Solar panel systems are great for the environment, and they’re rising in popularity with environmentally-conscious homeowners in the UK.
Able to convert the sun’s rays into energy to power home appliances, solar panels are a great option for those in sunny climates who want to make the most of the sunshine while lowering their energy bills and raising their environmentally friendly rating.
In this article, we’ll be looking at how much solar panels cost, what affects the cost of installing solar panels, how to save money on solar panel installation for your home, what’s involved in installing solar panels and how to find and hire a professional to install solar panels.
If you’re interested in the energy-saving method but aren’t sure where to start, keep reading to find out everything you need to know when it comes to solar panel costs.
How Much Do Solar Panels Cost?
The cost of solar panels for homes has fallen for many consecutive years.
Due to a large investment in solar panels from both government and private investors, there have been decreases in the cost for solar panels since 2010.
|SYSTEM SIZE||NUMBER OF SOLAR PANELS||ROOF SPACE||SUITABLE FOR||ESTIMATED COST|
|1kWp||4||8 sqm||1 adult||£1,800 to £3,000|
|2kWp||8||14 sqm||2 adults||£2,700 to £5,300|
|3kWp||12||21 sqm||Family of 3||£4,500 to £6,200|
|4kWp||16||28 sqm||Family of 4 or more||£5,700 to £8,300|
|5kWp||20||32 sqm||Family of 4 or more||£6,700 to £9,000|
|6kWp||24||43 sqm||Family of 4 or more||£10,000 and up|
For a system size of 1kWp, suitable for a home with one adult and comprising four solar panels, you can expect to pay between £1,800 to £3,000 for the system, needing 8 sqm of roof space.
2kWp, suitable for two adults and comprising eight solar panels comes in at between £2,700 to £5,300, requiring 14 sqm of roof space.
For a family of three, with a 3kWp system size of 12 solar panels, the cost will be between £4,500 to £6,200, needing 21 sqm of roof space.
A family of four or more, with a system of 4kWp and 16 solar panels will be £5,700 to £8,300, based on 28 sqm of roof space.
For the same family unit size, but with a 5kWp system, it’ll be between £6,700 to £9,000, taking up 32 sqm of the roof.
Finally, a four-person family unit with a system output of 6kWp and 24 solar panels will start at £10,000 and rise depending on your circumstances, requiring 43 sqm of roof space.
What Affects the Cost of Installing Solar Panels?
It can be an expensive job on the surface, but you have to remember that whatever cost you put down initially will be recuperated in your energy bills further down the line. Here are some factors that will impact the cost of installing solar panels on your property:
Amount of Solar Panels
The more solar panels you need, the higher the cost – this is something that won’t change, but you can help to reduce the fee slightly by being savvy with who you choose as your supplier, as well as your trader.
To optimise the panels you have, make sure they’re on the most southerly-facing roof available, and in an unshaded space. If necessary, cut back nearby trees if they’re encroaching on the available sunlight as this will impact the amount of energy you’re able to capture on your panels.
Size of Property
You can’t change the size of your property, but it will have an impact on the price you pay for your solar panel installation.
As shown in the table above, you’ll need more panels to power your four-person home as opposed to a one-person home.
Another non-negotiable is your geographical location. Fees for the same job in more rural locations will be less than those in city centres or capitals.
If you have no available parking at your property, or the roadside parking is permit holders only, make sure you have this sorted before your traders turn up to save yourself from a hefty parking fine on top of everything else.
National vs. Local Fitter
As with all home renovation jobs, where possible, opt for the local business as they’ll likely be cheaper than the national company.
This is because local fitters have to be more competitive with their pricing to get business while relying on word-of-mouth and good reviews to bolster their company, rather than the national who can fall back on high-priced advertising schemes and call centres to garner interest and business on their behalf.
Although you may need to wait a little longer than if you chose a national company with lots of traders, you will be rewarded with a smaller fee, which is important when looking at big jobs like solar panel installation.
How Can I Save Money on Solar Panels for My Home?
Solar panels can seem like an expensive endeavour, but there are some factors to be aware of that can help to bring costs down, as well as a few savvy tricks.
