We’re often reminded that electric is the future - the future of cars, the future of home heating - and that if we want to save our planet, we must use more renewable energy. Solar panels are one of the easiest ways to do this, but if you’ve ever considered having them installed on the roof of your home, you may have asked yourself the question, ‘are solar panels worth it?’ 

We’re told that solar panels can reduce your home’s carbon footprint, decrease your energy bills and allow you to actually earn money by selling electricity to the National grid. But is this all really the case?

Below, we look into whether solar panels are a worthwhile investment, if they can actually save you money on your bills and how well they work in winter.

Photo Voltaic Solar Panel on Roof

When are solar panels worth it?

There is no simple answer as to whether you should or shouldn’t get solar panels. This is because their worth can depend on the type of property you have, how long you’re planning to live there, where you’re located in the UK, the direction your home faces and more. Below, however, you can find some situations where getting solar panels would be a good idea.

You plan on staying in the same property for 15+ years

Solar panels aren’t cheap to install, so while they could reduce your energy bills, you may not recuperate these costs for a long time. For many, the ideal situation would be to recover the cost of the solar panels through energy savings, but it could take more than 20 years for this to happen.

If you only plan on living at a property for a short time (or even less than 10 years), you are unlikely to begin to see the monetary benefits. Therefore, it may only be wise to consider installing solar panels if you’re in your forever home, or at least somewhere you plan to stay for a considerable period of time. 

You can generate enough electricity

The more energy your panels can generate, the better your cost savings will be. Solar panels are worth it if you can be sure they’ll actually produce a good enough amount of electricity to be used in your home. Most panels will generate approximately 250 to 400 watts per hour, but this could be significantly less if your home faces north, the panels are shadowed by a large building or a tree or the panels’ surfaces are dirty.

Homes that will benefit the most from solar panels are south-facing properties that are based in the south of England, where sunshine is more frequent and there’s less cloud cover. You should get the biggest system you can (i.e. the greatest coverage of panels that will fit on the south-facing side of your roof), as this will only result in more electricity generation.

You can get a grant to help you with the cost

You may be able to get a grant to put towards the cost of your solar panels. This could help with the initial outlay and means you can recuperate the panels’ cost more quickly. Currently, there is a VAT reduction of 5% for people over the age of 60 or those on income or disability benefits.

You may also be eligible for the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG). This scheme means that you can receive payments for selling unused electricity back to the grid. This reduces energy wastage and is another way for you to recuperate money on your solar investment. The scheme opened in January 2020 and currently has no closing date.

You use solar batteries

Solar panels aren’t able to store the electricity they generate - it must be used instantly or else the energy is wasted. Summer is when you generate the most electricity, but we tend to use more electricity in winter, with the shorter days and dark evenings. So imagine if you could store the energy that’s created for when you really need it?

Solar batteries can be quite costly (as much as £4,000 for one battery), but could make a huge difference to the amount of generated electricity you can actually use. You could produce plenty of electricity during the day and use it to charge your electric car at night, for example, or use yesterday’s energy to power your heat pump.

When the battery is full, any unused electricity can be sold back to the National Grid, resulting in less energy wastage and allowing you to potentially pay off the initial outlay faster.

Can solar panels reduce your energy bills?

Solar panels can absolutely reduce your energy bills, but the amount will depend on the size of the system you have, your electricity demands and more.

How much do solar panels reduce your electricity bills by?

It’s thought that with a 4kW system, you could save up to £300 on your electricity bills each year.

A 4kW system can cost between £6,000 and £8,000, so when you save £300 a year on your bills, it could take between 20 and 27 years to pay off the system. It’s worth noting, however, that when you receive SEG payments of up to £100 a year, this could be reduced to 15 to 20 years. The more power you generate, the higher the SEG payments and the more you will save on your bills each year.

How do solar panels reduce energy bills?

Solar panels can reduce your energy bills because you’re generating your own electricity for free, and therefore using less electricity from the National Grid.

Your energy supplier will charge you per kWh for your electricity usage, usually between 15p and 18p per kWh. But with solar panels, the percentage of energy you get from your supplier is no longer 100% because your solar panels are generating a certain percentage instead.

Do solar panels work in winter?

Unlike solar thermal, which relies on heat to warm up cold water, solar panels rely on light to generate electricity, therefore, they can work as well in winter as they do in summer. The reason they generate less electricity during the winter months is because the days are shorter and sunny days can be few and far between.

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