People often think that the UK has a gloomy, cold and wet climate. And, this is true in some areas for most of the year. So why do we rank fourth in Europe for installation of solar photovoltaic systems? In fact, the UK installs photovoltaic (PV) panels faster than any other European country. The answer is that clouds and wind don’t make any difference to the amount of electricity produced. In fact, a cool climate can help solar panels operate more efficiently.
The main reason for the rise in popularity of solar panels has a lot to do with the cost of energy in the UK. The panels carry an initial outlay when they are first installed. But afterwards, they will produce electricity for the rest of their very long lives. Panels cost less to build and are more efficient than before because of advances in photovoltaic technology. So the net cost of solar power is actually decreasing and by 2030, solar will cost less than fossil fuels.
You can now see panels not only on private houses but also on schools, churches, farms, and even traffic signs. This is due to a combination of cheap installation costs, promises of cheap energy and increased awareness of the damage done by fossil fuel to the environment.
So, during this article, we will discuss the prices for solar panels in the UK. We will also find out why they are more affordable and how you, the consumer can best choose the correct solar panel installation for your budget.
Solar Panels Cost Breakdown
The cost of PV panels mainly depends on the size of your roof and how many panels you place there. The most common roof area available in British houses for photovoltaic panels is about 21m2. In most cases therefore for a typical PV system producing 3kW of power, you will spend between £4,000 to £6,000.
For more detailed costs the following table gives costs for various sized systems and the estimated return.
|Roof Area (m2)||System Size (kW)||Number of Solar Panels||Estimated Cost (£)||Electricity Output per annum (kWh)||Return after First Year (£)||Profit after 20 Years (£)|
|8||1||4||1,500 to 3,000||850||185||640|
|14||2||8||3,000 to 5,000||1,700||370||3,800|
|21||3||12||5,000 to 6,000||2,550||535||5,650|
|28||4||16||6,000 to 8,000||3,800||700||6,750|
The good thing about PV panels is that depending on your budget you can start by installing a small system and add panels as time goes on. The more kW you can produce, the higher will be the installation costs but you will also save more in the long term. The size of your system and whether you are producing the least amount of electricity for your own needs will determine the solar panel payback time. This will also determine whether you can sell power back to the National Grid. The best way to increase electricity prices per m2 is to choose more modern and more efficient PV panels. Quality, not quantity!
Example: Cost of Solar Panels For A 3 Bedroom House
Most solar PV panels produce 250W of power so four panels will produce 1kW. This is approximately enough to cover the requirements of one person. A typical three bedroom house with a family of 2 adults and 2 children will need an annual energy output of about 3,800kWh. If you decide to have this size system you will be paying out a minimum of £6,000.
Solar Panel Maintenance Fees
Although solar panels have a very long lifespan, the solar power inverter which converts the generated DC current into AC will need changing after 15 years. At present day prices, you will be paying out between £800 and £1,000 for this service.
Although the UK has plenty of rain to clean the PV panel surface of dirt and dust, there is still the problem of bird droppings to deal with. You must have the panels cleaned regularly (once a year should be enough. Although it may be more often if you have birds perching over your panels). You can do this job yourself if you are ok with heights or hire a company to clean it for you. To have a typical roof-mounted 3 to 4 kWp solar PV system cleaned professionally will set you back about £100.
Solar panels don’t break easily and have no moving parts so usually won’t require replacing. However, there is always a chance that something might go wrong. Falling trees and extreme weather sometimes damage PV panels. Never try to repair a panel yourself but always hire a professional. Repairs for small breakages cost about £80 to £100 while large repairs will set you back by anything up to £1,500, depending on the problem.
These costs are only an indication, so get a detailed quotation from three professionals before you decide to pay out.
Remember too that as well as the money required to buy the panels you will also need someone to install the units. The installation costs will depend on how easy it is to access your roof and whether you have a house or a bungalow.
The installation labour charges vary depending on the location in the country, London being the most expensive. Your location will also determine the electricity output from your system. The North of Scotland has fewer daylight hours than the South of England, so the difference in produced electricity can vary from 4,200 kWh in the south to 3,400 kWh in the north. This difference will also have an effect on the solar panel payback time. Although the cost of installing a solar PV system may be expensive initially, your ongoing electricity bills will reduce by up to 50%. To request an estimate from reputable installers, fill in the form on our website and see for yourself how much things cost. It is always better to use a reputable and professional installer who knows what they are doing.
