A guide to solar panels

If you’re thinking about getting solar panels, you’re going to want to know what you’ll spend and save. Solar panels are far easier than you may think to install. As soon as they’re up you can start benefiting from solar power! We're here to help you discover everything you need to know about cost and installation. 

How much are solar panels? According to Money Saving Expert: 

  • A solar panel system (including installation) is about £6,200.
  • With a four-kWp system you can save between £85 and £220 a year.
  • Your energy bills will reduce with solar panels.

 

Enjoying low-carbon energy

Why not switch to our low-carbon tariffs? It means you're only ever using low-carbon energy in your home. 

Why should we use solar energy?

Solar energy is gaining popularity in the UK and is becoming more affordable and easier to generate than ever.

People like you are looking for more ways to be energy smart with renewable energy sources that help protect the environment.

Advantages of solar energy

1. Renewable

Solar energy is the one of the most effective sources of renewable energy because of the reliable amount of sun the world gets. The ever-advancing technologies that are emerging will continue to harness this source in better, easier and cheaper ways making solar the fastest growing renewable energy source.

2. Clean

​The carbon footprint of solar PV (photovoltaic) panels is already quite small and, as the materials used in them are being increasingly recycled, it continues to shrink.

3. Save money

Your electricity bills could decrease quite a bit because of the power you are generating and using, and not buying from your supplier.

4. No permit required

As solar panels are considered ‘permitted development’ you usually don't need a permit to install them on your roof. There are a few limitations you need to bear in mind before installation.

5. Low maintenance

Once installed, solar panels require very little maintenance. They are generally installed at an angle which allows rain to run off freely, washing dirt and dust away. As long as you keep them from becoming blocked by dirt, solar panels could last for over 25 years with little loss in efficiency.  

6. Independence

Investing in a solar power system makes you less reliant on the National Grid for your electricity. As an energy generator, you can enjoy cheaper electricity throughout the day. And if you invest in battery storage, you could carry on using solar energy after the sun goes down. 

7. Efficient

You’ll be contributing to a more efficient way of generating energy. Transmitting energy from power plants across extensive networks to your home inevitably results in energy loss. When your power is coming direct from your rooftop, the loss is minimised, so less energy is wasted.

8. Use your own-generated energy after dark

Invest in a home solar battery storage and you could be using your own electricity day and night. 

9. Property value

​Solar panels are generally good investment for your home. Current trends in the energy market mean that a home with solar panels (if properly marketed with a focus on the fuel savings and tariff payments) could command a higher price in the future than one without.

How do solar panels work?

A solar photovoltaic (PV) system changes sunlight into electricity. Sunlight is caught by the solar panels and converted into usable electricity by the inverter. This can then be used to power appliances in your home directly, or stored in a battery for use later when the sun is not shining. If not used or stored, the excess electricity is directed back to the grid. Learn more about energy storage.

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

How solar panels work in the UK is exactly the same as anywhere else. You don’t have to live in an area with wall-to-wall sunshine to generate solar energy. Solar panels work even through clouds. However, the more sunshine you get, the more energy you’ll generate. 

2. You need a south-facing roof

Ideally, you need a south-facing or south-west facing roof. With the latest technology most homes could benefit from solar PV. Only north facing roofs are not suitable.

3. You shouldn’t need planning permission

Good news – most homes don’t need planning permission to install solar panels. However, if you have a flat roof or live in a conservation area you might want to check with your local council before going ahead. 

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. 

5. You need a certificate 

You’ll need an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) and a rating of D or above to qualify for a FiT. An EPC rates a building on its energy efficiency, A is the most efficient and G is the least efficient. Gov.uk can point you in the right direction of an accredited energy assessor.

If you’re not ready for this step, but are trying to be more environmentally-friendly, then take a look at our low-carbon tariff.

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

It’s important you choose a certified installation company because they will be able to advise you on all regulations. It's best to talk to a few installers and get their estimates. Most of them will give you an idea of costs over the phone before arranging a survey on your home. Ask them how long the work will take as well as what the warranty and/or guarantee for their work is. If any guarantees are insurance-backed this will help you avoid any surprises later. If you're looking to qualify for FiT then your system will need to be installed by a Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) accredited installer.

Before your new solar system is installed

Before you begin the installation process, your installer will need to do a survey of your property. This is an important part of the installation process that will make sure you get a system and design that is right for your property. Your surveyor should assess your property and talk you through your shading analysis (to check shading from nearby trees or objects) for the most accurate projected figures. They should leave you a written, fixed cost quote, including projected performance of your system. You don't have to commit to anything on the day. Ideally, get a few written quotes from different installers – three is a good number.

You should also consider pigeon proofing solar panels. This is easier and cheaper to do during installation rather than after. You just need to ask your installer about this before getting the solar panels up. 

 

The most efficient solar panels 

There are two types of solar panels: PV and thermal. The type most commonly used is photovoltaic solar panels (PV) – these catch the sun’s energy and convert it into electricity. These enable you to power your home appliances. The other type of panel is solar thermal. These enable you to heat water for your home. Most homes will install solar PV as we tend to use far more electricity so this is the most efficient way to cut down on bills. 

 

How to use your solar panels after installation

After your solar panels have been installed, it’s time to enjoy the benefits! You’ll be generating clean energy and helping to reduce your energy bills. However, you will still have to pay for any energy you use that you don’t generate yourself. Think of programming your appliances for daytime to get the best out of your system. You may even want to consider getting battery storage or other smart devices that let you make the most of your free energy.

Maintenance of your solar PV system

Solar PV panels should last at least 25 years, with an occasional clean.

The inverter will last approximately ten years. If your inverter is due for a replacement you may wish to upgrade to a solar battery that includes an inverter.

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, Powervault 3, 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