What Are the Costs Involved in Installing Solar Panels?
The world we live in today is moving in the direction of renewable energy, as it should. I think there is no doubt that this is the way forward, but how can you make a difference? Can you be a part of the new green revolution happening right now?
In this article, I’m going to cover the costs associated with it, how it affects the value of your home, and any personal thoughts I have on the subject.
The UK has come a long way in solar power production, and currently, it ranks sixth in the world. This provides more opportunities for homeowners to embrace this as a way of lowering their electricity bills. It is much cheaper to install solar panels than it was three years ago so you will find the rates quite favourable. Read on to find out more about costs, pros, and cons of using solar panels.
How Much Do Solar Panels Cost?
About nine years ago, it would cost you an average of £20,000 to install solar panels, but this cost has reduced to less than half in the last couple of years. To get an approximation of how much it would cost you to install the panels, you need to know more about the types of panels available. You should also know approximately how many panels you will need and how much it would cost you to install them. The table below should guide you:
|Number of Panels
|Power Output (kWh)
|15 m2 and less
|£3,000 – £5,000
|16 m2 to 21 m2
|£4,000 – £6,000
|22 m2 and more
|£6,000 – £9,000
This is a base cost of average to premium quality basic panels without any special effects. If you would like any unique additions or types of panels, expect that the cost will be much higher than this. For example, solar tiles cost at least twice as much as the prices are given above. The installer charges are also not factored in here, and that will set you back around £350 to £500 depending on experience, location and certification.
There are some DIY solar packs that you can opt for to bring down the cost. These are even cheaper to install and should cost between £600 to around £4,000. They come with clear instructions on installation, but one of the most significant differences you will get is the lesser power output.
How Much Could You Save / Make?
Initially, it was easy to make your money back through the Feed-in Tariff (FIT) which paid customers that installed and generated solar energy. However, this was pulled down earlier in 2019, and they introduced a new system known as the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG).
With this new system in place, more people are encouraged to install solar panels since they can be paid for any units of unused power that is fed back into the grid. The system doesn’t have a set amount for the tariff, so it is up to your electricity provider to give you one. The good thing is that you have the option of selling to the highest bidder, but there is an expected average rate of 5.5p for each kilowatt you sell.
To qualify for the smart export system, you need professionally installed panels that will pass the standards of the Microgeneration Certification Scheme. If you choose to store the power and sell it later, then you should get a battery, although that would be an excellent move for saving the energy for your consumption. Remember that those who are still enjoying the benefits of the feed-in tariff are not eligible for the SEG program.
Without the smart export system, it will take you at least 20 years to make your money back if you are producing an average of 3kWh. Your savings will be in the range of £90 to £240 if you spend a lot of time at home. With the export option the time is reduced by at least 30%, so make sure to look around for the best offers to sell your surplus power.
What Are the Different Types of Solar Panels?
One great determiner of solar panels is the type that you will get. Many of the options available are highly efficient, but the price points matter. The following are the four top kinds of panels.
Monocrystalline Silicon Solar Panels
These are quite common, and you can identify them by their rounded edges and distinctive dark colour and patterned look. They have one of the highest efficiency while still being affordable which is why it is popular in many homes and businesses.
The panels are made using block made out of silicone that is circular in shape. They are the main component that not only gives the panels a unique look but also make it highly efficient. The efficiency of the monocrystalline panels is about 20%.
These panels are known for being highly durable since they are least affected by high temperatures, and don’t require so much maintenance. They also have a high output which explains why they are common but also makes sense because they are the most expensive of all the types. They occupy less space which is why they would be suitable for a smaller home or one with less roof space facing the sun.
Polycrystalline Solar Panels
These panels can be distinguished due to their rectangular patterns and are blue. They are considered the best-looking panels for many homes and their efficiency is excellent. These panels are cheaper than monocrystalline ones since the process of making them is more direct by melting silicone into moulds.
Considering that they are more affordable than monocrystalline means that they also have a lower rate of efficiency at 15%. They are also affected by high temperatures, so they require more maintenance checks and will not last as long as the first option.
