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Last updated: 26 November 2020

Why Solar Panels in the UK Are a Great Option

Solar panels take advantage of one of nature’s most powerful yet free resources: the energy produced by the sun. Solar panels, also known as photovoltaic systems, use semiconductor technology to convert energy from sunlight into electricity that can power your household for free.

To help guide your switch to solar energy, GreenMatch has gathered the most useful information about solar panels, including:

  • The overall prices of solar panels in the UK
  • Financial incentives to help you get the most out of your investment
  • Practical information about installation procedures and costs
  • Solar panel features affecting efficiency and the best models out there

Generate Electricity All Year Round with Solar Panels Earn Money from Solar Panels Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

Solar panel prices have steadily decreased over the years, as experts have continually been discovering ways to make solar energy components more efficient.

A 4kW solar panel system is a common size for the average UK home. It has an output of 3,400 kWh per year and costs around £6,000. If you compare this to the average annual electricity consumption of a household, which is around 3,200-4,100 kWh, solar panels can cover 83-106% of your electricity demand in perfect conditions. However, this depends on sunshine hours and energy usage. A more detailed breakdown of seasonality and monthly energy output can be found further below.

In addition, with incentives like the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG), you can even earn money for surplus energy exported back to the grid!

Interested in Purchasing Solar Panels?

If you’re interested in solar panels for your home in the UK, and you would like to know more about how to make the switch to renewable energy, then GreenMatch is here to help you. Just fill in the non-binding form at the top of this page and we will get back to you shortly. Our service is simple and obligation-free!

How Do Solar Panels Work?

When speaking about solar panels, it is important to distinguish between two main types:

  1. Photovoltaic panels that produce electricity
  2. Solar thermal panels that are used for heating purposes
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Solar Photovoltaic Panels

Photovoltaic (PV) systems are commonly used solar panel systems in the UK. Photovoltaic systems convert sunlight directly into electricity. 

Solar cells are made of semiconductors, such as silicon, which absorb the sunlight and convert it into electricity

Solar cells are connected electrically and packed together in a frame, commonly known as a solar panel. When you connect multiple solar panels together, they form a solar array. And, finally, when you add the cabling, brackets, inverter, and so forth, the entire system forms your solar panel system.

The electrical conductors are attached to positive and negative terminals, thus forming an electrical circuit. From there, the electrons can be captured in the form of an electric current (electricity). This current, together with the cell's voltage (which is a result of its built-in electric field or fields), defines the power (or wattage) that the solar cell can produce, and is how solar panels convert sunlight into electricity.

Grid-Connected vs. Stand-Alone PV Systems 

Grid-connected systems make use of the local utility grid to ensure you are never without electricity. If your domestic solar panel system generates more electricity than your household requires in a day, this surplus energy can be exported back to the national grid. On the other hand, if you need more electricity than your solar panels have generated, the grid can supply this.

Stand-alone PV systems are not connected to the grid, but instead charge a solar battery system. These batteries store the electricity generated by your panels. To operate your appliances, the stored electricity from these batteries will be used. Stand-alone systems are used in areas that cannot be connected to a grid, and are typically more expensive than grid-connected systems because solar batteries are still quite costly.

Solar Battery Storage Systems

Solar batteries store electricity generated by the sun’s energy and allow you to use it during the evenings when your solar panels are not generating electricity. You can make use of solar batteries whether you are connected to the grid or not.

Solar battery storage system costs are not low, ranging from £1,200 to £6,000, depending on the size and capacity. However, technological advancements are leading to new solutions year after year, and will likely lead to a reduction in solar battery prices.

Solar Thermal Collectors

Solar thermal panels use sunlight to heat up water that is stored in a cylinder, which can then be used for your home heating needs. Solar thermal panels are roof-mounted, just like solar PV panels, but look slightly different, as instead of cells they have multiple pipes that heat up water. A related technology is thermodynamic panels, which extract heat from the ambient air.

Both solar thermal and thermodynamic panels can be used for space heating, but most commonly they provide the domestic hot water (DHW) needs of households.

How a Solar PV System Works

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Are Solar Panels Efficient in the UK?

Solar panels are very efficient in the UK. Although the efficiency of solar panels is higher on sunny days, they do not need direct sunlight to work. Solar panels can also produce a considerable amount of electricity on cloudy days and during the winter season.

In fact, solar panels are more suited to cooler temperatures. Solar panels can overheat in hot countries, and that reduces their efficiency. Therefore, UK weather is ideal for solar panels to work optimally.

Solar Panels Are Efficient in Snowy Climates

A phenomenon known as the ‘albedo effect’ causes solar panels to be highly effective even in snowy climates. The white colour of the snow actually reflects sunlight, therefore, more electricity can be produced — the same way skiers and snowboarders can get easily sunburnt on the pistes. Naturally, the snow needs to be cleared off the solar panels first in order for the system to work. If your panels are covered by anything, it will reduce their efficiency.

A typical commercial solar module has an efficiency rating of 15-20%. One important challenge of the PV industry is to improve solar module efficiency, and at the same time, keep down the cost per cell.

Naturally, there are many factors that can affect the efficiency of your solar panels, from the type of solar panel to angling, and seasonality.

The chart below shows the average energy output produced throughout the year by a south-facing 4kW domestic solar panel system on a roof angled at 40 degrees. As you can see, solar panels are most efficient during the summer months, but still produce enough energy to power 33-51% of a home during the winter period.

The power of solar panels is measured in kilowatt hours (kWh). When placing your cursor over the columns in the chart, individual figures are displayed. To find the average energy output,add the minimum figure and the average figure. To find the maximum output, add all three together.

