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Last updated: 20 February 2024

Solar Panels for UK Homes: A Complete Guide in 2024

Solar-Panels-for-Your-Home-A-Complete-Guide

Have you been itching to learn all about solar panels for your home? These solar-powered devices transform solar energy into electricity or heat, which means they can power your household in an efficient and environmentally friendly way. 

In this article, we’ll walk you through everything you should know about residential solar panels, including the available types, their pros and cons and the best systems for your home.

First, let’s briefly look at the most important things you should know. We’ll go into more detail later on in the article.

Are solar panels worth it?

The investment in solar panels is worth it for the average UK home, as residential solar panels can cover 117% of your electricity demand in perfect conditions. 

For example, the typical 3-bedroom house in the UK is equipped with a 4kW solar panel system, enabling homeowners to potentially save around £770 annually on electricity expenses.

Additionally, by selling surplus electricity back to the grid, the payback period could be shortened to 12 years.

Yearly savings in a household per solar panel system size

Costs

The average prices of domestic solar panel systems in the UK range between £5,000 to £13,000, depending on how many panels you need for your home, which in turn is dependent on your energy consumption. GreenMatch’s research shows that most UK homeowners will spend between £6,000 to £8,000 on average. 

Additionally, if you’d like to store your excess energy, you’re likely to spend between £2,500 to £10,000 on a solar battery, depending on its size and capacity. 

Solar Panel System Savings
Solar Panel System Savings
House sizeSolar system sizeSolar panel costsElectricity generated per year (kWh)Average electricity consumption (kWh)Annual savingsSavings after 25 yearsBreak even point
Small; 1-2 bedrooms3kW£7,000 – £8,0002,5501,800£515£12,87514
Medium; 2-3 bedrooms4kW£9,000 – £10,0003,4002,700£770£19,30012
Large; 4-5 bedrooms6kW£12,000 – £13,0005,1004,100£1,175£23,32511

Grants

You can break even on your solar panel investment faster with grants. Currently, there are several schemes available depending on where you live. 

As of 2024, the 0% VAT, Smart Export Guarantee (SEG), which allows you to receive payments for selling surplus energy back to the grid, and Energy Company Obligation Scheme (ECO4), which permits low-income households the opportunity to replace their inefficient heating system with a more efficient and environmentally friendly system, are available in England, Scotland and Wales, among others.

Solar panel grants in the UK

Efficiency and seasonality in the UK

Most domestic solar panels in the UK are around 15-20% efficient, which means they perform the same in the UK as in the rest of the world. This is enough to dramatically reduce your energy bills and carbon emissions.

For most of the year (including the winter), UK weather is ideal for the efficiency of solar panels. Solar panels produce enough energy to power 33-51% of a home during the winter period. If you have a solar battery, you could even store your excess electricity for a dark, wintery day and give that percentage a boost.

Monthly energy output of a 4kW Solar Panel System

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Are solar panels worth the investment?

Yes, solar panels are worth the investment for the average UK home in almost all cases. This depends on your energy usage and how much sunlight your home receives. 

The answer to this question can be better explained by using a 4kW solar panel system example – the most popular system size in the UK, according to GreenMatch’s research.

Annual savings from a 4kW solar panel system

A 4kW solar panel system can save an estimated £770 every year for the average home just in electricity costs. By taking advantage of the SEG and selling excess energy generated, you could potentially earn an additional £38.5 per year. This takes into account an annual energy consumption of 2,700kWh paired with a solar panel generation of 3,400kWh per year and an example SEG tariff rate of 5.5p per kWh for exported energy.

 

Solar panels typically have a lifespan of 25 to 30 years, with a slight decrease in efficiency after 30 years. Although the initial investment in solar panels can be significant, you could see a payback period as short as 11 to 15 years. Over 25 years, you could potentially save up to £23,325.

Approximately 80% of households with solar systems have a 4kW system. It has an output of 3,400 kWh per year and costs approximately £9,000 – £10,000. If you compare this to the average annual electricity consumption of a household, which is around 2,700 kWh according to Ofgem, residential solar panels can cover 117% of your electricity demand in perfect conditions.