While they don’t have a considerable difference with monocrystalline, they do occupy more space. These are a cheaper option so it would be an excellent alternative for someone on a budget. The 15% efficiency doesn’t make too much of a difference so you can still make adequate savings with this option.
Concentrated PV Cell Panels
These panels offer the highest efficiency of all the options at 41%, but they are more suited for commercial use. You can identify them since, unlike the other options, these have curved panels which is made to maximise how much sun they get. They may have a cooling system which is used to increase how efficient these are.
They require professional installation since how well they face the sun affects their efficiency. They have to be placed at just the right angle, which is also why they have a solar tracker inside them. This follows the sun so that they can tap the most of it.
Thin Film Solar Panels
If you are on a budget and looking for a reliable yet affordable option, the thin-film panels are what you need. They are made from photovoltaic material for example silicone in a layered design. Fewer materials are needed for production, which is why they are so affordable.
They can be made into anything, so they are pretty flexible and durable since they have a decent level of handling high temperatures. However, their efficiency is much lower at only 10%, and they require a lot of space for installation.
Their lifespan is also much shorter than the other options, and that is why the warranty is limited. This would be a good option for a large home or business premise looking to have a try at solar power.
Are Solar Panels For You?
While pretty much anyone can install solar panels, there are differences in how much benefit you should expect to gain. Sometimes the cost doesn’t make sense compared to how much you get from it due to reasons you may not be in a position to control. Think about the following factors before deciding on solar energy.
Where You Live
Solar panels do not require high-temperature sun rays to work; it only requires some little light so even if you live in an area that is not usually sunny, you can still benefit. However, the most important thing to check is the daylight hours since if the day hours are shorter, then that will affect how efficient your panels will be. You will harvest less energy, and it may take you longer to get returns on your investment, although it is still a worthy one.
How high your roof is pitched is another essential factor that you should remember when deciding whether to install solar panels. Sometimes the pitching can affect the efficiency of the panels, which can lead to lower power and a longer time to get back your money.
For the highest efficiency, your roof needs to be pitched at around 30 to 45 degrees which is optimal for the panels to access sunlight. If the angle is lower, for example, 20 degrees, don’t be discouraged, you can still benefit greatly from solar energy. However, you should choose panels that work best at that angle, which is something that your contractor can advise.
Size of the Roof
For a medium-size house to a large one, you may need between eight and ten feet of roof space for the panels. This space needs to be empty, so there shouldn’t be obstructions from a chimney or anything else. If you don’t have this amount of space, you will need to speak to your installer about your options which take up less space.
Strength of the Roof
Solar panels can be quite heavy, so if your roof is falling apart then that is the first project to start with before installing the solar panels. Many modern homes can sustain this weight which is usually up to around 300kg, but older homes may need some inspecting before installation. However, there are lighter options which require fewer panels and a lighter frame. A good option would be thin-film panels but remember that they are not as durable as the other options.
Space for the Inverter
Other than the roof space, you will need some space inside your home for the inverter. Luckily it doesn’t need much space just that it needs somewhere that it won’t be damaged. Take time to figure out where that could be but if you have an attic you don’t use then that would be the right place for it. You only need about one meter square of space.
Side Your Home Faces
To maximise the amount of sunshine that your panels are receiving, then your home needs to face the best side, which is east to west just like the sun rises. This helps especially when it is difficult to achieve the best angle for your panels. If the house faces the opposite direction, you can still get enough solar power just that the efficiency may be compromised.
If you live in the woods or an area with too many trees, you should be careful since any form of shade affects the performance of your solar panels. You should consider either cutting down some trees that are very close to your home. You should also consider the fact that the angle of the sun changes with the seasons. Therefore, if you live in a shaded place, your panels may not get enough sunlight when the sun is lower such as during winter.
It is important that even before creating a budget and looking at the options you have for solar power, you consider whether it will work for your home. Get a professional to look at all these points and give you your best options, having considered everything. This allows you to have a better chance of receiving more benefits from solar energy.
