Frequently Asked Questions About Solar Panels

This article was updated on 9th January 2019

Solar has become the most favoured source of renewable energy, with more homeowners than ever before choosing to generate their own solar electricity.

For many considering solar panels, there are several questions that need answering before making the investment. We’ve answered 16 frequently asked questions about solar panels, from how much solar panels cost to how well the technology works on a cloudy day, to help you find out if solar is the right source of renewable energy for your home.

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1. What is solar electricity?

Solar electricity is electricity that’s generated through the use of solar photovoltaic (PV) technology. Solar PV panels are used to capture the sun’s free and clean renewable energy, turning it into electricity.

2. How does a solar PV system work?

Solar PV systems feature an array of cells which contain a solar PV material that can convert radiation from the sun into direct current (DC) electricity. The electricity that is generated can be used to provide power for lighting and electrical equipment around the home.

3. How many solar panels will my home need?

The more solar panels you have installed, the more energy they’ll be able to generate for your home. The number of solar panels you’ll need will depend on your energy usage, the number of people in your home and the size of your property. Smaller homes might need a 1kW system, with roof space for 8+ square metres of solar panels, while higher demand can be met with a 4kW system, but that would need 25+ square metres of space on your roof.

Solar system size Roof space needed (in square meters)
1kW 8+
2kW 12+
3kW 20+
4kW 25+

4. How does solar benefit the environment?

Well, for starters it’s a renewable source of energy, so unlike coal it won’t run out. Plus solar energy is environmentally friendly because it doesn’t generate green house gases. Renewable energy technologies will help you reduce your carbon footprint, meaning you’ll personally be doing your bit for the environment.

5. What is a solar battery?

More often that not, solar panels are generating more energy that can be used around the home at any one time. All the excess energy is then sent to the electricity grid, meaning that you’re losing out on energy being generated by your panels. By including a solar battery as part of your solar PV system, you can hold onto the unused energy to use during the night when your solar panels aren’t generating any energy.

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6. How much do solar panels cost?

The cost of a solar panel system will vary depending on several factors, such as how many panels are needed, so it’s tough to give an exact price but on the whole, solar panels are around 70% cheaper than they were in 2010.

Most homes will need 12-16 panels to meet their energy needs. With an average home of 3 people needing a 3kWh system of 12 solar panels, with a total cost of £5,000 – £6,000. Typically, the cost of a solar system will range from around £2,000 for smaller homes up to £9,000 for larger homes.

Find out more about how much you can expect to pay with our guide to how much solar panels cost in the UK.

7. How much does the installation of solar panels cost?

In addition to the price of the solar panels, you’ll need to consider the installation too. The price of the installation will vary from installer to installer, so it’s a good idea to compare multiple quotes, which will give you the greatest chance of getting the best possible deal.

By taking a few minutes to complete our online form, we will match your needs with installers in your area who will each be in touch to provide a free quote. You’ll get up to 4 free no-obligation quotes, which you can then compare to find the best installer for your solar PV installation.

8. Which manufacturer is making the best solar panels?

As the solar market has grown, the number of solar manufacturers has increased. This gives you great variety and choice but can also make your decision-making that bit harder. When looking into the best solar panel manufacturers, we found that LG were currently manufacturing the best solar panels in the UK.

9. What are the benefits of solar?

Well, there’s the reductions you are going to make on your fuel bills for starters, because generating your own electricity will help reduced those costs considerably.

  • Reduced electricity bills: a 2.8 kWp system should be able to generate around 35% of an average household's annual electricity needs.
  • Lower carbon emissions: solar panels don’t produce any carbon emissions, which will help to greatly reduce the impact your home has on the environment.
  • No running costs: once installed, you won’t have to worry about any operating costs as they create free renewable energy for your home.
  • Low maintenance: other than making sure the panels are getting enough light (make sure they’re not being obstructed) there’s not a lot else to worry about.
  • Charge an electric car for free: reduce your fuelling costs if you have an electric vehicle.

10. Could you really charge an electric car for free using solar energy?

If you have an electric car, or are considering one, being able to charge it for free, reducing your fuel costs and impact on the planet, is possibly the biggest benefit on offer. Planning to power your home and electric car with solar energy will require a larger solar PV system, so it’s worth mentioning this to your installer.

11. Do solar panels still work on cloudy days?

Absolutely! It’s actually radiation from the sun, rather than temperature, heat or direct sunlight, that enables solar PV panels to generate electricity.

Solar panels in hot sunny countries are bound to gather more energy, but don’t be fooled into thinking that they won’t work well in the UK. They don’t need constant direct sunlight to work and can still generate electricity when the weather is cloudy. Don’t forget either that Germany is currently the world leader in solar energy generation – not exactly a country well known for its abundance of sun!

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12. What’s the difference between solar PV and solar thermal?

Solar PV panels are used to generate electricity, whereas solar thermal – also known as a solar hot water system – is used to provide domestic hot water around the home.

13. Do solar panels need much maintenance?

Once your solar panels have been installed, the installer should leave you with details of the maintenance checks that you’ll need to do from time to time but, on the whole, solar panel maintenance is fairly minimal.

14. What are bifacial solar panels?

Bifacial solar panels not only generate energy from the side facing the light but the back too, which makes them able to deliver your home with more energy than a conventional solar panel.

15. What is the Feed-in Tariff?

The Feed-in Tariff came to an end in March 2019 but it was a scheme the Government introduced to reward those generating their own electricity with solar panels with 20-25 years worth of payments. Originally set at a rate of 43.3p per kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity generated, this was gradually reduced to 3.47p and in March 2019 the scheme closed to new applications.

16. Is it worth investing in solar?

There’s no doubt about it; solar PV panels are the most popular type of renewable energy with homeowners. Over 500,000 UK homes already have solar PV panels and the numbers are continuing to grow. Solar panel costs have dropped dramatically, so there’s really never been a better time to invest. The benefits too are impossible to ignore: lower energy bills, a reduction in carbon emissions and potentially increase the value of your home.

Get Free Solar Panel Installation Quotes

Hopefully your solar panel questions have been answered and if you’re ready to invest in solar then you can get free solar panel installation quotes from installers in your area with Solar Guide. Simply take a few minutes to complete our online form and you’ll then be contacted by up to 4 installers, each ready to provide a free no-obligation quote.

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