To optimise the collection of energy, you’ll ideally want a south-facing roof surface to place your solar panels on. Specifically, you’ll reap the most benefits from solar PV panels if your home has a south-facing roof that gets direct sunlight from 10 AM to 4 PM.
Using Land As Well As Roofs
You can find solar panels not only on the roofs of people’s houses but also on the roofs of large factories, office complexes, shopping centres, and more.
Perhaps the most surprising solar panel takeover has been the installation of vast farms on what used to be farmland because the subsidies that were previously available for solar panels made it more profitable than growing wheat or grazing cattle.
For homeowners whose system was installed from 1st April 2019 onwards, the current major financial benefit you will see is an ongoing and significant reduction in the amount you pay to your electricity company.
Within the UK, the more northerly your home is, the less sunshine it’ll experience – while the more southerly your home is, the more sunshine it’ll experience.
It’s good to bear these factors in mind when thinking about having solar panels installed as it’ll have an impact on the amount of energy you’ll be able to collect, and therefore impact any expected gains from the solar energy.
What’s Involved in Installing Solar Panels?
Once all the groundwork is done and you and your trader are sure that solar panels are permitted in your area and a good source of energy for your home, work can start on getting them installed.
Safe Working at Height
Scaffolding will be needed in most cases to reach hard-to-access areas on your property. This will be the first step in installing your solar panels.
Your trader will then set up the solar panel mounts – which is the structure on which your solar panels will rest.
Fitting these mounts is a fine art, and they should be tilted to an angle of between 18 to 36 degrees to get optimal sun exposure.
Install Panels and Wire
Once the mounts are in place, the panels can then be affixed to the structure. These will then be wired.
Install Inverter and Battery
The inverter is an essential part of solar panel installation – it converts direct current (DC) into alternating current (AC) which is the correct current needed to run most household appliances.
The solar battery will also be installed and hooked up, to let you store the energy captured by the sun and then use it at a later date.
Connection and Testing
Finally, your solar panel inverter will be hooked up to your household unit, and then the solar panels can be tested to make sure they’re working and capturing energy, to then be converted by the inverter and properly interpreted by your household appliances as the right currency.
It goes without saying: all of this needs to be undertaken by a professional as there is a high risk with working with currents and electrical components at height.
How Do I Find and Hire a Professional?
The most important point when looking to install solar panels is to make sure you work with an MCS-certified professional when planning the right system for your property.
The best way to do this is to search the directory of the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) for suitable traders to work on your project for you.
Similarly, asking friends, family and neighbours for recommendations if they’ve had solar panels installed recently can be a great way to get word-of-mouth recommendations – and it’ll also help to weed out any bad traders if they come with a bad report from one of your acquaintances.
If no one around you has had work done of a similar nature, you can look on HouseholdQuotes to find reputable traders in your area at highly competitive prices – some coming in at 40% less than the industry average.
Ensuring the Professional Is the Right Fit
The first thing you should ask any trader is for a written quote. This will stop any quibbles happening at the end of the project when all you want to do is pay your bill and move on – and most importantly, not foot any unexpected extra charges.
It’s a tell-tale sign of a rogue trader if they refuse to give you a written quote, so it’s always best to walk away from them if they refuse to give you one – no matter how good their price might be!
Next up, you’ll want to find out their experience and the past jobs they’ve worked on. Solar panels are expensive to install and purchase, so you want to take your time to make sure you’re getting a good trader with knowledge.
Ask to see their references from past customers, as well as any photos or videos, as their website can easily say one thing, but the proof of their work will always be in their actual finished form.
Finally, it’s good to check that they have relevant insurance before agreeing to go ahead with a trader, as you want to make sure they’re covered if something goes wrong during the job. Similarly, it’s good to find out if the panels have a manufacturer’s guarantee to cover you for minor repairs during their lifetime.
