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Solar panels on roof of home

A guide to solar panels

By Marta Moses | Posted June 16, 2020

Are you looking for ways to cut the cost of your home energy bill? Solar panels for your home are a great investment that can noticeably reduce your electricity bill. Read our comprehensive guide to find out how solar panels work on a house and what you need to think about before solar panel installation.

Are you considering installing solar panels and wondering about the cost and benefits? You may be pleasantly surprised to learn that solar panels are easier to install than you might think. Once installed, you can start taking advantage of solar power right away! We are here to help you understand everything you need to know about the cost and installation process. 

How much are solar panels? According to Money Saving Expert

  • A solar panel system (including installation) is about £7,000
  • With a 3.5kWp system, you can save between £160 and £420 per year on your bills (savings based on the April 2024 government energy price guarantee average unit rates)

How do solar panels work?

Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems convert sunlight into usable electricity. The solar panels capture sunlight, which the inverter then converts into electricity. This electricity can be used immediately to power appliances in your home, or it can be stored in a battery for later use when the sun is not shining. Any surplus electricity that is not used or stored is redirected back to the grid.

Solar energy information before you install

Thinking about solar? Here’s what you need to know before you buy. 

1. You can live in cloudy Britain and still use solar panels

Did you know that solar panels work just as well in the UK as they do anywhere else in the world, regardless of the weather? You don't need to live in a place that's sunny all year round to generate solar energy. Even on cloudy days, solar panels can still generate energy. However, it's worth noting that the more sunshine you get, the more energy you'll produce.

2. You need a south-facing roof

When it comes to solar panel installations, it's important to keep in mind that roofs facing East or West can still be used, but North-facing roofs are not recommended. If your solar panel system faces East or West, it may yield 15-20% less energy compared to a South-facing system. 

It's important to consider your surroundings as well. Buildings, trees, and chimneys nearby could cause shading, which can negatively impact the performance of your solar panel system. Ideally, you should find an unshaded spot for your installation. However, sometimes shading is inevitable. In such cases, you can use solar PV systems with 'optimisers' to minimise the impact of shading. It's important to note that optimisers won't generate more energy on a South-facing roof.

3. You shouldn’t need planning permission

Most homes can install solar panels without planning permission but it's best to check with your local council if you have a flat roof or live in a conservation area.

4. You can still switch suppliers

Of course, you are still free to switch suppliers if you have solar panels. No matter which energy supplier you’re with when you get them fitted, you can still change. 

You want to make sure the supplier you go with offers a Smart Export Guarantee tariff, this means you’ll receive a payment for every unit of electricity you export back to the grid.

5. Planning your project

It's possible to integrate solar PV with other renewable technologies, such as heat pumps or solar hot water systems, to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of your renewable energy system. These technologies work harmoniously together. For instance, solar PV panels can be used to power a heat pump, while multiple systems can feed into a thermal store.

If you’re not ready for this step but are trying to be more environmentally friendly, why not join the energy company that's busy building Britain’s own wind, nuclear and solar energy supply? Get a quote


Fitting solar panels: what you need to know

Set on going solar? Great to hear! Read on for advice before you buy. 


Solar installation: how to find a qualified installer

Choosing a certified installation company is crucial as they can guide you on all the regulations. It's recommended to speak with several installers and get their estimates. Most installers provide a rough idea of the costs over the phone before scheduling a survey at your home. You should ask them about the duration of the work, the warranty, and the guarantee for their work. If any guarantees are insurance-backed, it will prevent any unexpected surprises later.

If you're looking to qualify for a Smart Export Guarantee tariff and earn from any electricity you export back to the grid, then your system must be installed by an installer accredited by the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS).

Before your new solar system is installed

Before starting the installation process, your installer will conduct a survey of your home. This is an important step to ensure that the system and design offered are suitable for your property.

The surveyor should assess your home and discuss the shading analysis with you to provide you with the most accurate projected figures. It is advised to obtain a written quote that includes the fixed cost and the projected performance of the system. You are not obligated to commit to the installation on the same day. It is recommended to get quotes from different installers for comparison, ideally three.

Additionally, it is important to consider pigeon-proofing your solar panels, which is easier and cheaper to do during installation. You can inquire about this option from your installer before installation. 

The most efficient solar panels 

There are two main types of solar panels: PV and thermal. Photovoltaic solar panels (PV) are the most commonly used type, as they harness the sun's energy and convert it into electricity. These panels enable you to power your home's appliances. The other type of panel is solar thermal, which heats water for your home. Most homes install solar PV as we tend to use a lot more electricity, making it the most efficient way to reduce energy bills.

How to use your solar panels after installation

Once your solar panels are installed, you can start enjoying their benefits! You will be generating clean energy and reducing your energy bills. However, you will still have to pay for any energy you consume that is not generated by your solar panels. It is recommended to program your appliances to operate during the daytime to make the most out of your system. Additionally, you may want to consider investing in battery storage or other smart devices that enable you to utilise your free energy effectively.

Maintenance of your solar PV system

Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels are designed to last for at least 25 years with occasional cleaning. Meanwhile, the inverter that converts the DC electricity produced by the panels to AC electricity that can be used in your home will last for approximately ten years. If your inverter needs to be replaced, you might consider upgrading to a solar battery that includes an inverter.

Fancy more sunny inspiration?

Making the most of your solar energy

Imagine never having to worry about losing power during an outage or paying high energy bills again. Installing a solar battery storage solution means you can store excess solar energy and use it when you need it most. Say goodbye to wasteful energy practices and hello to a sustainable and cost-effective future.
Learn more about the benefits of home battery storage today. 

Switch to a supplier who's busy building Britain's own wind, nuclear and solar energy supply

We're helping the future of Britain's energy mix so we can reduce our reliance on energy imports and help prevent future gas price rises. We're here to help our customers achieve a low-carbon lifestyle and provide excellent customer service. Interested take a few minutes to get a quote

Being more energy efficient

Looking to reduce your carbon footprint? We have plenty of energy-saving tips to help you and your home.

Head to our energy efficiency section

Want to learn more about solar power across the world?

EDF Renewables has many solar power plants – discover more about the work happening in the Atacama desert in Chile.

Discover more about solar power worldwide

Fancy more sunny inspiration?

Making the most of your solar energy

If you have solar panels, you can use battery storage technology and save the excess for later. Our battery storage solution allows you to do just that. 

Read more on home battery storage

Want to learn more about solar power across the world?

EDF renewables has many solar power plants – discover more about the work happening in the Atacama desert in Chile.

Discover more about solar power worldwide

Being more energy efficient

Not quite ready for solar panels but want to use less energy and be kinder to the planet? We’ve got lots of energy saving tips for you and your home.

Read energy saving tips