Chances are you’ve seen a few properties with solar panels on their roofs. These panels provide a way of using the energy from the sun to generate energy for our homes.
However before you go for solar panel installation, it’s well worth getting the answers to all the questions you’re likely to have (not to mention a few you may not have thought of). We’ve done the hard work for you here so you’ve got everything you need to know in one place.
The cost of solar panels
There are two elements to consider here – the cost of solar panels and the cost of installing solar panels. Most people will go for a professional installation which is undoubtedly recommended.
Solar panels vary in size and price. You do get what you pay for which means it is a good idea to get good quality panels if your budget can stand it. However the good news is these panels are far cheaper now than they were even a few short years ago. Improvements in technology and mass production have put the panels within reach of more people.
The cost will depend on which company you choose and also how big your roof space is. The bigger the roof, the more panels you can have and the more electricity you can generate.
The smallest installation would be on a roof of around 8sq.m and would provide around 1kW of energy. This could cost upwards of £2,500.
However the average cost of solar panels is currently given at around £6,000 to £9,000. Remember the size of your roof will help you work out the price, as there will be a limit to how many panels you can fit on there.
Should I go for free solar panels, or should I buy solar panels outright?
You may have seen offers from companies that can save you the solar panels cost by offering to take care of your installation free of charge. This sounds appealing, but you need to know the difference between opting for ‘free’ panels and buying the whole system yourself.
Free panels are basically offered according to an agreement between you and the company installing them. You get the electricity that is generated by the panels. However the Feed-in Tariff you may have heard of (we’ll get to this in a moment) is kept by the installer. If you paid for your own panels to be installed you would be able to keep this tariff to help offset the cost of installing the panels in the first place.
Really it comes down to whether you can afford the initial installation and if so, whether you want to earn money if you generate more electricity than you actually need.
How much could I save each year?
This depends on the amount of electricity your home uses as well as the size of the installation you have. It will also depend where you live since solar installations in the south-east of England tend to generate more energy than those in the north of the country and into Scotland.
You must be eligible to apply for the Feed-in Tariff scheme in order to benefit from it. We’ll go into this in more detail in the next section. However, assuming you are eligible for the scheme you can earn money from your solar panels.
The more electricity you generate the more money you will receive via the Feed-in Tariff. According to the Energy Saving Trust you could save around £110 on your electricity bill per annum if you live in Scotland. Those living in the south-east of England could enjoy a saving of around £135 per annum. These figures are based on a 4kW system. If you have a bigger system you could save even more money.
Generally speaking many people enjoy a significant reduction on their electricity bills. In some cases they can be halved, and if you are particularly careful with energy usage and you have a large system you could even wipe out your bill altogether. So essentially you have a three-way saving to look forward to.
The Feed-in Tariff
There are two elements to the Feed-in Tariff:
- A generation tariff – this is a payment you receive for every kWh of electricity your solar panels manage to generate
- An export tariff – if you have a large solar installation and/or you manage to reduce your electricity usage to less than the amount your panels generate, you can receive a further payment for each kWh of electricity you sell back
The payments were at their largest when the scheme was first introduced in the 2008 Energy Act. Many people have since had systems installed even though the Feed-in Tariff has reduced since then.
The rates you receive will depend on when your system is installed. They also vary depending on the size of your installation. You will also note there are higher, middle and lower rates applicable.
For the latest table of rates payable for installations on or after 1st April 2015 up to the end of June, visit the feed in tariff payment table. This also gives rates for installations that take place on or after 1st July 2015 and before 1st October 2015.
How much money do you make?
When assessing how much money you could make from your solar panels uk, you have to bear in mind a number of things:
- Solar panel size and quantity, hence size of system in kW
- Feed-in Tariff rates
- Length of time you have had the system installed
- The size of your average electricity bill
- How much you paid for your system
The larger the system, the more electricity it can generate. This could mean you end up getting into profit with your system a lot sooner than you would otherwise. Furthermore you will be able to make more cash if you invest in your own system instead of getting a free deal that involves the installer keeping the feed in Tariff instead of it being paid to you.
One resource gave an example of a 4kWp system that cost £6,000 to install. The savings on this were estimated to be around £200 per year. Clearly with a £6,000 outlay it will take a while to reap back the cost of the installation.
Individual results will vary depending on the factors mentioned in the bullet points above. However as you can see, if you aren’t planning on moving house anytime soon you might just benefit from the long-term profits that are available.
How long do solar panels take to install?
It depends on the size of the installation involved. A simple and small installation could take a day or two, and indeed most installations can be completed within a couple of days. However some more complex installations may take longer.
Additionally you have to consider what needs to happen prior to the actual installation taking place. A survey will need to be performed, along with finding out if there are any planning restrictions which might prohibit panels from being fitted. In most cases planning permission won’t be needed but in the rare cases that it does, this can add time onto the overall procedure.
Finally you will need to have scaffolding put up to allow the installers to do their work. This will then be taken down again once the installation is complete. This should give you a good idea of the total amount of time it might take to have solar panels fitted to your roof.
Should I inform my mortgage company?
The answer to this will depend on which mortgages company you are with. Some view a solar installation as a property modification, while others will simply view it as a straightforward addition. The best course of action is to contact your mortgage company prior to having the panels fitted so you know where you stand.
Can solar panels add value to my property?
They may do. One survey from YouGov seemed to indicate this was the case. Energy efficiency is a key area many would-be buyers focus on when looking at properties. Another key home-buying website found that the answer could depend on the individual estate agent. However with that said, solar panels certainly wouldn’t reduce the value of your home. It would either stay about the same or improve depending on the agent (another reason to have more than one valuation when you’re thinking of selling).
One final thought – another survey discovered a third of buyers would be happy to pay more if they found a property they liked that had solar panels fitted, so that’s worth bearing in mind as well. Clearly there are plenty of reasons why you might want to consider having solar panels fitted at your property.