Chart Showing the Monthly Energy Output of a 4kW Solar Panel System in the UK

Each region in the UK has varying degrees of sunlight, so we have broken down the average monthly energy output per major city in distinguished regions to give you a better idea of potential energy output.

London, South East England

Solar Panels in London are effective and can help you reduce your utility costs. The chart below outlines the monthly energy output of a 4kW system in the greater London area.

Chart Showing the Monthly Energy Output of a 4kW Solar Panel System in London
Cardiff, Wales

Wales is a great place to have solar panels, and the chart below shows the monthly energy output for solar panels in Cardiff — based on a 4kW system.

Chart Showing the Monthly Energy Output of a 4kW Solar Panel System in Cardiff
Manchester, North West England

Installing solar panels in Manchester is an effective way to reduce your electricity bills. The chart below showcases the monthly energy output of solar panels in the city.

Chart Showing the Monthly Energy Output of a 4kW Solar Panel System in Manchester
Glasgow, Scotland

In the chart below, you can see the monthly energy output of a 4kW system in Glasgow. If you live in Edinburgh, you can also use this as an estimation of how your solar panels in Edinburgh will perform.

Chart Showing the Monthly Energy Output of a 4kW Solar Panel System in Glasgow
Belfast, Northern Ireland

A city like Belfast is also suited to solar panels. The chart below indicates the estimated monthly energy output of a 4kW solar panel system.

Chart Showing the Monthly Energy Output of a 4kW Solar Panel System in Belfast

4 Factors Affecting Solar Panel Efficiency

You’ll want to maximise your solar panel efficiency to get the most out of your solar investment and to cut your expenditure on utility bills. Key factors to consider are location, angling, direction, roof suitability, size of the solar panel system, and correct maintenance.

Location, Angle, and Direction

Is the PV system located and angled so that solar cells can capture the maximum amount of sunlight? In the UK, you want to ensure that your solar panels are exposed to sunlight from 9am to 3pm. 

Assessing your roof’s suitability to hold solar panels is a crucial step in determining the efficiency of the system. The orientation and angle of your roof have a lot to do with how much sunlight exposure your panels will get. 

The optimal direction for solar panels is south-facing, as it would mean the panels are exposed to sunlight for as long as possible. According to Stanford University, a 34° roof tilt angle is the best position for solar panels in the UK.

Energy Output by Roof Angle and Orientation
Roof Angle Orientation
North West135° West90° South West45° South South East–45° East–90° North East–135°
83.5% 83.5% 83.5% 83.5% 83.5% 83.5% 83.5%
15° 73.6% 83.5% 90.2% 93.7% 90.8% 83.0% 74.3%
30° 64.0% 79.4% 93.3% 99.3% 94.5% 81.2% 65.4%
34° 61.7% 78.4% 93.5% 100.0% 94.8% 80.4% 63.1%
45° 55.6% 75.1% 92.5% 99.9% 94.1% 77.3% 56.9%
60° 47.4% 68.7% 87.5% 95.7% 89.4% 70.7% 48.3%
90° 30.3% 49.6% 66.1% 72.6% 67.8% 50.5% 30.7%

If your roof doesn’t have the optimal orientation and angle, you can install brackets to adjust the angle slightly. However, get this assessed by a certified MCS installer.

Solar PV expert Joshua M. Pearce shares with GreenMatch:
If a home is non-optimal (e.g. has partial shading from trees or a weird roof angle), a homeowner can maximise the electricity out of their array by using either microinverters or DC optimisers, rather than conventional inverters that are better for large-scale solar farms. Most solar installers would offer one or both of these options as it avoids losses during partial shading. You can also use Google Sketchup to see how big of a deal trees are at your house.
Joshua M. Pearce, Ph.D. — Richard Witte Professor of Materials Science and Engineering Joshua Pearce is the Richard Witte Professor of Materials Science & Engineering, a Professor in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, and the Director of Michigan Tech Open Sustainability Technology (MOST) Lab.

Roof Suitability

When considering solar panels for your roof, it is important to take into consideration whether the roof is strong enough to support the weight of the solar system. For example, a 4kW system normally has 16 panels of 250W, adding up to a total weight of approximately 280kg.

Nowadays, most materials are suitable to hold solar panels — it’s only slate and wooden roofs that may be too brittle. 

In addition, consider if your roof is large enough to have solar panels on it. You will need at least 30 cm of space around your solar panels, so you need to take this into account when calculating how much roof space you have. For example, a 4kW system having 16 panels requires at least 29 m2 roof space.

Roof Requirements of Solar Panel Systems

Size of the Solar Panel System

Solar cells come in all kinds of different shapes and sizes. The bigger the solar panel system, the more electricity is generated. After having calculated your electricity needs, you’ll get a better idea of what size panel you need.

Monocrystalline panels are known to be the most efficient type of solar panel on the market, meaning you will require fewer panels (and therefore less roof space) to generate as much electricity as a polycrystalline system would.

Maintenance

It’s important to carry out the right solar panel maintenance in order to maximise the lifespan of your system. Fortunately, solar panels do not require much maintenance throughout their lifespan of 25-30 years. 

Get your panels checked regularly by your installer or by another certified service provider. If you do this yourself, you may void your warranty in case you damage your panels in the process.

What you can do yourself is ensure your panels are clean at all times. This involves removing leaves and branches from your solar panel system, and rinsing them down with a garden hose – avoid sponging them down or touching them.

