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Are solar panels worth it?

Are solar panels worth it?Image source: Getty Images

Solar panels are increasingly popular with households looking for a green energy solution. But are solar panels worth the investment? Well, it depends. Here’s the lowdown on what you should know.

How do solar panels work?

Solar panels contain photovoltaic cells, or “PV” cells for short. These little cells absorb the sun’s energy and turn it into power for your home or business.

  • Solar panels work even when it’s cloudy because they absorb daylight, not ‘sunshine’. They work better on sunny days, though.
  • They work year-round because it doesn’t matter if it’s warm or not – just so long as there’s daylight.

So, if solar panels don’t produce energy at night, how do you get electricity after sunset? Well, you have a few options.

  • Solar batteries store up any energy you don’t use during the day to power your home at night.
  • By staying connected to the national power grid, you can still access electricity when you need it.

The panels are usually low-maintenance, too. All they need is an occasional clean to remove debris.

Can anyone get solar panels?

Well, they work best if you have a south-facing roof and it’s not shaded during the day. You’ll also need some loft space for the inverter and an angled roof (although you can get mounts for flat roofs).

  • You’ll probably need planning permission if you live in a listed building or a conservation area. You should be okay otherwise, but it’s always wise to double-check.
  • Older roofs may not be strong enough to hold the panels. Your installer can advise you on this.

You can’t get solar panels if you rent the property (unless your landlord agrees), and they’re usually not right for ground or mid-storey flats.

How many panels do I need?

The number of panels required varies by household. The best way to find out for sure how many panels you need is by asking an installer. The decision is usually based on three things:

  1. How many people live in your house
  2. Your typical electricity usage
  3. The size of your property (i.e. how much roof space is available)

Generally speaking, the bigger the household, the more energy you use, so the more panels you’ll need. For example, a three-bedroom household will probably need 25 or more panels.

How much do they cost?

The cost depends on how many panels you need.

According to Solar Guide, the average installation costs between £5,000 and £7,000, and you can install panels on a three-bedroom house for around £6,000. However, if you’re running a smaller home with lower energy needs, the cost will be lower.

Shop around for the best energy tariff and solar panel installation quote before you commit to a deal.

What are the benefits of solar energy?

If you’re still not sure whether solar panels are worth it, here are some of the potential benefits to consider.

  • Some homebuyers will see solar panels as a major selling point, so getting them could help you sell your home in the future.
  • On average, you can save around £270 per year on electricity if you use solar panels. So although you’re paying a lot upfront, the panels are energy-efficient.
  • Thanks to the smart export guarantee (SEG), you can get money back for any energy you generate but divert to the national grid. So, if you’ve got surplus energy, you could get paid for it. You need approved panels and a smart meter to take advantage of the scheme, though.

Are solar panels worth it?

The bottom line? It all comes down to your energy consumption and personal finances. If you can afford the upfront cost, solar panels could save you money in the long term.

They could also increase your home value if you decide to sell your property because many buyers are keen to find green energy solutions. However, there’s no guarantee that solar panels will actually save you money, and they’re not suitable for every household.

They’re not the only way to save money on energy bills – even simple tricks like switching to energy-efficient lightbulbs and turning down the heating can help.

One final thing: if you do opt for solar panels, choose a company registered with the Renewable Energy Consumer Code (RECC).

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