Solar Panels: Should you get them? Re February 6, 2023

Solar Panels: Should you get them?

Solar Panels

If you’re wondering what you can do to tackle the rising costs of energy bills, you’re far from alone at the moment! In fact, in the last 12 months, there have been over 16k related searches on this subject.

The energy crisis has been plaguing the news, and our minds, since last year, and it’s become hard to follow the extortionate rises in energy costs (which seem to be spiralling each month).

The consultancy Cornwall Insight said: “Price cap forecasts for January rise to over £4,200 as wholesale prices surge again and Ofgem revises cap methodology” (Aug 2022).
This forecast means that the average household would be paying £355/month from next year, instead of the current £164/month, which could possibly throw millions into fuel poverty.

Nowadays, people are actively trying to find new ways to reduce their energy consumption. One good tip is to get solar panels installed, but the question on everyone’s mind is, “are they really a good investment?” especially in times when families need to stretch every pound as far as possible. In this blog, we’ll help you decide if solar panels are worth the money and right for your home.

What is a solar panel?

Solar panels, also known as photovoltaics (PV), absorb the sun’s energy and convert it to generate heat and/or electricity to power your home.

How does a solar panel work?

Solar panels are made up of an element called ‘Silicon’. When Silicon is exposed to the sun’s rays, electrons in the silicon begin to move, generating a flow of electricity (Direct Current, or ‘DC’).

The Direct Current (DC) goes through an inverter which converts DC into a form of electricity which can be used to power your home’s electrical devices, and it’s called Alternating Current (AC).

Solar panel systems are made up of individual panels. Each panel generates approximately  355W of energy on a sunny day. Home solar panel systems typically have 15 panels.

If your solar panels generate more electricity than you use/need, you can send the generated electricity back to the grid and get paid for every unit of electricity you send back.

Solar panels’ pros and cons

The advantages of having solar panels installed are;

1. Clean source of energy

The energy generated from solar panels is completely renewable. Solar panels harness the power of sunlight and its warmth. Hence, this process makes the generated energy completely green.

2. Slash your energy bills

Solar panels let you generate your own electricity without relying as heavily on the grid. The amount of money you’ll be saving will depend on your solar panel size, your house size, your energy usage and, of course, the weather. 

If you generate more electricity than you use, you would be able to feed it back to the grid and get paid for the surplus energy that you send back through the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG).

What’s the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG)?

Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) is a Government-backed initiative launched back in January 2020. Under SEG, some electricity suppliers will pay you for low-carbon electricity, which you send back to the National Grid – providing certain criteria are met.

3. Easy maintenance

A solar panel’s lifespan is typically around 25 years, and most manufacturers offer a warranty between 20-25 years.

The component that will likely need a change after the solar panel’s 25-year lifespan is the inverter – which usually costs around £1,000.

All you need to do to maintain the solar panels is keep them clean, as they are exposed to debris and dirt.

You should only clean them a couple of times a year – you can either choose to clean them yourself or get a specialised cleaning company to do it. They usually charge (£25-£35) based on your location, accessibility and condition of the panels.

The disadvantages of having solar panels installed are;

1. Space

Space is one of the essential things you need to look at when you decide to get solar panels installed. The average solar PV system (4.2kWp) could occupy around 25m2 roof area, although some installations might require more space. The roof should ideally be south-facing to maximise the energy output.

You should also remember that any shaded parts of your roof will reduce the efficiency of your solar panels.

2. High costs

Although the cost of buying & installing solar panels has dropped drastically over the last few years (to be precise, it has fallen by 88% since 2010), they’re still out of the budget of many UK households.

According to the Energy Saving Trust“The average domestic solar PV system is 4.2kWp and costs around £6,500.” This is a rough estimate only. As you can imagine, the cost of installing a Solar PV system will depend on your location, labour time and cost, system size and panel type. A 6kW panel system can cost between £9,000 – £11,000.

The cost on its own may be enough to put you off, never mind the other cons! 

3. Storing energy can be costly

If you don’t use all the energy you generated throughout the day, you’ve got the option to store that energy and use it later on during the night (but this option is costly!). 

You can store this energy in large batteries. These batteries are used in houses which are off the grid, but they come at a hefty price. Lithium-Ion solar batteries cost £3,500+ (for a 3 – 4 kWh capacity). While a higher battery capacity (9 – 13.5 kWh) can set you behind £6,000.

4. Weather factors

As the solar panels get their energy from the sunshine, you’ll struggle to get as much electricity during cloudy, rainy days – you also won’t get any energy during the night.

5. May need planning permission

Generally speaking, you wouldn’t need to apply for planning permission to install solar PV panels as they are considered ‘permitted developments’. But, if you live in a listed building, conservation area or national park, you’ll have to check with your local authority as you might need to apply for planning permission.

How much do solar PV panels cost?

The cost of installing solar PV panels varies depending on the location, labour, number of panels and panel types. 

The typical domestic solar PV system is 4.2kWp and costs £6,500. 

For 12 panels, you’d expect to pay between £5,000 to £6,000 (with installation), but if you want to make the most out of your roof space and would like to get 24 panels (6kW panel system), you’ll pay between £9,000 – £11,000.

Are solar panels a good investment?

From that point of view, you’ll need to consider how long it will take to pay it off. This is slightly complex because it will depend on a few factors. So, for example, it will depend on your energy consumption, your energy provider export tariff, and the size of your system. 

Generally speaking, it can take between 15 – 25 years to see a return on investment.

The verdict: are solar panels worth it?

This is a controversial topic – and very much depends on your point of view!

Although there are several ways to reduce your home’s carbon footprint, solar PV panels seem to be one of the best ways to live sustainably – but at what cost? Solar panels don’t add that much value to your property (as many people may think).

They are expensive to install (£6,500), yet the value added to your home is estimated at £1,916.

Solar panels reduce your energy bills by approximately £405/ year, but it will take between 15 to 25 years to break even and recover from the significant upfront costs. Assuming you don’t move house in that time!! 
After crunching the numbers, it’s safe to say that you’d be better off relying on other ways to reduce your energy bills until this innovative technology becomes more affordable – hopefully in the near future.

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