How Many Solar Panels Do You Need?

A 4kW solar panel system would require approximately 16 solar panels with a 250W power output, while a 5kW system comprises 20 solar panels.

How many solar panels you need to power your home depends on a few things: 

  1. Your current electricity consumption
  2. Your energy goals (how much of the consumption you plan to cover)
  3. Your roof capacity
  4. The number of sunshine hours in your area

As these factors differ from home to home, it is important to assess each household uniquely.

The first step is to identify your current energy consumption. You measure this in kilowatt hours (kWh), and it’s important to take the time needed to calculate this as accurately as possible.

How to Calculate Your Solar Needs

  • Check your electricity bills to get your power consumption (in kWh). You can either calculate month by month or add your monthly/quarterly consumption together for an annual figure.
  • Decide on how much of your electricity bills you want to cover with your solar panels — this can be anything from 10-100%. Your decision will affect the system size and costs.
  • Calculate how many solar panels actually fit your roof. An average solar panel takes about 1.44 m2 of roof space. Don't forget to include at least 30cm from the roof's edge. Adjust the system size if you realise that you don't have enough space for all the panels you calculated.

How Much Do Solar Panels Cost?

The average domestic solar panel system costs £5,000 to £10,000. How much solar panels costs is hugely dependent on how many panels you need for your home, which is dependent on your energy consumption.

Generally, the more expensive the system, the more electricity it can generate — and therefore, the more savings it can bring. The table below shows the annual savings on your electricity bills per system size, how much you can earn through Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) payments, and ultimately, how long it can take to break even.

Average Solar Panel Costs and Savings in the UK
Household Size System Size System Cost Annual Savings on Electricity Bill SEG Payment Break-Even Point
Small 3kW £5,000-£6,000 £160 £75 21-25 years
Average 4kW £6,000-£8,000 £270 £100 16-22 years
Large 6kW £8,000-£10,000 £430 £150 19-23 years

A small house with 1-3 residents can sufficiently cover their electricity costs with a 3kW solar panel system, which costs £5,000-£6,000. With that system, you can save £160 per year on your electricity bill thanks to the free energy produced by your panels. What’s more, with SEG payments you can even earn £75 per year.

A household with a family of 3-4 people would commonly have a 4kW system installed, which has a price range of approximately £6,000-£8,000. In this scenario, you can save approximately £270 on your electricity bill annually, and can even earn £100 per year on top of that.

For larger homes that house 4+ people, a 6kW solar panel system would be required. This can be anything from £8,000 and upwards. With a 6kW system, you can save a whopping £430 on your electricity bills every year, and earn £151 from SEG payments additionally.

Nonetheless, you are not limited to these three choices only. The system size is determined by the number of panels and the wattage of each panel; as a result, you can customise the system size according to your needs, e.g. have a 3.5kW solar panel. 

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Are Solar Panels Worth Getting?

With SEG earnings, you can break even with solar panels much faster, making solar panels financially worth it — in addition to the obvious environmental benefits. In addition, with continuous improvements to the technology, solar panels are becoming increasingly affordable

Solar panels have an average lifespan of 25 years, and most reputable manufacturers offer product warranties of 10-25 years. Keeping in mind the cost, savings, and earnings mentioned earlier, you can break even on your solar panel investment within the systems’ lifespan.

For example, with a 3kW system, you can break even after 21-25 years. With a 4kW system, you can break even already after 16-22 years. Finally, with the larger 6kW system, you can break even after 19-23 years.

So if you’ve ever asked yourself if solar panels are worth it, the answer is: yes, they are.

Do Solar Panels Reduce Your Electricity Bills?

Solar panels help reduce your electricity bill, which is yet another reason why they are worth getting. The amount you can save on your bills depends on where you live.

In London, for example, you can save an average of £100-£270 on yearly electricity bills. In other areas like Stirling or Manchester, you can reduce your bills by £90-£230 per year.

Do Solar Panels Increase the Value of Your Home?

Solar panels can increase the value of your home as they make your house more energy-efficient. This is one of the home improvements that make your home more attractive to potential buyers, as the new owners can enjoy the same benefits of reduced electricity bills

Naturally, the size of the solar panel system will affect just how much the value will increase, and bear in mind that different families will have different energy expenditure habits. That means that one system may be adequate for some families and inadequate for others.

For some buyers, solar panels are not a valuable addition to a home, so it does depend on personal preference.

Is It Worth Buying Cheap Solar Panels?

Solar panels can indeed be expensive, and some will want to find the cheapest solution. Cheap solar panels can make the set-up costs more affordable, but it may not be worth it in the long run. Cheap solar panels are likely to have a shorter lifespan and lower efficiency, and for that reason, your savings might be less significant.

When considering to install solar panels in your home, solar panel prices should not be the only factor. It will pay off in the long run to invest in high quality panels and especially in a premium inverter from an MCS-certified installer that has a good reputation in your area.

Can You Get Solar Panels for Free?

It is not possible to get free solar panels in the UK anymore. The free solar panels scheme was offered by solar panel providers in the past, during the peak of the Feed-in Tariff (FIT). 

Solar panel providers would offer to install solar panels for free, allowing homeowners to use the electricity generated to power their homes. In return, these providers would collect the FIT payments, making it a profitable arrangement for the business.

As the FIT payment amounts decreased over time, this setup became less commercially beneficial for suppliers. Once the FIT came to an end entirely in 2019, free solar panels were no longer available.

Blue Polycrystalline Solar Panel Array

Are There Grants for Solar Panels in the UK?

