Solar Panel Guide

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Prices of solar panels have dropped due to an increase in competition and attractiveness of this market. So far, 500,000 homes across the UK are powered by solar energy. Are you interested in making your home more energy efficient? This guide will help you in your buying process, providing you different features and tips to consider when comparing solar panel systems. 

For a personalised quote, get in touch with us by filling the form on the right. You will get up to four quotes on the product of your choice at no charge and with no obligation.

Installing a solar panel will enable you to generate your own clean, green electricity. The panels will capture all the free energy directly from the sun and use it to power appliances in your home and even provide space heating.

Another reason why you should install solar cells is to benefit from government incentives. Now is the right time for the investment since you can take advantage of the Feed-in Tariff. FiT will pay for the electricity your solar panel is producing, whether you use it for your household or sell it back to the grid.

  • Return on investment: Over the course of 20 years, you can end up with a total payment of £11,400 for putting your panels to use. This will cover the cost of installing the panels and save you money you usually spend on electricity.

Once you decide to have solar panels installed, there’s a multitude of variables that you should consider before buying – but don’t worry, our job here at GreenMatch.co.uk is to help you understand them and pick the one that best suits your needs!

To begin with, there are three types of cells you can choose from:

  • Monocystalline
  • Polycrystalline
  • Thin film

The majority of solar cells on the market are made out of silicone, in different variations. Silicon can be found in many forms and the main difference here is the quality and purity of the silicone. The molecules found in the silicone need to be perfectly aligned in order to capture and convert the energy from the sun.

Monocrystalline cells are the most efficient and most expensive models. They can reach an efficiency of over 20%. These cells are made out of the purest form of silicone and only one crystal of silicon is used for each cell. In 2013, 36% of all panels installed worldwide are made of Mono-Si. They usually come in black, dark colour.The corners of the cells are missing, due to the production process and the nature of monocrystalline silicon.

 

Polycrystalline cells are also called multi crystalline cells. This type of cells are grown in a large block of multiple crystals. That is why they have a shattered glass appearance.This type of cells come in a light or dark blue colour. Polycrystalline cells are less expensive and subsequently less efficient than monocrystalline.

Both monocrystalline and polycrystalline cells are cut into wafers to produce individual cells.


Thin film models are made out of a thin layer of silicone on a base material. The depth of some panels can reach an impressive 6.7 mm.This kind of panels are much cheaper, and their efficiency is much lower than the other models. The advantages of these panels are less weight and more resistant to wind. There are different kinds of thin film panels on the market, amorphous silicon being the most developed. An amorphous solar cell has a higher absorption rate than crystalline cells.

Another criteria of choice will be the size of the panels. Most of the manufacturers have adapted to local markets and produce specific size panels. This will make a panel sold in the UK smaller than one in the US for example. Below, we made a list of dimension caps for panels sold in the UK market.

                 Lenght                     Width                      Depth                    Weight

     Min.            131 cm                     80 cm                   6.7 mm                    10.5 kg

     Max.           195 cm                    105 cm                   4.6 cm                      26 kg

If your roof cannot accommodate the sizes mentioned above, do not despair. Some manufacturers are willing to build custom panels according to your roof specifications. However, this can get more costly and may take a lot of planning beforehand. Contact us with your roof specifications and our specialist suppliers will be happy to provide you with a free quote.

Electrical efficiency, always expressed in percentages, will indicate the ratio at which your panels will convert all the energy coming from the sun. On average, a solar panel carries an efficiency of 17%. This means that 17% of the sunlight received will be transformed into electricity. You might think this is too low but the fact is, you don’t need 100% to power your home.

Panel Installer

A 17% efficiency can very well provide electricity to your home and an extra supply you can sell back to the grid.

For example, a solar panel with 17% efficiency covering an area of 1 m² will produce 170 kW at Standard Test Conditions. Efficiency is indeed, a crucial factor. It will help you maximize your investment. However, efficiency should not be the solely deciding factor for which solar panels you should purchase. Space and output also play an important role, and most people will decide upon these factors combined.

Panel efficiency is calculated by dividing the power output of the module by the physical area of the module.

Ex.: Efficiency = 255 W / (1.001 m x 1.675 m) = 15.2 %

The power output of solar panels is proportional with the sun’s intensity. The performance of the panel can be analysed by looking at the following 3 dimensions:

  • Maximum output - expressed in Watts, is the amount of power a sun panel will produce.
  • Maximum voltage - expressed in Volts.
  • Maximum current - expressed in Amperes.

The output is calculated by using the simple formula: W= V x A

For example, a panel with an output of 327 W= 54.7 V x  5.98 A. However, the same wattage can be obtained with 65 V and only 5 A. In short, the power characteristics will signal the ability to extract as much power as possible from the solar panel without collapsing the panel voltage.

If you live in areas with heat waves or hailstorms you can rest assured. Recent developments are allowing sun panels to perform in extreme conditions. The good news is that all of the panels on the market are tested in tough weather conditions in order to get approved and certified.

Homeowners who live in seaside areas must look for panels that are coated against rust and corrosion, usually caused by salty air. Some panels have these specifications and is always better to check with your supplier for these characteristics.

Most solar panels are expected to deliver standard performance when faced with:

  • Temperatures between -40C and 90C
  • Humidity up to 85%
  • 38mm diameter hail at a speed of 23m/s
  • Snow load of 550kg/m2

Here at GreenMatch.co.uk, we work with specialized suppliers and established companies that install solar panels. By simply filling the form on your right, you will receive up to 4 quotes from our industry specialists. This way, you can rest assured you will be quoted by a professional based on your specific needs. The best part is that our service comes free of charge.

The warranty for the product must not be overlooked as it is very important to get an idea on how the product is expected to perform. When purchasing solar panels, there are 2 kinds of warranties:

  • one for the output
  • one for the product

Most companies will offer you a 25-year guarantee for the output. In the first year, you are guaranteed with an output of around 96%. This output will decrease further year by year. The percentage of degradation varies from panel to panel and is usually around 0.5%-0.6% each year. By the end of the 25th year you can expect a ratio around 80% in efficiency. You can figure out the exact value by multiplying the maximum output by the ratio.

Ex: 245 W x 80% = 196 W

A solar panel of 245 W is expected to generate at least 196W in the 25th year of its lifetime.

For the product itself, you can expect a 10 year warranty. The product warranty will cover parts such as: the inverter, panels, batteries, etc.

As you probably read before, it is hard to estimate an exact cost of the panels and the installation. There are different variables that need to be assessed before receiving a final price, such as:

  • Size and condition of the roof
  • Inclination of the roof
  • Amount of electricity you need
  • Size of your home

Below we have put together an estimated cost based on roof space and system size.

 Roof Space (sq m) System Size (kW)   Estimated Cost (£)
 8          1  2,500 -  3,000
 14          2   3,000 -  4,000
 21          3   4,000 -  6,000
 28          4

 6,000 -  8,000

For a personalized quote, get in touch with us by filling the form on the right. You will get up to four industry quotes at no charge.