Why install solar panels?
As fuel bills rise, the recession bites and climate change accelerates, it’s becoming even more important for us all to clean up our energy use. Installing solar panels in your home is a great way to reduce your household carbon emissions as well as save money on your fuel bills. There are two types of solar panels to choose from:
1) Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, which convert the sun’s energy into electricity.
2) Solar thermal panels, which utilise energy from the sun for heating household water.
The benefits of installing solar panels include:
- Reduced fuel bills – installing solar panels can save you as much as £180 a year off your fuel bills
- Lower household carbon emissions – save an average of one tonne of C02 per year when you install a PV system or up to 510kg with solar thermal panels
- Earn money through government schemes – you could make as much as £400 per year through the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) with solar thermal panels or up to £570 when you install PV through the Feed-in Tariff (FIT) scheme
- Low maintenance costs – solar panels are often referred to as a ‘fit and forget’ technology as they don’t require much maintenance, unlike traditional heating systems. The Energy Saving Trust (EST) recommend having your solar panel system checked out every three to five years
Solar panels UK demand
Solar panel prices
The cost of solar panels will vary depending on:
- Whether you are fitting PV or thermal panels
- The location of your property
- The size of your solar panel system
- Whether you choose to install solar tiles, slates or a standalone unit
PV solar panel costs
In a PV system, cells made up of layers of a silicone-like material are attached to exterior walls or the roof. Light from the sun is converted into electricity to be used in the home;
The EST put the average cost of a PV system at £10,000 – this price will vary depending on size and type. More specific prices from the Ideal Home Group are detailed below:
- A 3 kilowatt (kw) solar PV panel system costs between £5,500 and £6,500
- A 4kw solar PV panel system costs between £7,500 and £8,200
Get more solar PV panel prices.
Solar thermal panel costs
Solar thermal panels are the cheaper option – the Solar Trade Association (STA) say that there are over 100,000 solar systems in the UK already, making them a popular option. If you choose to install solar thermal panels you’ll need a water cylinder; most systems can be connected to your own boiler or immersion heater.
The EST put the average price of a solar thermal system at £4,800, but:
- Solar thermal panels can be found for as little as £1,000
- Larger systems can cost up to £8,000
Get more information on solar thermal panel prices.
Cheapest solar panel prices
The initial cost of installing solar panels can be daunting, however, cheaper prices are available if you limit the size of your system and shop around at the cheaper manufacturers/installers. Here are some of the cheapest solar panel prices:
- DIY solar panel kits are a cheaper alternative, typically costing between £180 and £600
- The cheapest solar thermal panel systems cost around £5,500
Get more information and compare the cheapest solar panel prices.
Solar panel installation costs
You should remember to factor in installation costs as well as the cost of the solar panels when budgeting. Installation costs will vary considerable depending on:
- The size of the solar panel system and therefore how long it will take to install
- Where you live – installation costs are typically more expensive in cities
- What kind of company you hire – a well established solar installer may be more expensive than an independent company
- Hiring an installer from the manufacturer may also save you money
On average it can cost between £3,000 and £3,500 for solar panel installation per kilowatt peak (kWp) installed. Get more information on the costs of installing solar panels.
The cost of solar panels for your home
Domestic solar panel installation will obviously cost less than commercial solar panel installation and there are additional benefits and incentives for homeowners such as £300 grants toward the cost of installing solar thermal panels.
According to the STA, solar thermal panels could provide a family of four with between 40 and 65% of their hot water needs per year. An average solar PV system can generate around three quarters of a typical household’s annual electricity needs.
- The average cost of a typical home PV system is £10,000
- The average cost of a home solar thermal system is £4,800
Get more information on home solar panel costs.
Solar panel fuel savings
Installing a solar PV system can save you between £90 and £180 per year on your electricity bills while installing solar thermal panels will save around £55 to £80 per year. Get more information on exactly how much money solar panels can save you.
Planning permission for solar panels
If you live in England and Wales you won’t generally need to apply for planning permission to install solar panels as long as you follow these guidelines:
Roof and wall mounted solar panels
- Should not project more than 200 millimetres from the surface of your roof or wall
- Must not be installed above the ridgeline of the roof
- If fitted to a garden building, solar panels should not be visible from a highway
- You must get listed building consent to install roof or wall mounted solar panels if you live in a listed building
- When installing wall mounted solar panels which are visible from a highway, you will need to get planning consent if you live in a conservation area or a world heritage site
Standalone solar panels
- Must be no higher than four metres
- Should be placed at least five metres from the boundaries of your property
- Should not be installed in the boundary of a listed building
- Must be no more than nine square metres or three metres wide by three metres deep
- Should not be visible from a highway when installed in a conservation area or world heritage site
- You must not install more than one standalone solar panel in your property
If you live in a listed building or conservation area you should check with your local building authority before you install solar panels.
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