Benefits of Installing Solar Panels
You and your household can gain so much from installing solar power. If you choose to invest in a battery, you can entirely rely on solar energy for the running of your home. Some of the other advantages that you need to have in mind include:
The sun is given freely, and from it you get to generate electricity that is adequate for the operations of your home. It is also a renewable source of power which means that it will never run out and neither does it affect the environment when it is generated. The panels themselves also last years without needing disposal, and there are clear regulations on the proper ways of doing that.
Solar panels don’t have any moving parts, which is why they don’t need much support so it won’t become another bother in your life. You may need to get them professionally cleaned once in a while since buildup reduces how well they take in light. The inverter too may need replacing or fixing after a couple of years, but this is not something that should stay active in your mind. The panels will hardly ever need replacing unless there was physical damage.
Solar energy is being embraced in all parts of the world and even more in the UK. It is easy to find all the different types promptly within your area and contractors are also available. Unless you want something particular you can easily walk into a showroom and learn about your options, purchase and have it installed. Replacement parts are also easy to find so in case of emergencies and any issues it won’t be challenging to get help.
Reduces Electricity Bills
Depending on the output of your solar panels, you can make savings every year. Homes that have invested in a battery get to gain even further since they can almost entirely rely on solar electricity especially in the warmer months. Most households save an average of 30% off their power bill annually, and this can go up to 50% depending on where you live and how many kWh you get.
After all the necessary inspections and checks to ensure that your home is suitable for solar panels, the installation part is a breeze. Once you have paid for your solar panels your contractor can install the panels in a single day so you can start reaping the benefits almost immediately.
Most of the common types of panels have a warranty of at least 20 years. Some of them can go up to thirty years, so you are sure that you will make the money you spent before the warranty ends. Some of them have five to ten-year product warranty with a guarantee on power. This ensures that if the panels don’t give you the expected returns you can talk to the manufacturer for a solution.
Return on Investment
Thanks to the FIT and SEG programs, it is much easier and faster to make all the money you spent on the panels. While savings are about £100 to £230, with these systems in place the time to get back, your money is reduced almost by half. This, however, depends on whether you spend most of your days at home and whether you are willing to invest in a solar battery. In some cases, you may make all your money back especially if solar power becomes your primary source of electricity. This means that you will pay less and less on the central grid.
Suitable For Rural Areas
Those that live in very remote areas may have issues getting regular power supply. However, in such places, it is excellent when you have solar panels especially if there is sunlight in plenty. People living upcountry get to benefit the most from the panels since they don’t require much maintenance. They are also excellent for caravans and country travellers that want a constant supply of electricity.
Disadvantages of Solar Panels
Solar energy is excellent since it is renewable and friendly to everyone. However, it does have some cons that you should consider when making your calculations.
High Installation Cost
Solar panels cost at least £2000 without factoring in the price of having them installed on your roof. For a medium-sized three-bedroom house, expect to pay up to £6000 for installation which is quite high for most people. It is possible to get all your money back, but that will not take less than five years. In most cases, it takes more than 15 years to get a full return on investment, and that is a long time.
Need for a Battery
Solar panels absorb the sunlight during the day and convert this into electricity. All of this is done during the day, so if you’re not around much during the day time, then you need to buy a battery. Alternatively, you should consider selling the extra units you get although the rates are not stable and neither are they favourable. The solar battery system doesn’t come cheap, and most of them cost as much as the initial cost of buying the panels.
Use up a Lot of Space
The panels require at least 10 feet of space on the roof for installation. This is more than many smaller houses have since it needs to be entirely in the open making it inaccessible for many homes.
To know whether or no solar panels are for you; the first thing you need to do is to get your home inspected and get a quote of the different options available to you. Compare this with how much you are expected to gain to find out whether it is a worthy investment. The benefits of solar panels outweigh the cons so even though the return on investment takes a while, the little savings that you make may benefit your day-to-day life. Don’t forget to apply for SEG to increase your benefits and so you don’t waste the extra units of electricity that you gain.