Home Money What’s the cheapest way to get solar panels installed… and is it only worth doing on a south facing roof?

What’s the cheapest way to get solar panels installed… and is it only worth doing on a south facing roof?

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What's the cheapest way to get solar panels installed… and is it only worth doing on a south facing roof?

When it comes to adding green technology upgrades to their properties, more often than not the first port of call for homeowners is solar panels.

Homes across the country have been equipped with photovoltaic cells and there is little sign that their use will stop.

In fact, solar panel installations have reached a seven-year high, with 161,494 panels installed in homes in 2023, an increase of 44.6 percent from the previous year.

Since 2010, the cost of solar panels has fallen massively, meaning the technology is more accessible than ever.

When installed on roofs facing southwest or southeast, the solar panels only lost 15 percent of their efficiency.

However, despite its apparent popularity, only just over four per cent of the UK’s 29 million homes have been fitted with solar technology.

We spoke to two green energy experts to clarify whether it is worth investing in solar panels.

How do solar panels work?

Solar panels take advantage of the sun’s radiation and convert it into electricity through a process called the photovoltaic effect.

“When sunlight hits the silicon (panels),” Scott Duncan, director of solar and storage at OVO, told This is Money, “it causes the electrons inside them to start moving; this movement creates electricity in the form of of direct current”. which is then converted into alternating current.

“It is this AC electricity that can be used to power our homes.”

Solar thermal systems can also be used to supply hot water to your home, even on a cold day.

Using the sun’s light radiation as an energy source reduces our dependence on non-renewable energy sources and can save you hundreds of dollars on your energy bills in the long run.

Has technology improved in recent years?

“The efficiency of solar energy has improved significantly over the last decade,” according to Duncan.

He said: “In just over a decade, the average efficiency of solar cells has increased from 15 per cent to 22 per cent, representing a huge jump in potential energy bill savings.”

Scott Duncan says an increasing number of homebuyers are considering green homes

Scott Duncan says an increasing number of homebuyers are considering green homes

Scott Duncan says an increasing number of homebuyers are considering green homes

Improvements in solar cells have come in the form of improved designs, more efficient materials, and better manufacturing processes.

Simkins added: “Battery energy storage is currently equipped in the vast majority of installations, allowing solar energy to be used whenever necessary.”

Duncan agreed, noting that battery costs fell 14 percent in 2023.

“More and more customers are choosing a battery with their solar panels; without it, the electricity is either used to generate it or exported back to the grid,” he said.

‘Adding a battery will mean increasing the cost of your installation, but it means you can store energy and use it later when you need it most.

“So if you’re at work during the day, you’ll be able to benefit from your panels when you’re home at night.”

I don’t have a south facing roof, does that matter?

In short, no.

Over the course of a day, a south-facing roof will receive the most sunlight, meaning solar panels mounted facing south will be most effective at producing energy.

However, roofs equipped with east- or west-facing panels can also efficiently generate energy from the sun.

“Given how much prices have fallen over the last decade, combined with the high cost of energy, there is an argument for simply putting as many solar panels on the roof as possible,” said Gareth Simkins, senior communications advisor at Solar EnergyUK. This is money.

In fact, while the most effective location for solar panels is on a 41-degree slope on a south-facing unshaded roof, Duncan said southwest- and southeast-facing roofs will only lose about 15 percent in efficiency compared to solar panels. with those who look towards the south. directly south.

“Any decent surveyor should be able to explain to you how orientation, both vertical and from the south, will affect the performance of a solar panel on your roof,” Duncan added.

What about feed-in tariffs?

The feed-in tariff initiative, which allowed those with solar panels to sell the green energy they produced to the National Grid, was scrapped by the Government in 2019.

Under the plan, all energy providers paid a fixed rate for the energy that solar users exported to the grid.

Those who enrolled before the closure will continue to be entitled to their 20 years of payments under the plan.

Despite the end of the scheme, Simkin’s said: “Solar energy remains a great prospect for the consumer, largely due to the savings it offers compared to purchasing energy from the grid.”