If you want to explore renewable power while being environmentally friendly, solar panels are a great way to go. Here’s what to remember when you start to look at your project:
- Make sure your home is eligible by checking in with a professional to assess the area
- Similarly, check with the local council for any required planning permission to save you from wasting money on something that might end up having to be removed
- Check the sunlight on your roof – if there are nearby trees that cast a shadow on the roof side you want to use, look at cutting them back or reducing their mass to ensure your roof gets the optimal amount of sunshine as this will impact the effectiveness of your solar panels
- Ensure your trader is registered on the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) to make them eligible for the work in hand
- Use HouseholdQuotes to find a suitable trader, and look to save you up to 40% on your project fee
- Enjoy your newfound source of energy for your home!
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I Need Planning Permission or Building Regs Approval to Install Solar Panels?
In most cases, solar panel installation will fall under permitted development – but it is always best to check with the local council first and to not assume this as fact to prevent you from making costly mistakes, or having to remove all your panels after installation if you later find out that they’re not permitted.
How Many Solar Panels Do I Need for My Home?
Most residential properties have between twelve and sixteen solar panels fitted to their roofs, meaning that the range of costs you should expect to pay is from £4,750 to £8,350.
Most modern panels can generate between 400 to 450 kWh of power, occupying a space around 4m2 in size per panel.
The more panels you fit on your roof, the higher the cost of installation – but, at the same time, the amount of electricity you’ll generate will increase, providing a deeper discount on the average size of electricity bill you’d be expecting from your energy supplier.
What Is the Smart Export Guarantee?
In the increasing drive to become green, the Smart Export Guarantee offers under-pressure electricity firms a chance to increase their production capacity by buying electricity from consumers, rather than by building power stations.
The main difference between the old export levy and the new Smart Export Guarantee was that electricity companies would now be free to bid for your surplus electricity, rather than pay homeowners a mandated amount set by the government.
When the scheme was first mooted, the fear was that even introducing a competitive bidding environment between electricity suppliers would not force the price they paid up to the old levels that homeowners enjoyed under the Feed In Tariff scheme – and those fears proved correct.
In June 2019, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) published the guidelines for the new Smart Export Guarantee which come into force from the 1st January 2020.
Under the Guarantee, any electricity supplier with more than 150,000 domestic customers must offer at least one export tariff to purchase homeowners’ surplus energy. No minimum price has been set by the government for what a supplier’s export tariff should be, but it must be offered to domestic generators of electricity capacity of up to 5MW.
As with the Feed In Tariff scheme, homeowners must use a Microgeneration Certification Scheme-registered installer to complete the work and that company must register the installation with the government for it to qualify.
How Do You Clean Solar Panels?
Solar panel systems are designed to be low maintenance – which is good news for homeowners with solar panels installed!
Some companies will offer to maintain your solar panel system for a fixed fee every year – normally one or two hundred pounds. If your solar panel system breaks – a very rare occurrence – you will be covered by your manufacturer’s warranty.
If you’re cleaning them yourself, don’t use any harsh chemicals as they will damage the surface of the panel. It’s best to use biodegradable soap and a soft cloth to remove any build-up of debris while keeping the panel in good working condition.
Do I Need a Smart Meter?
It’s good practice to have a smart meter installed so you know how much energy your solar panels are producing versus how much energy you’re using. It’s important to let your supplier know that you have solar panels so they can give you a metre compatible with that energy source.
You’ll also need a smart meter if you want to take advantage of the smart export scheme.
Is It Harder to Sell a House With Solar Panels?
As solar panel technology improves, there is a genuine chance that many homeowners will become either completely energy self-sufficient or the electricity they draw from the grid is so minimal that, essentially, they get their electricity for free.
You will doubtless have seen some of the major advances in electric cars in the last few years. Those advances have happened because of breakthroughs in the capacity of batteries which are now capable of storing much more energy than previously.
While the Smart Export Guarantee sounds attractive, electricity companies will buy the spare electricity you produce at a wholesale rate from you and then sell it to other homeowners at a retail rate. The real potential comes by attaching a battery to store the electricity your solar panels generate during off-peak hours and then using that power during those times when it is more expensive to buy electricity.
For these reasons, it’s not hard to sell the benefits of solar panels onto new homeowners – it’ll likely just be an adjustment they’ll have to get used to, like having LPG instead of mains gas. The real dividends come in the reduction they’ll pay in energy bills, which make them very appealing for home-buyers.