In the UK, you can earn money on your solar panels through various solar panel funding opportunities. Currently, there is the Smart Export Guarantee and the Feed-in Tariff (which is closed for new registrations).

The Feed-in Tariff (FIT) was one of the governmental solar panel grants that encouraged the use of renewable energy in the UK, and solar PV was one of them. It was introduced in 2010 and offered a tariff (a payment) to homeowners that generated and exported renewable energy.

In 2019, the government closed this scheme. Those that are currently still registered under the FIT continue to receive the payments as per their agreement, but no new applications are accepted.

Since the 1st of January 2020, the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) has effectively replaced the FIT. With the SEG, UK homeowners can earn money by exporting surplus energy back to the grid. 

The SEG requires that all energy suppliers with over 150,000 customers must offer a tariff for electricity sold to the grid. Individual energy suppliers have a lot of flexibility in how they want to set up the tariff, but it has to be above zero. A good export tariff is 4-6p/kWh.

Pros and Cons of Solar Panels in the UK

There are many advantages of solar panels, and they play a significant role in the progress towards sustainability. In 2018, the UK generated 3.9% of its total electricity using solar power, and there are currently more than 1 million solar PV installations. The UK’s solar capacity is only going to increase over the years.

Besides being environmentally friendly, solar cells provide significant savings on your electricity bill. While there are disadvantages to solar panels, the long-term benefits of investing in solar far outweigh the cons. 

There has been a slight increase in sunshine hours over the years, meaning you can get more and more out of your solar panel investment. The graph below shows the gradual increase in sunshine hours in the UK.

Chart Showing the Average Sun Hours per Day in the UK between 2010-2019

Solar panels can be a great way to cover your household electricity needs free of charge, however, there are downsides to solar panels that must also be considered. Below is a list of the main advantages and disadvantages of this renewable source of energy.

Advantages of Solar Panels

Pros

  • Cheaper electricity bills
  • Earn money back
  • Reduce your carbon footprint
  • Year-round efficiency
  • Low maintenance
  • Independent from the grid

Cheaper Electricity Bills

With an increase in electric gadgets comes an increase in utility bills. You can reduce your electricity bills by incorporating solar panels into your household.

Energy produced by solar panels is completely free, and surplus energy can always be stored for future use, or exported back to the grid.

Earn Money Back

With the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) you can make money by selling surplus electricity back to the grid. The SEG requires that all energy suppliers with 150,000 or more customers must offer an export tariff to homeowners, and the tariff must be above zero.

This means that small-scale solar PV generators will be able to see a return on their investment. However, only new installations can register for the SEG, while those already signed up under the Feed-in Tariff will be bound to those conditions.

Reduce Your Carbon Footprint 

Switching to solar energy significantly reduces your carbon footprint as it is a green, renewable source of energy. Unlike traditional electricity generators, like fossil fuels, coal, and oil, solar power does not release harmful carbon dioxide (CO2) or other pollutants. 

Estimates also show that domestic solar panels could save around one tonne of CO2 per year, which means just one installation can offset approximately 25 tonnes of CO2 over its lifetime.

Year-Round Efficiency

Solar panels can work efficiently all year round. While they work optimally during the sunny months, they also produce a considerable amount of electricity during cloudy days and in the winter time.

Contrary to common belief, solar panels do not need heat to be effective. They simply need sunlight. That means solar panels can be effective even on cloudy days, and certainly during the winter months, too!

Low Maintenance Required 

Solar panels have an average lifespan of 25-30 years, and require only little maintenance over these years. A good quality inverter might need to be changed every 10-15 years, but apart from that, you can enjoy the solar benefits under normal conditions. 

It is a good idea to have your installer come and inspect your system regularly, in case of any cabling issues or loose brackets. 

You should also clean your solar panels regularly, and ensure there are no leaves or branches on them. Roof-mounted solar panels are essentially self-cleaning, as rainfall can help clean dust off the system. 

Finally, ensure that there are no trees casting shadows over your panels, as this would reduce their efficiency. 

Independent from the Grid 

Solar panels are ideal in remote areas where extending power lines to connect with electrical power grids would be too expensive. Solar PV systems are an affordable, effective solution for remote homes in rural areas of the country.

There is also the possibility of integrating solar batteries into your solar panel system. Solar batteries store the energy gathered by solar cells, saving it for rainy days or for use throughout the night.

Long-Term Investment

Although solar panels can be considered expensive, you can generate electricity for free. In addition, making use of incentives like the SEG can lead to an earlier break-even point.

Disadvantages of Solar Panels

Cons

  • High initial costs
  • Dependent on sunlight
  • Specific solar panel placement

High Initial Costs

Investing in solar panels can be expensive. You can expect around £5,000 to £10,000 in up-front costs. Although you can earn money back on your solar panels by exporting energy to the grid, the high set-up costs can be difficult to meet for some.

Only Works During Daytime

Solar panels are dependent on sunlight. Although they do not require direct sunlight to work, they lose efficiency if they are not fully exposed to sunlight. In addition, they can’t produce energy during the night and are less effective during dark winters.

An effective solution to this is to switch to the main power grid at night. Alternatively, homes with a grid-independent system can store energy in solar batteries during the day, which can then be used at night.

Solar Panel Placement

Inaccurate placement of solar panels can majorly reduce the effectiveness of electricity generation. If you live in an area surrounded by large buildings or tall trees, the efficiency of your solar panels will be very limited.

Ensure there are no buildings or trees blocking sunlight, and always clear branches and leaves from the panels.

