Solar panels are becoming an increasingly popular way to produce energy in the UK. They offer a number of benefits, such as lower energy bills, government incentives, and the ability to sell excess energy back to the grid. While these benefits have long been established, many people have been reluctant to make the transition to solar energy because of the high upfront costs.
But how much do solar panels cost in 2023? Fortunately, the average price of solar panels in the UK has fallen dramatically in recent years to less than £5,000 and there are also various government solar grants available to help pay for them.
In this article, we will discuss the costs in detail as well as other factors to help you decide whether solar panels are right for you.
How Much Are Solar Panels?
There are various costs that need to be taken into account when deciding whether solar panels are a financially viable option for your home.
Solar Panels Cost
The first cost to consider is the price of the solar panels themselves. Solar panels have fallen sharply in price over the last decade, with the average cost now below £5000. In comparison to ten years ago when the average costs were in excess of £15,000, it’s easy to see why solar panels have become such a popular option.
Installation is another major outlay to take into account but how much does it cost to have solar panels installed? This varies depending on a number of factors including where you live, the size and type of your home as well as the number of panels you need. Generally speaking, however, installation costs can range from £2,000 to £5,000, with the average cost being around £3,500.
The next cost to consider is maintenance. Solar panels are very low maintenance, with most manufacturers offering a 25-year warranty. There are no moving parts so there is little that can go wrong and they should continue to produce electricity for many years after the warranty has expired. However, it is still important to have a plan in place in case any problems do arise. For example, you may need to occasionally clean the panels and check the connections to make sure they are secure.
While these costs may be offputting, you could still end up saving a lot of money down the line on bills (see below) so don’t automatically rule out solar panels based on price alone.
How is the Government Helping?
The UK government is aware of these high upfront costs and to help incentivise people to switch to solar energy, there are grants available to people who are looking to make the switch. The grant is for up to £5,000 and eligibility depends on a number of factors including your household income, whether you claim any benefits, the suitability of your home for solar panel installation and more.
You can find out more about the solar grant and how to apply for it here. There is also an Energy Companies Obligation (ECO) scheme that is backed by the government and may also be able to help you cover the costs of solar panel purchase and installation. This scheme was previously known as ECO3 but from April 2022 became EC04 with slightly different terms. You can find out more about the scheme and how it could help you by clicking here.
The Benefits of Solar Panels
Solar panels offer a number of benefits, both financial and environmental. Some of the most important are:
Lower Energy Bills
The most commonly quoted benefit of having solar panels installed is lower energy bills but how much money do solar panels save? This depends on a number of factors such as the size and type of your home, the amount of sunlight you get and the efficiency of your solar panels. However, the electricity produced by your solar panels can reduce (or even completely replace) the electricity you need to buy from your energy supplier, resulting in far lower bills. With the current cost of living crisis seeing UK energy bills rise dramatically and inflation potentially hitting 10% by the end of 2022, any protection from these increasing costs is welcome.
To Protect Yourself from Energy Insecurity
It is important to look at renewable options as soon as possible because the landscape of global energy supply looks set to become more and more unstable. This can be seen by many countries including the UK looking to move away from Russian oil and gas and become more self-sufficient following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. While the government is blaming rises in energy prices solely on the invasion, the reality is that bills in the UK were already at record highs. However, there is no doubt that the war has made the problem worse, so protecting yourself and your family from future uncertainty or financial difficulties is going to be increasingly important in the coming years.
Reduced Reliance on Fossil Fuels
In addition to lower energy bills, solar panels will also help you to reduce your reliance on fossil fuels and your carbon footprint. There are various reasons why moving away from fossil fuels is important both for the UK and the world in general including:
- They are a finite resource and will eventually run out
- They are the main cause of climate change
- They are becoming increasingly expensive as they become harder to extract
- Reliance on fossil fuels means countries with large reserves (such as Russia and Saudi Arabia) have a great deal of power over countries that don’t. This can lead to political instability as well as high energy prices.
All of these reasons make it important for us to find renewable sources of energy that can replace fossil fuels and solar panels offer a great solution.
Reduce Local Pollution
Solar panels also offer the benefit of reducing local pollution. This is because they produce no emissions when generating electricity and so don’t contribute to air or water pollution. In addition, the manufacturing process for solar panels has become much cleaner in recent years, meaning that even the production of solar panels has a lower environmental impact than it used to. Despite this, the process is still not perfect and there is room for improvement which is why it is important to recycle solar panels when they reach the end of their life.