Other factors that affect whether solar panels are worth it include the following:

  • Performance all year round. While your panel outputs will peak during summer due to more sunlight, you’ll still be benefitting from your panels in the winter. The farther south you are in the UK, the higher the year-round output you’ll generate.
  • Financial incentives. The UK Government also recognises the value of solar panels and has backed financial incentive programmes to increase solar panel adoption rates. For instance, the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) helps you earn money for any surplus solar energy you generate by exporting it back to the national grid.

Because of these factors, despite the initial solar panel installation cost, many homeowners find that using renewable solar energy and taking advantage of SEG makes solar panels worth it because they can recoup their costs faster.

Cost of solar panels based on the system size

The average domestic solar panel system costs £5,000 to £13,000. The total cost of solar panels depends on how many panels you need for your home, which in turn 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.

Solar Panel Costs and Savings Overview
Solar Panel Costs and Savings Overview
Household SizeSystem SizeSystem CostAnnual Savings on Electricity BillSEG PaymentBreak-Even Point
1-2 bedroom2 -3kW£5,000 – £8,000£515£41.2511-14 years
2-3 bedrooms3 – 4kW£7,000 – £10,000£770£38.514-12 years
4-5 bedrooms5 – 6kW£11,000‑£13,000£1,175£5515-11 years

The calculations in this table are an illustration based on the assumption that a household is using the annual national average of 2,700kWh (Ofgem) and that as much of the electricity usage as possible is covered by solar panels.

It is also based on the assumption that 850kWh of electricity is generated per year for a 1kW system, Octopus Energy’s SEG tariff of 5.5p/kWh (January 2024), and the price of electricity as of October 2023. The table makes a broad estimate and figures may vary according to the size, type, and quality of the solar panel system, as well as export tariffs.

If you are installing commercial solar panels then the sizing will be vastly different, and this will be reflected in the cost.

To determine the correct number of solar panels for your home, it’s important to consider both the system’s capacity and costs. We recommend contacting certified local solar panel installers and comparing their quotes to ensure accuracy and get the best value for your money. 

You can either take the hard way of calling up all local installers and requesting tailored quotes, or the easy way by completing our short 30-second form to receive up to 4 tailored quotes. Click the button below to start receiving free, no-obligation quotes.

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Are there grants for solar panels in the UK?

In the UK, you can earn money on your solar panels through various solar panel grants and financial schemes depending on where you live. See the table below for an overview.

Solar Panel Grants in the UK
Solar Panel Grants in the UK
Solar panel grant/SchemeEligible regionsRun timePotential savings
0% VATEngland, Scotland, WalesApril 1, 2022 – March 31, 2027£1,300+ on installation & energy bills
Smart Export Guarantee (SEG)England, Scotland, WalesJanuary 1, 2020 – (indefinite)1 – 7.5p per kWh
ECO4 (Energy Company Obligation Scheme)England, Scotland, WalesApril 1, 2022 – March 31, 2026Partially or fully free solar panels
Home Upgrade Grant (HUG2)EnglandApril 1, 2023 – March 31, 2025Households could receive up to £10,000
Home Energy Scotland ProgrammeScotland2008 – (indefinite)Households could receive up to £6,000
Warmer Homes ScotlandScotlandSeptember 2015 – (indefinite)Households could receive up to £9,000

It’s important to consider that not all of the active grants and financial schemes are available across the entire UK. We’ve included the top 6 grants for you to consider. Most notably, the 0% VAT, ECO4, and the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG).

Since the 1st of January 2020, the Smart Export Guarantee has effectively replaced the Feed-in Tariff (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 can set their own tariffs, but as of 2024, a good export tariff rate is 4-6p/kWh. However, you may find some that go as high as 24p/kWh. 

Another option for solar panel funding is the new VAT reduction on energy-saving products, such as PV panels. This means that, until March 2027, you’ll pay 0% on VAT to help homeowners transition to renewable energy. You could potentially see up to tax savings worth £1,000. If you qualify, your solar panel installer should automatically apply this VAT reduction.

You can also consider the ECO4 Scheme if you’re eligible. With ECO4, low-income households can replace an inefficient heating system with a more efficient and environmentally friendly system, such as solar PV panels. Part of the requirements is that you need to be receiving government benefits to qualify. If you’re not on benefits, you could also consider the ECO4 LA Flex which has less strict requirements.