Rendering of a 4kW Solar Panel System on a House

What Types of Solar Cells Are There?

The most common types of domestic solar panels are monocrystalline panels, polycrystalline panels, and thin-film solar panels. There are additional types of solar panels on the market, however, these three are most commonly used for domestic purposes.

These three types of solar panels all produce electricity from sunlight, but it is important to be aware of their key differences.

Monocrystalline Solar Panels

Four Monocrystalline Solar CellsMonocrystalline solar panels get their name because they are made of one piece of silicon. They are known as the most efficient type of solar panel on the market, and can be identified by their sleek, black appearance.

When produced, the material that is used is a single-crystal silicon, which is then cut into wafers. This allows for the electrons to flow freely, resulting in the high efficiency rates. This also makes them the most expensive domestic solar panel type.

Advantages:

  • They have the highest efficiency rates at 15-20%.
  • They are space-efficient, thanks to their high efficiency rates.
  • They perform better in low levels of sunlight than polycrystalline panels.

Disadvantages:

  • They are the most expensive silicon solar cells on the market.
  • The level of performance suffers as temperature goes up. However, the loss is still smaller compared to other types of solar cells.
  • More waste is produced during the production of monocrystalline panels. As each of the four sides of the cells is cut out, the initial silicon that was used ends up in waste (which, nevertheless, can be used in the production of polycrystalline panels).

Polycrystalline Solar Panels

Four Polycrystalline Solar CellsPolycrystalline solar panels are produced by melting several pieces of silicon together into square moulds, forming the solar cells. As there are multiple crystals in each solar cell, there is less space for electrons to move around, resulting in a lower efficiency rate compared to monocrystalline cells.

Polycrystalline panels are easier to produce than monocrystalline ones, and therefore also cheaper. They usually have a blue appearance, instead of the blackhue of monocrystalline panels.

Advantages:

  • They are cheaper than their monocrystalline counterparts.
  • Less waste is produced during production.

Disadvantages:

  • Polycrystalline panels have a lower energy efficiency at 13-16%.
  • They are less space-efficient than monocrystalline panels due to their lower energy efficiency. In other words, you need more physical panels to produce the same amount of energy.
  • They have a shorter lifespan than monocrystalline panels, as they are slightly less tolerant to temperature increases. In practice, though, this difference is minimal.

Solar Panel Recycling

When monocrystalline or polycrystalline solar panels reach the end of their lifespan, these solar panels are recycled. 95% of the glass, 85% of the silicon, and all of the metals are reused. This, however, comes at a cost, as high-temperature thermal and chemical processing is used. Thin-film panels can also be recycled with a different industrial process.

Thin-Film Solar Panels

Two Thin-Film Solar CellsThin-film solar panels are easier to produce as they require less material. For that reason, they are the cheapest type of solar panel on the market. Thin-film solar panels are made by placing films of one or more PV material onto a substrate and can be made into a flexible panel. There are various types of thin-film cells, including silicon, cadmium, and copper.

Thin-film panels are the least efficient on the market and require the most space. They are more tolerant to high temperatures, making them suitable for hotter countries.

Advantages:

  • They are the cheapest type of solar panel available.
  • They can be flexible, making them open to new kinds of applications, such installing solar panels on motorhomes.
  • They are temperature-tolerant.

Disadvantages:

  • They are four times less efficient than monocrystalline panels.
  • Low energy efficiency also means they are the least space efficient.
  • Thin-film panels tend to have the shortest lifespan of the three types.

Solar Panels on a Residential Home

What Are the Best Solar Panel Systems for a Home?

It can be difficult to find the best solar panels on the market in the UK, as there are so many different brands and models to choose from. The answer to ‘what are the best solar panels for my home?’ will differ from household to household. It depends on whether you are focused on efficiency, power, size, or durability.

To help you, we have compiled a list of the 10 best solar panels in the UK.

How to Choose the Best Solar Panels

There are many factors to evaluate when you are looking for the best solar panels for your home. We have analysed the top 10 solar panels according to the following ten criteria:

  1. Type: There are two types of solar panels that dominate the market: monocrystalline and polycrystalline.
  2. Power: The ‘power’ of a solar panel is measured in watts (W). This figure represents the energy output of a panel system in Standard Test Conditions.
  3. Efficiency: Solar panel efficiency, which is expressed as a percentage, measures how much sunlight can be converted into usable electricity. Most domestic solar panels have an efficiency of 15-20%.
  4. Power tolerance: This factor determines how much your system can deviate from its stated power (watts). This deviation can be expressed either in percentages or watts. If a 100W panel has a power tolerance of +3% / −0%, then the actual power may vary between 100-103W. If the power tolerance is +5W / −0W, then the actual output varies between 100W and 105W under real-world conditions.
  5. Temperature coefficient: You want to know how much your panel’s efficiency will be affected by temperature rise. Temperature coefficient expresses the percentage decrease in power output per 1°C increase in temperature (after 25°C).
  6. Size: If you have limited roof space, the physical size of a panel might be your top priority. The dimensions of the top 10 solar panels are listed in L × W × H.
  7. Weight: Knowing how heavy your solar panel system will be is important. If your roof is not very strong, you will need to opt for light-weight panels.
  8. Product warranty: Solar panel manufacturers offer warranties on their equipment, ensuring they can last. Warranties on our list range from 10-25 years.
  9. Performance degradation: Every solar panel will experience some kind of performance degradation over its 25-year lifespan. After the 1st year, there is usually a 2-3% decline in efficiency, and 0.2-0.7% every year after that.
  10. Maximum wind load: You want your solar panels to withstand any kind of weather in the UK, including strong winds and hurricanes. This tolerance is tested by manufacturers and is expressed in pascals (Pa). The higher the number, the higher the wind tolerance, but most panels are certified to withstand 2,400 Pa, which is equivalent to 140 mph.

