Are Solar Panels Worth It?

Questioning solar

While there are many benefits to installing solar panels, including reduced energy bills and a lower carbon footprint, the initial costs and closure of the Feed-in Tariff has put their value into question.

So, are solar panels worth it? We’ve weighed up the pros and cons of solar panels to help you find out if they’re the right renewable energy system for you.


 
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What are solar panels?

Solar panels are a renewable energy system that generate energy from solar radiation that travels down from the sun.

There are 2 types of solar panels: solar PV and solar thermal. A solar PV system converts the solar energy into electricity, while solar thermal panels heat the water stored in a cylinder.

Benefits of solar panels

A major benefit of solar panels is that they’re a renewable energy system relying on the sun’s energy, which will never run out, unlike gas and oil, supplies of which are already running low.

There are countless benefits to having solar panels installed but here are 7 of the biggest benefits:

  • Lower energy bills
  • Reduce the carbon footprint of your property
  • Add a solar battery for even less reliance on your energy supplier
  • Recharge an electric car (EV) at home for free
  • Zero running costs and extremely low maintenance
  • Modern solar panels are more efficient than ever
  • Prices have dropped by over 60% since 2010

As well as the existing benefits, the technology is advancing to make sure that the list of benefits continues to grow.

One such advancement in technology is the solar-plus-storage-plus EV charging solution from Moixa. This software learns consumption patterns in a household and compares them with local weather forecasts to construct an EV charging plan. This will effectively allow homeowners to charge a car’s battery at the peak time for effective generation.


 
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How much do solar panels cost?

Solar panels are currently available at their cheapest with the price tag having dropped by over 60% since 2010. For the average sized residential home, the panels will typically cost £6,000 – £7,000 with the exact price of a solar panel system depending on several factors:

  • Manufacturer
  • Number of panels being installed
  • Type of solar panels (PV or thermal)
  • Size of the solar panels
  • Complexity of the installation
  • Rates of the installer

Take a look at our article on How Much Does it Cost to Install Solar Panels in the UK? to find out how much you will need to budget.

How long do solar panels last?

There’s a common misconception that solar panels last for around 10 years but in reality they can actually generate clean renewable energy for 20-25 years. Some models can even go beyond 25 years.

So, while the initial investment might feel like a lot, there’s plenty of time to start seeing a return on that investment through reduced energy bills.

Solar panels payback time

With solar panels being at their lowest since 2010, the payback time isn’t as long as it once might have been. Having said that, the Feed-in Tariff, a government scheme that rewarded those who invested in solar panels with quarterly payments, was closed in April 2018 but that still doesn’t mean you can’t see a return.

The payback time will vary depending on multiple factors:

  • Price of the solar panels and installation
  • Daytime electricity rate
  • Panel degradation
  • Location of your property
  • Direction the solar panels face

For a 3kW solar PV system, we calculated that the solar payback time for a property in London would be 11 years 4 months, while properties up in Glasgow could expect to start seeing a return after around 12 years and 5 months. Once you’ve made back your investment in solar panels, you will potentially begin to turn a profit of potentially £230 – £950.

While the Feed-in Tariff might have closed, the scheme is set to be replaced by the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) from 2020 which would shorten the solar panel payback time further.

Use our solar payback calculator to find out how long it might take for you to see a return on your investment in solar.

Best solar panels

When it comes to finding the right solar panels for your home, there’s an ever increasing number of manufacturers and models to choose from. Each have different efficiencies, outputs and warranties, which makes comparing them highly important.

Manufacturer Highest Efficiency Available Power Outputs (W) Product Warranty Power Warranty
LG 21.4% 325 – 395 25 years 25 years
Panasonic 19.7% 245 – 325 25 years 25 years
Canadian Solar 19.89% 270 – 410 10 years 25 – 30 years
Sharp 20% 256 – 360 10 years 25 years
SolarWorld 17.89% 280 – 300 20 years 25 – 30 years
Yingli Solar 19.1% 270 – 370 10 years 25 years

When we compared the best solar panels, LG came out on top.


 
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Solar PV or solar thermal?

A solar thermal system is only an option if you have a hot water cylinder so if you have a combi boiler that provides instant hot water, solar thermal isn’t an option.

Like solar PV panels, solar thermal panels are installed on the roof where they can harness the most sunlight. These panels contain a fluid that gets heated by the sun before travelling down to the hot water cylinder where the heat is transferred to the water in the cylinder via a coil.

For the average family of 4, solar thermal panels can provide between 40-70% of the hot water over the course of a year.

One benefit that a solar PV system has over solar thermal is that the excess energy can be stored in a solar battery for use during the evening and night once the sun has gone down.

What is a solar battery?

More often than not, solar PV panels are generating more electricity than can be used at any one time. This excess energy is then sent to the National Grid unless you have a solar battery.

Solar batteries store the unused electricity generated by the panels for use in the evening when the panels aren’t generating renewable energy. Adding a solar battery reduces reliance on your energy supplier even further and is a valuable addition to any solar PV system.

The amount of energy a solar battery is able to store will depend on the model and prices can range from £500 right up to £10,000.

So , are solar panels worth it?

In short, yes. Despite the closure of the Feed-in Tariff, solar panels are still well worth investing in, especially if you fit into one of more of these 3 categories:

  • Want to lower your energy bills
  • Looking to reduce the impact your property is having on the environment
  • You own an electric car (EV)

Solar panels will help to make your home more efficient, reduce your energy bills and the introduction of the Smart Export Guarantee will help to shorten solar payback time.

Need more guidance? We can match you with local solar panel installers who can give their expert opinion on whether a solar PV system is worth it for your home.

Simply complete our online form to get free quotes from solar installers based near you.


 
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