Is solar power right for my home?

Installing solar PV can be a smart move if you want to lower your energy costs and carbon footprint. Cost, technical, and lifestyle considerations are all things you need to take into account. Can you afford the panels’ cost? Do you have a suitable location for the panels? How much electricity can you use while the solar panels are producing and when do you utilise electricity?

This guide explores solar panels in-depth.

What is solar PV?

Photovoltaic (PV) cells harness the sun’s energy in solar panel electricity systems. We are familiar with seeing solar panels on the rooftops of homes and public buildings throughout the UK, making them one of the most well-known examples of renewable technology.

Through PV cells, sunlight is transformed into electricity that can run lighting and home appliances.

Read more about how solar panels work in our guide here.

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How much will a solar panels system cost?

As a general rule, you should expect to pay between £6,000 and £8,000 for a conventional, 3.5kWp system. The price varies depending on your local location, the installation, and the sort of panels you desire.

For the panels, this system would need a roof area of about 20 m2. This price includes the cost of the system’s additional hardware, such as the inverter, generation metre, panel mounting system, and wiring, as well as labour costs for supplying, installing, connecting, and registering the system. Scaffolding is also included in this price for the majority of roof-mounted systems.

The system should last 25 years after installation. There won’t likely be much upkeep required throughout that period. Your panels should be washed by rain, however, in some regions, you may find more dust settling on your panels, which may indicate a cleaning job. Normally, any defects in the PV panels will be covered by the manufacturer’s guarantee.

The inverter is one piece of equipment that most likely needs to be replaced. The function of the inverter is to convert the DC electricity produced by your solar panels into the AC electricity needed to power your home and to export to the national grid (mains voltage AC). An inverter often needs to be replaced at least once over the course of the system because it only lasts 10 to 12 years on average. You should budget between £600 and £800 for a replacement.

Additionally, keep an eye on any trees in the area and prune them if their branches start to block the sun from the panels. Any shadowing will make your system operate less efficiently.

Read our blog about the average cost of solar panels in the UK.

How to make sure you’re maximising the performance of your solar panels system.

To ensure you’re maximising the performance of your solar PV system, there are a number of things to do.

Our solar partners will provide assistance in choosing the optimal location for the system to be installed. The optimum locations avoid shade and are tilted between 30 and 50 degrees from horizontal, facing anywhere between southeast and southwest.

Nearly as much electricity as the average household would consume may be produced annually with a well-located 3.5kWp system, which could produce over 3,000 kWh. However, because you might not utilise all of this electricity whilst it’s being generated the majority of families will export a significant amount of it.

When you use more of the electricity yourself, solar PV panels pay for themselves more quickly. Try not to use all of your appliances at once during the day to prevent using more electricity than your system is producing. If no one is home during the day, you can think about using appliance timers to assist you in doing this.

You can also think about purchasing a solar diverter (to heat up your hot water cylinder when the sun shines). Read more about solar diverters.

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What about battery storage?

When your solar PV system isn’t producing electricity during the day, you can store the extra energy in a battery for usage at night. Instead of importing electricity from the grid and paying your tariff rate for it, you can use the electricity that your battery has stored for free. But the question is: Is the battery’s initial cost worth the money you’ll save on bills?

Depending on the type and size of battery you choose, costs might range from £5,000 to £8,000 for the majority of residential-size installations. This would frequently result in a negative return on the battery’s investment. However, as costs continue to decline and technology advances, more people will likely find battery storage to be an affordable choice.

The best course of action right now seems to be to use as much of your electricity as possible while your PV system is producing it for the majority of households.

Instead of doing so to temporarily save money, people who decide to install a domestic battery can be motivated by a desire to become more independent of energy providers.

However, adding a battery does allow you to maximise the energy you produce, and new possibilities are opening up for using batteries in different ways. For instance, smart time-of-use tariffs allow you to charge and discharge the battery to maximise the benefits of the most advantageous rates.

Read more about Battery Storage

I'm thinking about getting an electric car

Another way to store and consume the electricity generated by your solar PV installation is through electric cars or EVs. An electric car is essentially a battery with wheels. Your solar PV system may be able to charge your car or van, saving you money on petrol, diesel, or other external charging costs, as well as perhaps lowering your road tax. To maximise the amount of electricity produced by your solar system, you would need to have your electric vehicle plugged in during the day.

What happens if I don't utilise the electricity or don't store it?

By registering for a Smart Export Guarantee, you may ensure that you are reimbursed for supplying any excess energy that is exported to the grid for consumption by others.

The supporting system created to take the role of the Feed-in Tariff programme is called the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG). Although it doesn’t operate in the same way, small-scale generators have the option of receiving payment for their export.

It became effective on January 1st, 2020.

Flat rate and variable are the two primary types of tariffs.

As the demand for electricity varies during the day, so does the wholesale price. No matter when you export, a flat rate tariff pays you the agreed-upon rate. A tariff with a variable rate will alter the cost based on when you export. The price will rise in line with demand because the energy provider will monitor wholesale pricing.

It’s not necessary for the company that supplies your SEG to also provide your power, though some companies may give you an export tariff if you agree to use their supply as well.

As you do for your current gas or electricity supply, you should compare SEG tariff options to find the best deal. You should also check SEG tariff possibilities on a regular basis.