there are two important things to consider.
First, as we mentioned earlier, these prices have fallen over recent years and will continue to do so. Second, many solar panel installers offer homeowners financing for their installation meaning that the cost can be spread over up to 10 years meaning that there’s no initial big outlay.
How much do Solar Panels cost?
What solar panels cost depends on a few different factors. However, speaking with our partner installers across the UK, here are some guideline estimates on the cost:
|Roof space measured in m2||Number of panels||Power peak of the solar panel in kWh||Guideline prices|
|Up to 14||8||2||£2,850 to £5,150|
|15 to 21||12||3||£4,850 to £6,150|
|22 to 28||16||4||£5,850 to £8,100|
Generally, each solar panel you install will cost £350-£525 and take up around 4m2 on your roof. Each solar panel will generate around 400-450kWh of electricity over the course of a year.
Installers and many financial experts always advice that solar panels should be viewed as a long-term investment. The more solar panels you have, the more electricity you create meaning lower bills and higher paybacks from the feed-in tariffs. Although you may be tempted to seek out cheap solar panels, this is truly one market where what you pay for is what you get so choose carefully.
Top tip - to receive the greatest benefits from your investment you should ensure your home is well insulated before instillation, that way your home will require less from the solar panel system.
What will you save on your electricity bills?
For an average 12 panel installation creating 3kWh worth of electricity, you will save around 1.5% of the installation price of your solar panel system per year. So if your installation cost you £5,500, you would save around £82.50 on your electricity charges.
What are the feed-in tariffs and how much will I earn?
You will also receive money back from your energy provider through the two different Feed-In-Tariffs. There’s the generation tariff (what you’re paid on the amount of electricity you generate) and the export tariff (what you’re paid for the electricity you feed back into the National Grid).
The current tariffs at the time of writing are:
|Year and quarter||Date range||Generation Tariff||Export Tariff|
|2018 Q3||July 1 - September 30||3.93p per kWh||5.24p per kWh|
You’ll receive these payments for 20 years after your installation. The amount you’ll be paid is approximately 2.1% of the cost of your system from the generation tariff and 1.4% from the export tariff. That’s 3.6% of £5,500 per annum equalling £198 each year.
So what will my total savings be?
On a £5,500 system, when you add your electricity bill savings to the amount you’re paid on the generation and export tariffs, you’ll save around £275 a year. That’s not bad at all considering you’ll be getting this for the next 20 years.
There’s something else to consider too. There is an additional incentive called the Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive scheme. With that, as long as you stick by their rules for seven years after installation, you’ll receive an additional 20.06p per kWh on the electricity your solar panel produces.
If you buy your solar panel installation on finance, a great deal of your monthly repayment costs will be covered by the Feed-in-Tariff, the Domestic Renewable Heat scheme, and the savings on your electricity bills.
Can I install solar panels myself?
We would not advice it, not only because it’s a very large job needing more than one person, but because you may not benefit from the Feed-in-Tariffs on a DIY installation.
What should I look out for when choosing a solar panel installer?
The reason you may not benefit from the Feed-in-Tariff if you perform a DIY installation of your solar panels is because, to qualify for Feed-In-Tariffs, the installation and the person doing the installation has to be registered with the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS).
When choosing an installer, always make sure that they are a member of the MCS. When your installation is complete, your installer will hand you a MCS certificate which you then send off to register with the Feed-In-Tariff and Renewable Heat Incentive schemes.
What should I consider before investing in solar panels?
It’s vital that you understand consider the following list to receive the full benefits from your investment:
- Which part of your roof is hit with direct sunlight the most? The amount of electricity your solar panels produce largely depends on the location they are placed in
- What size of solar panels will you need? And do you have enough roof space? The amount of roof space you will need depends on the type of solar cells you select and the amount of energy you want to produce. You’ll need to calculate the amount of electricity you aim to create – this will help you understand the size of panel you need to buy to get the results you want.
- Can your roof take the weight? Before attempting to install solar panels, you must ensure your roof can support its weight – this consideration is especially important for older buildings
If you’re unsure of anything, you can get advice from an installer prior to making your decision on the system you want.
Do I need planning permission for solar panels in the UK?
You don’t need to apply for planning permission in the UK for most domestic solar panel installations if the installation is below a certain size. If the solar panels you plan to install are over 200mm you must apply for planning permission first. If you reside within Scotland, you may face more local restrictions, so it is important to seek advice from your solar panel installer beforehand.
How do I find the right solar supplier for me?
With so many solar panel installers in the UK, what’s the best way to ensure you get the right system for your home at the best possible price? So that you get a system that does what you want it to do and if you need back-up help and support, it will be there for you.
The best way is to get quotes from 3-4 trusted companies all with MCS registration and with a provable and verifiable trading history behind them.
We’ll arrange free quotation visits from 3-4 companies on your behalf. We won’t charge you a penny for our service, you won’t be visited by commission-only salesperson, and there’s no obligation to accept any quote you’re given. Please click here to get some free quotes.