Reviewed: Top 10 Solar Panels

SunPower Maxeon 3

SunPower has been developing solar panels since 1985, and is one of the most well-known US-based solar panel manufacturers on the market. They offer a staggering 25-year product warranty on their panels. 

Their Maxeon 3 panel is one of the most powerful domestic solar panels out there with 400 watts, and an impressive 21.2% efficiency rate. Its temperature coefficient is also amongst the lowest, meaning that for every 1°C increase above 25°C, only 0.29% efficiency is lost.

SunPower Maxeon 3 Specifications
Type Power Efficiency Power Tolerance Temperature Coefficient Size Weight
Mono 400W 21.2% +20W / −0W −0.29% / °C 1,690 × 1,046 × 40mm 19.0 kg
SunPower Maxeon 3 Solar Panel
  • Product warranty: 25 years
  • Performance degradation: 2.0% first year, then 0.2% per year
  • Maximum wind load: 4,000 Pa

In addition, the SunPower Maxeon 3 panel has the lowest performance degradation rate of all panels listed, with only 2% degradation in the first year, and 0.2% every subsequent year. It also boasts one of the highest maximum wind loads of 4,000 Pa, meaning your panels would be safe even during a category 5 hurricane.

SunPower’s Maxeon 3 is one of the highest quality panels currently on the market, so if you are after a premium product that will retain a very high degree of efficiency, then this is your solution.


SunPower P19-320-BLK

SunPower’s P19-320 panel is a smaller version that is suitable for limited space. Its standout features are its lightweight, compact size. At just 18.7 kg, this monocrystalline panel still has 320W of power and an efficiency rate of 19%.

SunPower P19-320-BLK Specifications
Type Power Efficiency Power Tolerance Temperature Coefficient Size Weight
Mono 320W 19.0% +16W / −0W −0.37% / °C 1,690 x 998 × 40mm 18.7 kg
SunPower P19-320-BLK Solar Panel
  • Product warranty: 25 years
  • Performance degradation: 3% first year, then 0.6% per year
  • Maximum wind load: 2,400 Pa

SunPower’s 25-year product warranty will give you peace of mind. The P19-320 panel also has a relatively low performance degradation rate, with a loss of 3% in the first year, and only 0.6% every subsequent year. Finally, this panel assures the standard certified maximum wind load of 2,400 Pa.

If you have a home with a small roof and in need of a light-weight panel, then the Sunpower P19-320 model is for you.


Yingli PANDA BIFACIAL 72CL 

Yingli has been producing solar PV products since 2003 and is based in China. The Yingli PANDA BIFACIAL 72CL panel can absorb sunlight from both sides of the panel, which is ideal for ground-mounted systems or raised systems on flat roofs as light can bounce onto the back of the panel. This model has a power capacity of 390W and a high efficiency rate of 20.5%. 

Although it is compact in size — with an astoundingly thin 6mm panel — the PANDA BIFACIAL 72CL is the heaviest panel on our list, at 27.5kg. It has a slightly lower power tolerance than other models, however, the performance degradation and temperature coefficient are above average.

Yingli PANDA BIFACIAL 72CL Specifications
Type Power Efficiency Power Tolerance Temperature Coefficient Size Weight
Mono 390W 20.5% +5W / −0W −0.38% / °C 1,975 × 992 × 6mm 27.5 kg
Yingli PANDA BIFACIAL 72CL Solar Panel
  • Product warranty: 10 years
  • Performance degradation: 2.0% first year, then 0.5% per year
  • Maximum wind load: 2,400 Pa

Yingli offers the shortest product warranty of the manufacturers on our list, but their performance warranty guarantees a loss of only 2% efficiency in the first year, and 0.5% each year thereafter. Finally, the maximum wind load is the industry standard of 2,400 Pa, which means the panel can withstand winds of up to 140 mph.

If you are looking for a great all-round bifacial solar panel, then Yingli’s PANDA BIFACIAL 72CL panel could be the best solar panel for your needs.


LG NeON R 365W

LG, the South Korean electronics giant, is also a premium solar panels manufacturer. Its NeON R series consist of reliable, efficient, and durable solar panels. The 365W panel is the mid-range of the three models, and has the second highest efficiency rating on our list at 21.1%. LG offers a 25-year product warranty.

The most impressive feature of this panel is its maximum wind load of 5,400 Pa. This means the NeON R 365W panel can withstand winds of up to 209 mph: stronger than any recorded winds in the UK.

LG NeON R Specifications
Type Power Efficiency Power Tolerance Temperature Coefficient Size Weight
Mono 365W 21.1% +11W / −0W −0.3% / °C 1,700 × 1,016 × 40mm 18.5 kg
LG NeON R Solar Panel
  • Performance degradation: 2.0% first year, then 0.5% per year
  • Product warranty: 25 years
  • Maximum wind load: 5,400 Pa

The NeON R 365W panel has a low temperature coefficient of -0.3% per 1°C increase. In addition, it has a low performance degradation of 2% in the first year and 0.5% every subsequent year. All of these impressive features are packed in a lightweight solar panel, weighing just 18.5kg.

Overall, this is a powerful, efficient, durable and lightweight solar panel.