It isn’t only the installation that takes time when fitting PV panels. Before you decide on the correct installer, get quotes from three installation companies registered by the MCS (Microgeneration Certification Scheme). Find out from your local planning office whether you need Planning Permission (you may live in a conservation area or have a listed building) and sort out the Building Regulations for installing electrical solar panels. Finally, choose the installer you want to use. Although finding out the information and regulations can be tedious, to actually install the panels should only take one to two days. If the installer tells you it will take longer, they are probably overcharging you and you should look elsewhere.
Solar Panels FAQ
What are the benefits of solar panels?
Your solar panels can save or earn you money by:
- The Renewable Heat Incentive is a UK government scheme to reward using renewable heating in your home.
- The Feed-In Tariff applies if you sell the electricity you produce to your energy supplier.
- Lower energy bills are the real advantage of installing PV solar panels. They harvest part or all of your electricity from sunlight and not from your electricity supplier.
What is the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI)?
This is a UK government incentive to encourage homeowners and rental landlords to use renewable energy for heating their homes. The payment helps offset the costs of installing and operating the new renewable heating installation. How much money you receive will depend on the type of renewable energy you are using.
Can I make money with a Feed-In Tariff?
This is a method of receiving payments from your energy supplier if you generate your own electricity. You can make money if you have already had the PV panels installed and they are of the correct size. This scheme stopped accepting new applications on 31 March 2019. However, if you already have solar PV panels installed and had a Microgeneration Certification Scheme certificate issued to you prior to this date, you can apply to your energy supplier until the end of March 2020. Make sure you satisfy the eligibility requirements before applying.
What is the MCS?
The UK government supports the MCS or Microgeneration Certification Scheme. It is the quality assurance scheme that certifies technologies and installers used for electricity and heat generation from renewable sources like wind, water and solar. MCS certification is a fundamental requirement for eligibility for any of the government subsidies and incentives. Basically, the technology used and the companies installing the equipment must be certified. If you need advice regarding solar technology or need help finding a reputable solar panel installer look on the Solar Trade Association (STA) website for details.
What are the alternatives to Solar panel?
There are alternatives for saving money on household energy bills.
- Fitting at least 270mm of loft insulation in the roof space will prevent loss of heat through the top of the house.
- Have cavity wall insulation pumped into the cavity to decrease the heat loss there.
- Install double and triple glazed external doors and windows.
- Draughtproof all openings to reduce heat loss.
- If you install a conservatory or enclosed porch you will circulate sun-heated air through the house.
- Even simply fitting thick carpets throughout the house can help keep the place warm.
What questions should you ask before hiring a professional?
Solar panel experts come in all shapes and sizes and some are better than others. All reputable self-employed installers and installation companies fit solar panels according to the specified requirements. However, always ask a few questions to ensure you’re getting the best installer available.
- Is the Solar PV installer MCS certified? If they are then they are properly qualified to do the work and you will be covered under the MCS scheme if their work proves substandard.
- Is a structural report included in the quotation? Before the installer fits panels to your roof, find out if your roof is strong enough to support them. An inspection by a qualified ISE structural engineer will take into account the size of your roof, the existing weight of the roof covering, rafter size and spacing, prevailing winds in your area and many more factors that only a structural engineer can evaluate.
- Will the roof need strengthening? Once you have a structural report, the installer knows whether the roof needs strengthening or not. Extra strengthening can cost anything from £200 to £600.
- How will the panels be held to the roof? PV panels need to be installed with ventilation space behind the panel so need fitting brackets. Some brackets (Click Fit)are just fixed to the tile battens, which although good enough in Europe are not any use for the UK. Here you need to use something a lot stronger and with better fixings. A typical example of this is the K2 solar mounting system where they are fitted to the rafters.
- What warranties are on offer? All reputable solar technologies will have warranties in place to guard against faulty manufacture and there should be an option to extend the period by paying an additional premium.
- Are there any extras to be added to the price? Make sure everything is listed and nothing has been omitted. A monitoring system is a good idea as it tells you, amongst other things, how much electricity is produced. Don’t forget to see if the price you are quoted includes VAT.
- Anything else? Do your homework and ask an independent expert for advice. Read the small print. If you don’t understand something ask questions. Take your time when deciding, don’t be forced into signing by ‘special money off discounts if you sign now’. Always get three quotes and the best way to do that is to complete the form on our website.
Solar power is the future and with advances in technology, the cost of solar panels for your home will only get cheaper. At present, installation can be somewhat expensive but if looked at over the long term you will benefit from reductions in your electricity bill and you may even make money too.