Thinking about getting solar panels? They can be a great way to save on energy bills but there’s a lot to weigh up.
Take a look at this guide to solar panels and whether they’re worth the cost.
- Solar panels are a popular way to create clean energy, reduce use of fossil fuels and cut your carbon emissions by up to 1.6 tonnes a year.
- The average 4.2kWp solar panel system costs £6,500 to install and can save you more than £500 a year on your energy bills.
- You can use a solar battery to store your extra power or sell spare electricity to the national grid through the Smart Export Guarantee.
- New research shows solar panels are the most value-adding home improvement, and can add up to 25% to the value of your home.
Want to reduce your carbon footprint and save on energy bills?
More people are choosing solar panels to do just that, with the number of projects rising by two thirds between 2019 and 2021, according to Barbour API.
Solar panels generate clean energy and reduce your reliance on the national grid. They can cut your carbon emissions by up to 1.6 tonnes a year and save you hundreds on your electricity bills.
But at an average cost of £6,500, they don’t come cheap. It could take you more than nine years to make your money back, depending on the type of system you go for.
Let’s take a look at the costs and considerations of solar panels and if they’re worth it in the long run.
1. How much do solar panels cost to install?
The average cost for a solar panel system comes in at around £6,500, so it’s definitely not a small investment.
That figure’s based on a 4.2kWp solar panel system across just under 30 square metres of your roof. It’s about the right size to cover the electricity of a three bedroom semi-detached house with four people living there.
As you’d expect, the cost of solar panels rises with the size of the system and the efficiency of the panels.
A smaller 3kWp system will bring the cost down to around £5,000, while a larger 6kWp one could set you back £11,000.
But the more you spend up front, the more you’re likely to save on energy costs.
If you live in a listed home or a conservation area, don’t forget to factor in the cost of planning permission.
2. How much money can you save with solar panels?
The numbers around solar panels are looking even better now that energy costs are rising again.
When electricity costs 24p per kWh, solar panels could cut your electricity bill by £274 between October 2022 and April 2023 alone. The Eco Experts reckon the average UK household with a new set of solar panels will now break even in 9.9 years.
But how much you can save varies, and it comes down to how efficient your system is, as well as how and when you use electricity in your home. For example, you’ll save more money if you’re at home using your appliances during the day when the solar panels are active.
3. How much value do solar panels add to your home?
With solar panel installations only really picking up in the last five years, it’s hard to put a figure on exactly how much value they’ll add to your home.
However, recent research has found that solar panels boost a home’s value by 25% compared to similar properties in the same area. That makes them the most value-adding home improvement in 2022.
And the same study found that people will pay 24% more for homes with an EPC rating of C or higher.
On top of this, our data shows that homes with an EPC rating of A or B are selling twice as fast as they were in early 2018, taking 28 days compared to the previous 56.
While all homes are selling faster now, homes rated F or G are only selling 15 days faster than in 2018 at 29 days.
So it’s clear that energy efficiency is moving up on buyers’ lists of priorities.
Look at what you can do to improve your home’s efficiency before – or at the same time as – getting solar panels. The overall energy efficiency of your home could have a big impact when you come to sell.
4. Do you need a solar battery as well?
The short answer is no – a solar battery is not essential. But having a battery means you can make the most of the solar energy your panels generate. They cost between £1,200 and £6,000.
A solar battery stores your solar energy. When it gets dark in the evening, you can keep using the power from your panels and you’re less likely to need to use electricity from the national grid.
If you do not have a battery, the national grid becomes your back-up. When it gets dark you’ll go back to paying for your electricity.
But without a battery, you can also send more electricity back into the national grid.
5. Can you solar charge an electric vehicle?
Solar panels and electric vehicles are a great combo if you want to go the extra mile for the environment.
You can use solar power to charge an electric vehicle and you just need an inverter unit, which converts solar power to electricity.
Keep in mind that you’ll need a solar battery if you want to charge your car at night, otherwise you’ll use electricity from the national grid.
6. How does the Smart Export Guarantee scheme work?
If you want to make your money back faster, have a look into the Smart Export Guarantee Scheme (Ofgem).
The government-backed scheme was introduced in 2020 and it sees suppliers pay you to send spare solar energy into the national grid.
Tariffs vary from 1.5p to 12p per kW, and can earn the average household between £80 to £110 a year.
7. Which type of solar panel is best?
There are two main categories of solar panel: ones that generate electricity and ones that heat water.
Here’s a breakdown of the first kind, which are much more popular in the UK.
|Type of solar panel
|Monocrystalline Solar Panels (Mono-SI)
|High efficiency rate; optimised for commercial use; high lifetime value
|Polycrystalline Solar Panels (p-Si)
|Sensitive to high temperatures; lower lifespan and slightly less space efficiency
|Thin-Film: Amorphous Silicon Solar Panels (A-SI)
|Relatively low costs; easy to produce and flexible
|Shorter warranties and lifespan
Mono-SI panels are made of high purity silicon, which means a high power output, less space needed and the longest life span at around 25 years.
P-Si panels are cheaper than Mono-SI panels. They’re a little less efficient and they don’t last quite as long.
But these two have a similar power output so get a recommendation from a solar panel installer. The type of solar panel that’s best for you will depend on your home, electricity usage, space and budget.
And keep in mind that although solar panels need very little maintenance, their efficiency does wane over time.
8. Is your roof suitable for solar panels?
Solar panels are most effective on certain homes, and it mainly comes down to the size and orientation of your roof.
For the most efficient solar panel system, you roof should have:
- enough space for a system that will generate the amount of electricity you use
- a south-facing aspect to get more sun and therefore generate more electricity (but east- and west-facing roofs are good enough)
- a pitch of between 10 and 60 degrees, although you can mount the panels at an angle to improve efficiency
- a sound structure to take the weight of the panels
- a bit of space in the loft or attic for the inverter, which is about the size of a microwave.
9. How to get solar panels fitted
If you’ve decided to go ahead with solar panels, you’ll need to find a qualified installer to fit them for you.
Costs vary between installers and products, so get quotes from at least three different installers.
Need help paying for solar panels? You might be able to get a loan through the Green Deal (GOV.UK).
10. Are solar panels worth it?
We’d say solar panels are worth the money if:
- you can afford them outright, and don’t mind waiting to see a return on your investment
- you have the roof space and orientation for a system that can cover most of your home’s electricity usage
- you use most of your electricity in the daytime – or you can get a solar battery to use solar power when it’s dark.
Solar panels are only ever going to be worth it if you can afford them. Be careful if you need to take out a loan as the interest repayments might be higher than your returns.
And while it’s important to think about the money, lots of people see the environmental impact as the key reason to invest in solar panels.
If you want to create clean energy, reduce your use of fossil fuels and cut your carbon emissions, solar panels are well worth the money.
Once they’re in, you’ll be having a positive impact on the environment and starting to make your money back.