Sharp NU-AF 370W

The Tokyo-based, internationally recognised electronics manufacturer started producing photovoltaic products in 1963. Sharp’s NU-AF 370W solar panel is one of the smallest solar panels, at only 1,960 x 992 x 40mm. This is ideal for roofs with limited space. It has an above-average power tolerance of +19W, and an average temperature coefficient of −0.375% / °C.

Sharp NU-AF Specifications
Type Power Efficiency Power Tolerance Temperature Coefficient Size Weight
Mono 370W 19.0% +19W / −0W −0.375% / °C 1,960 × 992 × 40mm 22.5 kg
Sharp NU-AF Solar Panel
  • Performance degradation: 3.0% first year, then 0.7% per year
  • Product warranty: 10 years
  • Maximum wind load: 2,400 Pa

The NU-AF 370W panel only has a 10-year warranty, which is amongst the shortest product warranties on the market. It also has performance degradation of 3% in the first year, and 0.7% in the years thereafter, which is higher than the other panels on this list. 

Overall, the Sharp NU-AF 370W model can be the best solar panel for those looking to invest in a compact, high-power solar panel.


Q.Peak Duo BLK-G6 345W

Q CELLS is a German solar panel manufacturer that offers robust and reliable products, including the Q.Peak Duo BLK-G6 series. The most powerful of the series is the 345W panel, which has an efficiency rate of 19.3%.

Q CELLS Q.Peak Duo BLK-G6 Specifications
Type Power Efficiency Power Tolerance Temperature Coefficient Size Weight
Mono 345W 19.3% +5W / −0W −0.36% / °C 1,740 × 1,030 × 32mm 19.9 kg
Q.Peak Duo BLK-G6 Solar Panel
  • Product warranty: 12 years
  • Performance degradation: 2% first year, then 0.5% per year
  • Maximum wind load: 4,000 Pa

Besides its power and efficiency, the Q.Peak Duo series panels have an impressive 4,000 Pa maximum wind load, making these some of the most sturdy panels on the market.

In terms of temperature coefficient, size, and weight, this Q CELLS panel is in the average range. With a 12-year warranty, and a performance degradation of only 2%in the first year, and 0.5% the years after, you would be investing in a dependable solar panel model.


Panasonic HIT N340

Panasonic has been producing solar panels since 1975 and has become a premium manufacturer, reflected in the 25-year warranty. The HIT N340 module has an impressive efficiency rate of 20.4%, and a low temperature coefficient of −0.258% / °C, losing only 0.258% of its efficiency for every 1°C increase.

Panasonic HIT N340 Specifications
Type Power Efficiency Power Tolerance Temperature Coefficient Size Weight
Mono 340W 20.3% +34W / −0W −0.258% / °C 1,590 × 1,053 × 40mm 19.0 kg
Panasonic HIT N-Series Solar Panel
  • Product warranty: 25 years
  • Performance degradation: 3% first year, then 0.5% per year
  • Maximum wind load: 2,400 Pa

HIT N340’s power tolerance is also industry-leading. At +34W/−0W, the maximum power output of the HIT N340 panel can actually be 374W. When it comes to weight, this panel is relatively light compared to others on our list.


Panasonic HIT N300

Another model in Panasonic’s HIT N series is the 300W panel, which is a great mid-range model for those seeking a lightweight solution, as it weighs only 18kg. Despite it being a less powerful version of the N340 model, it still has a module efficiency of 19.5%.

Panasonic HIT N300 Specifications
Type Power Efficiency Power Tolerance Temperature Coefficient Size Weight
Mono 300W 19.5% +30W / −0W −0.258% / °C 1,463 × 1,053 × 35mm 18.0 kg
Panasonic HIT N-Series Solar Panel
  • Product warranty: 25 years
  • Performance degradation: 3% first year, then 0.5% per year
  • Maximum wind load: 2,400 Pa

The impressive power tolerance of +30W / −0W means the HIT N300 panel can have a maximum power output of 330W. Its temperature coefficient, just like its HIT N340 counterpart, is an impressive −0.258% / °C.


Amerisolar AS-6P30

Amerisolar is a solar panel manufacturer based in the United States, and has been producing solar modules for 25 years. Their AS-6P30 model has a power output of 280W, and is the only polycrystalline panel on our list.

Compared to its monocrystalline counterparts, it does have a lower efficiency rate at 17.5%. In addition, its temperature coefficient is −0.41% / °C, which is on the higher end of the industry average. On the other hand, its performance degradation is superior to other market players, with only a 2.5% efficiency loss in the first year, and 0.5% each year thereafter.

Amerisolar AS-6P30 Specifications
Type Power Efficiency Power Tolerance Temperature Coefficient Size Weight
Poly 280W 17.5% +8W / −0W −0.41% / °C 1,640 × 992 × 40mm 18.5 kg
Amerisolar AS-6P30 Solar Panel
  • Product warranty: 12 years
  • Performance degradation: 2.5% first year, then 0.5% per year
  • Maximum wind load: 2,400 Pa

The AS-6P30 model is a relatively lightweight solar panel and has a maximum wind load of 2,400 Pa. Overall, it is a great polycrystalline solar panel.


JA Solar JAM6 (K)(BK)

JA Solar, a Chinese company, is one of the newest solar panel manufacturers on our list, but has already gained industry recognition for its work with solar PV. The JAM6 model is a 280W monocrystalline solar panel, with a 17.1% efficiency rate. If you are in need of a slim, lightweight solar panel, then this JA Solar model might be the best solar panel for you.