However, with the removal of the FiT scheme came the introduction of the Smart Export Guarantee.

This guarantee offers solar users rewards based on the amount of energy they export to the grid, with rates that vary depending on their energy provider.

According to Duncan, almost half of people don’t know that they can still make money selling energy to the grid.

What is the cheapest way to finance them?

While it is sure to reduce your energy costs in the long term, solar energy is not cheap and the costs involved make the greener option inaccessible to many.

On average, the panels will cost you £5,875, according to Barrows and Forrester.

However, recently UK suppliers have made financing plans available which can help you spread the cost of installation.

Gareth Simkins says solar panels can help future-proof your home

Gareth Simkins says solar panels can help future-proof your home

Gareth Simkins says solar panels can help future-proof your home

‘Paying for a solar installation through financing is common in the US and the continent, but historically has not been common in the UK.

“Otovo and Sunsave are among those now offering it,” Simkins said.

Similarly, Ovo’s Duncan highlights the provider’s zero percent financing plan, which allows customers to spread the cost of installation over three years.

A group purchasing scheme offered by Solar Together, which is supported by several councils, can also reduce costs by offering groups of residents more competitive installation prices.

When looking to reduce costs, you may prefer a cheaper installation quote.

It’s important, Simkins told This is Money, to avoid cowboy dealers by ensuring “that your installer is registered with (standards body) MCS.”

“MCS ensures installers receive proper training and only use products approved for safety and performance,” he said.

Are there grants available?

Low-income households may be eligible for government grants, and the ECO4 scheme offers government funding for green home improvements.

The scheme is open to people whose property has an EPC rating of D, E, F or G.

However, applications are not accepted for band D properties as energy companies can only spend 15 per cent of their funding on these homes.

The Home Improvement Grant is also available to homeowners in England who do not use a gas boiler as their main heating system and whose home also has an EPC rating between D and G.

Is it essential to have a smart meter with them?

The good news for those who prefer to avoid smart meters is that you don’t need to install a smart meter to have solar panels, although you may need one to qualify for the SEG tariffs offered by energy providers.

“It would be sensible to get one,” Simkins told This is Money.

“They help you track panel performance and make informed decisions about your energy use.”

Will they add value to my home?

Installing solar panels could add around £11,500 to the value of your home, according to Barrows and Forrester, netting you a hefty profit of around double your initial investment while reducing your energy bills.

Simkins backed this up, adding that “research for his solar property value report found that a solar installation increases the sales price of a home by more than half the cost of installing it in the first place, even before it is installed.” consider reductions in operating costs.” ‘

‘They also help future-proof a home by providing energy for electric heating and vehicle charging. For new homes, they are increasingly a consumer expectation and are expected to be mandatory under the Future Homes Standard.’

Duncan added: “Ovo data also shows that more and more potential buyers are prioritizing green technology installations in their search for a home, meaning there has never been a better time to invest in green technologies such as solar panels. solar”.

Is it worth having solar panels?

The cost involved in installing solar panels may make you think twice, but for many, the outlay will be recouped over time.

On average, a house will consume 2,700 kWh of energy over the course of a year, according to experts, which would be more than covered by the 3,180 kWh that 12 solar panels installed in your house would produce, leaving you with an excess. sell back to the network through the SEG scheme.

But it all depends on how suitable your house is for installing solar panels.

The growing popularity of green retrofitting suggests that an increasing number of people are taking advantage of technology to reduce their energy expenses, possibly due to the high cost of energy in winter 2022/23.

Simkins adds: ‘Over a million solar homes can’t be wrong. According to standards body MCS, almost 190,000 small-scale rooftop installations were carried out last year, which is a record after the subsidy,” he said.

“As installation costs continue to fall and more options emerge to make the initial investment more affordable, rooftop solar panels are a more attractive option than ever as a renewable energy solution in the UK,” Duncan added.

Have you had solar panels installed in recent years? Tell us your experience, good and bad. Or are you tempted but have questions about installation? Get in touch: editor@thisismoney.co.uk

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