Are solar panels the right choice for your home?

Solar panels are suitable and fit for most homes in the UK, as evidenced by the installation of nearly 12,000 solar panels in the UK each month, according to national government statistics. However, to install solar panels, it’s essential to have enough roof space, adequate sunlight, and a structurally sound roof to support them.

You can easily find out if solar panels are suitable for your home by using the checklist below.

The 4 Hard Requirements for Solar Panel Installation

However, some hard requirements cannot be negotiated when getting solar panels, such as:

  • Having sufficient roof space. To install a 4kW system of 350W solar panels, you’d need about 10 solar panels, requiring around 16 m² of roof space. For a 5kW system, you’d need 13 solar panels and 26² of roof space. It’s important to have sufficient roof space, with at least 30 cm of space around the panels. Opting for a smaller size or fewer panels may compromise electricity generation and the overall benefits for your home.
  • Having a structurally sound roof. Your roof needs to handle the weight of a solar panel system. Nowadays, most materials are suitable to hold solar panels — it’s only slate and wooden roofs that may be too brittle. But if your roof is old or is showing signs of damage, such as cupping or lifting, then it may be time to replace or repair it before installing solar panels. 
  • Knowing your monthly electricity consumption: By monitoring and considering your monthly electricity bills, you can make an informed decision about the appropriate solar panel system size and the number of solar panels for your home. This approach will prevent you from over or under-investing in solar panels.
  • Having a sufficient amount of sunlight: Solar panels can be a viable option in the UK as there is sufficient sunlight. However, it is important to take into account various factors such as peak sun hours, regional variations, and other relevant aspects to have a comprehensive understanding.

Many people find the next step of finding a trustworthy solar professional to be a daunting task, which is why we’ve partnered with a network of vetted and trustworthy installers and have got the entire process down to just a few simple steps.

  1. Fill in the 30-second form to let us know what you’re looking for and the condition of your home.
  2. We’ll call you to confirm your details and you’ll receive up to 4 different quotes from local installers. 
  3. You’ll compare the different quotes and choose the best one that fits your budget and needs. This entire service is free and comes with no obligation to accept any of the quotes you receive.

Click the button below to start getting up to 4 free quotes with our 30-second form.

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How do solar panels work?

When speaking about how solar panels work, 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
Solar Panel System
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

Solar photovoltaic panels

With over a million photovoltaic (PV) systems deployed in the UK, they are a commonly used solar panel system in the UK. Photovoltaic systems convert sunlight directly into electricity. 

Solar cells made of semiconductors like silicon absorb sunlight and convert it into electricity. Multiple solar cells are connected and packed together in a frame to form a solar panel, and multiple solar panels are connected to form a solar array. 

The electrical conductors are attached to positive and negative terminals to form an electrical circuit, which captures electrons in the form of an electric current. The current and voltage together define the power that the solar cell can produce, which is how solar panels convert sunlight into electricity.

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 electric 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.

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

Already have an idea of what you’re looking for and don’t want to waste any more time? Simply click the button below to get up to 4 of the best solar panel quotes. It’s completely free and you’re under no obligation to accept any of the quotes you receive.

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Are solar panels efficient in the UK?

Most solar panels on domestic systems in the UK are around 15-20% efficient, although some types of solar panels can reach an efficiency level of up to 25%. A typical commercial solar module has an efficiency rating of 15-20%. The efficiency of solar panels refers to the amount of sunlight converted into electricity versus the amount reflected on the panels.

About solar panel efficiency

While the average efficiency rating of 15-20% may seem low, it’s the same as in the rest of the world. Only a certain portion of the solar spectrum can be converted into electricity, which means that a sizable chunk is lost as heat. However, it is worth noting that solar panel efficiency is likely to increase even more due to advances in technology, but the panels will never be 100% efficient.

In terms of seasonality, while solar panel efficiency is higher on sunny days, solar panels do not need direct sunlight to work, as they can also produce a considerable amount of electricity on cloudy days and during the winter season. Therefore, for most of the year, UK weather is ideal for the efficiency of the product. Solar panels can be effective even in the winter if you prepare and maintain them properly.