JA Solar JAM6 (K)(BK) Specifications
Type Power Efficiency Power Tolerance Temperature Coefficient Size Weight
Mono 280W 17.1% +5W / −0W −0.41% / °C 1,650 × 991 × 35mm 18.0 kg
JA Solar JAM6 (K)(BK) Solar Panel
  • Product warranty: 12 years
  • Performance degradation: 3% first year, then 0.5% per year
  • Maximum wind load: 2,400 Pa

The company offers a 12-year warranty, and guarantees only a 3% efficiency loss after the first year, and 0.5% each subsequent year. JA Solar also meets the industry standard maximum wind load of 2,400 Pa.

What Are the Most Reliable Solar Panel Manufacturers?

Since the upswing of the use of renewable energy, there has been an increase in solar panel manufacturers on the global market. At GreenMatch, we work with both industry veterans that have been producing photovoltaic modules since the 1960s and new players on the market that are making strides in solar energy technology.

Here is a breakdown of the top 12 solar panel manufacturers currently on the market:

SunPower Logo LG Logo Panasonic Logo Canadian Solar Logo Sharp Logo Project Solar UK Logo Yingli Solar Logo Solaria Logo Trina Solar Logo JA Solar Logo Q Cells Logo Amerisolar Logo

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7-Step Domestic Solar Panel Installation Guide

The solar panel installation process must be done correctly in order to get the most out of your solar panel system, otherwise your panels will not reach their peak efficiency rate.

Before installing your solar panels, an MCS-certified installer will come and assess your roof. They will look at basic factors, such as roof orientation and angling, roof size, and how strong your roof is (to know how much weight it can hold).

To give you an idea of the solar panel installation process, follow our easy-to-understand 7-step guide:

Step 1: Erect the Scaffolding

To ensure safety for the installation team, scaffolding will be erected around your house.

Step 2: Attach Roof Anchors

After the scaffolding is set up, the installation team arrives. The team starts out by attaching the roof anchors, which will hold the base for the solar panels. The types of anchors used depends on the type of roof tile your home has.

Step 3: Attach the Frame

After the anchors have been installed, it’s time to attach the frame, which is made up of aluminium bars. The bars must be fitted in a straight direction and parallel to one another.

Step 4: Install the Solar Panels

Once the frame has been attached, the installation of the solar panels can begin. The panels are clamped to the aluminium frame — but not too tightly at first, in order to have some space to adjust them slightly later. Once all panels are set up in their position, they are firmly secured to the frame.

Step 5: Wire the Solar Panels

Now that the panels are fastened securely to the frame, the next step is to wire them. In most cases, the panels come wired from the manufacturer. However, these wires must be connected to the inverter, which would typically be in the attic. 

The inverter is a component of the solar array that converts the absorbed energy from the panels into AC electricity, which can then be used by household appliances.

Components That Might Need Replacement

Inverters are the component in an solar array with the shortest lifespan. Good quality inverters need replacing every 10-15 years. Solar PV inverter replacement costs range depending on a number of factors, but typically start from £500.

During the time of the wiring installation, the electricity supply to the household will need to be shut off.

Step 6: Make Final Connections to the Consumer Unit

After the panels are wired to the inverter, the final connections to the consumer unit will be made. A generation meter will also be connected, which measures how much electricity your panels actually produce.

Step 7: Test the Solar Panels

After the panels, the inverter, and the generation meter are all wired together, the installation needs to be tested. Once this is complete, the solar panel installation process has been successfully completed.

Technician Installing a Solar Panel System on the Roof of a House

Do You Need Planning Permissions for Solar Panels?

In England, Scotland, and Wales, you are not required to apply for any planning permissions for most domestic solar panel installations — for both PV and heating installations.

There are, however, restrictions on installations of certain sizes. If your solar panels protrude more than 200mm from your roof, you will need to apply for permission first. 

In addition, if your building is within a conservation area, you will need to adhere to some planning permission guidelines.

Do Solar Panels Affect House Insurance?

In most cases, when you install solar panels on your roof, your insurance should cover you under the current terms. However, since a solar panel installation results in a change to the home structure, it is always advised to contact your current insurance provider before proceeding with the installation.

It’s important to note that your home insurance may not include a cover for any damage by your solar panel or theft of the system. Therefore, it’s important to confirm with your insurance provider that your panels will also be covered.

Installing solar panels is a worthwhile investment for both homes and companies. They are a great step towards sustainability, reduce utility bills, and can even be a way for you to earn money back.

Finding the Right Supplier amidst Numerous Factors Influencing the Choice of Solar Panel

How Can You Find the Right Solar Supplier in the UK?

It is important to find an installer that you feel comfortable with, and that can answer any question you may have.

Solar panels can be expensive, and you want to be sure you find the right solar supplier for your home. You should compare solar panel providers and their respective options, and make sure you pick a reliable and certified installer.

We know that finding the right solar panel supplier might mean investing a lot of time to do research. We want to make this process simpler for you, by providing you with up to 4 quotes from different suppliers in your area. This service is completely free for you, and is non-binding. All you need to do is fill in the contact form at the top of the page. We will then get back to you as soon as possible to ask you some further questions, and will then connect you with the most suitable installers. You can rest assured that you get the best quotes on solar panels!

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Written by Attila Tamas Vekony UX Manager Attila is the UX Manager at GreenMatch. He holds a degree in international business with four years of coordination experience in marketing, user experience, and content creation. Attila likes to write about solar energy, heating technology, environmental protection, and sustainability. His and his team's articles appeared in well-known sites such as The Conversation, Earth911, EcoWatch, and Gizmodo.
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