The power of solar panels is measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh). To find the average energy output, add the minimum figure and the average figure. To find the maximum output, add all three together.

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.

You can save varying amounts of money depending on the region you’re in. In London, for example, you can save an average of £175 – £420 on yearly electricity bills. In other areas like Stirling or Manchester, you can reduce your bills by £165 – £405 per year. These savings figures also depend on whether you use the Smart Export Guarantee and how much time you spend at home (Energy Saving Trust).

How many solar panels do you need for your home?

The number of solar panels you need is largely decided by your average daily consumption and the number of sun hours in your area. 

What size solar system do I need?
House sizeHousehold energy consumptionSolar panel system sizeNumber of solar panels (350W)Number of solar panels (450W)
1-2 bedroom1,800kWh2 – 3kW5 – 84 – 8
2-3 bedrooms2,700kWh4 – 5kW10 – 138 – 10
4-5 bedrooms4,100kWh6kW1613
*These numbers are rough estimates. Your home’s energy needs may vary.

The numbers shown above are estimates and it is always highly advisable to get in contact with a solar panel expert to assess your specific circumstances.

Having said this, your roof size determines the number of panels that can fit on your roof, and how much energy can be generated.

A 4kW solar panel system would require approximately 8 solar panels with a 450W power output. This would require around 16 m² of roof space. A 5kW system comprises 10 solar panels, requiring 20m² of roof space.

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

The first step to finding how many solar panels you need 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 panel usage — this can be anything from 10-100%. Your decision will affect the system size and costs.
  • Calculate how many solar panels fit your roof. An average solar panel takes about 1.44 m2 of roof space. Don’t forget to include at least 30 cm 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.

Pros and cons of solar panels in the UK

Pros and cons of solar panels

Advantages of solar panels:

  • Cheaper electricity bills: Solar panels can generate cost-free electricity for your household throughout the year, leading to reduced overall energy costs.
  • Earn money back: You have the opportunity to sell any surplus energy produced by your solar panels back to the grid and receive compensation for each kilowatt-hour (kWh) that you sell.
  • Reduce your carbon footprint: Solar panels represent a sustainable energy source that enables reduced reliance on fossil fuels.
  • Year-round efficiency: Solar panels can be efficient year-round in the UK, despite the country’s reputation for cloudy weather. Advancements in solar panel technology have made them increasingly effective, even during the winter months.
  • Low maintenance: After installation, solar panels demand minimal maintenance. Your responsibility will be limited to ensuring they are in good condition and free from obstructions.
  • Independent from the grid: Solar panels can reduce your dependence on the grid by generating your own electricity, but complete independence may not be achievable for all households.

Disadvantages of solar panels:

  • High initial costs: Solar panels can be expensive, and in addition, you must consider the labour costs charged by the installers.
  • Dependent on sunlight: Solar panels can generate electricity without direct sunlight, however, they are more efficient during the daytime.
  • Specific solar panel placement: Certain roof types or orientations may not be suitable for accommodating solar panels, potentially reducing their optimal performance.

While solar panels generate clean energy, their initial upfront costs can be quite high, between £5,000 and £11,000, and depend on sunlight for optimal performance, meaning they’re less effective at night and in winter. Additionally, their placement is crucial; they need unobstructed south-facing access for maximum efficiency. Consider these factors before making a final decision.

Nevertheless, solar panels remain an excellent alternative to traditional polluting energy sources such as gas or oil. They enable homeowners to not only become increasingly energetically self-sufficient and reduce energy bills but also to become more environmentally friendly.

Estimates 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.

That is the amount of CO2 that around 50 fully-grown trees would take 25 years to absorb. In other words, you can make a difference by going solar! Get started by clicking the button below and receive up to 4 fully free and non-binding quotes from our trusted solar panel suppliers:

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How can you find the right solar panel supplier?

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

Finding the right solar panel supplier on your own means investing a lot of time to do research. You could spend hours trying to find the best deal. We can 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 and non-binding.

All you need to do is fill in a simple contact form, and we will then connect you with the most suitable installers near you. You can then compare these and get the best deal on solar panels!

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