As noted above, solar panels can help to reduce your reliance on fossil fuels and so make you less vulnerable to political instability and energy price shocks. In addition, they can also help you to become more energy independent by generating your own electricity. This is especially important for people who live in remote areas or off-grid where the cost of connecting to the grid can be prohibitive. With solar panels, you can generate your own electricity and so become completely self-sufficient.
You can Sell Excess Electricity Back to the Grid
Solar panels not only give you the chance to save money on your energy bills, they potentially give you the chance to make money by selling your excess electricity back to the grid. In the UK, this is known as the Smart Export Guarantee which replaced the Feed-in Tariff in 2020. The amount you are paid will depend on your energy supplier and how much excess electricity you produce but the current rate (as of March 2022) is around 7.5p per kWh. This may not sound like a lot, but it can quickly add up, especially if you have a large number of panels or live in a sunny area. This recycling of energy also has a positive impact on the environment as it helps to reduce the demand for energy from power stations.
You Can Store Excess Energy
If you prefer to store the excess energy you produce rather than sell it back to the grid, you can do this too. This is known as ‘battery storage’ and allows you to store the electricity your solar panels generate during the day so that you can use it at night. Battery storage is still a relatively new technology and so the cost of batteries is currently quite high. However, the price is falling rapidly and is expected to continue to do so, making battery storage a more viable option for many people in the future.
Battery storage is also a good option for people who live in places where the grid is not reliable as it means you can still have access to electricity even when the grid goes down. This is especially important for people who rely on life-saving medical equipment or those who live in remote areas where the nearest power station is a long way away.
Low Maintenance Costs
As noted above, once solar panels are installed, they require very little maintenance. In most cases, all you will need to do is keep them clean and check that there is nothing blocking them from the sun (such as trees or buildings). This can often be done with a simple hosepipe and broom and will only need to be done a few times a year.
The important thing is that you are careful when cleaning your solar panels as they are made of glass and so can be fragile. It is also important to make sure that you use a non-abrasive cleaner so that you don’t damage the surface of the panels. Most solar panels come with a 25-year warranty which covers the cost of replacement if they are damaged but you should still take care.
Long-Term Energy Savings
Solar panels provide a long-term solution to your energy needs. Once they are installed, they will continue to generate electricity for many years so that, over time, you will make significant savings on your energy bills. In addition, solar panels increase in efficiency as they get older because they become better at converting sunlight into electricity so that you will actually generate more electricity per panel as time goes on.
Of course, solar panels do have a limited lifespan and will eventually need to be replaced (although this is usually after 25 years). However, by this time, the technology will have improved and so the replacement panels will be more efficient and so will generate even more electricity than the ones they replace.
Increased House Value
Solar panels also have the added benefit of increasing the value of your home. This is because they are seen as a valuable addition by potential buyers and so can add thousands of pounds to the asking price of your property.
This is especially true if you live in an area where solar panels are in high demand or if you have a particularly large or efficient system. However, even if you don’t live in such an area, solar panels will still add value to your home as they are becoming increasingly popular with buyers across the country.
The Potential Downsides of Solar Panels
Despite these many advantages, there are also some potential downsides to solar panels that you should be aware of before making the decision to install them. These include:
The most significant of these is the upfront cost as solar panels can be quite expensive to buy and have installed. However, as noted above, the cost of solar panels has fallen significantly in recent years and is expected to continue to do so. In addition, there are a number of government incentives available that can reduce the cost further as the UK looks to move away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy.
If you live in a terrace or semi-detached house, you may also be able to share the costs with the owner of the connecting home. This is because solar panels can be installed on the roof to serve both properties and so the cost can be split between you.
They are not Suitable for All Homes
Another potential downside is that solar panels are not suitable for all homes. This is because they need to be installed in a sunny location and so will not work well if your home is in shade for most of the day. In addition, they also need to be installed on a south-facing roof in order to maximise their efficiency. If your home does not have a south-facing roof or if it is surrounded by trees or other buildings, then solar panels may not be the best option for you.
Solar Panel Manufacturing is Bad for the Environment
Although solar panels themselves are environmentally friendly, the manufacturing process for them can be very harmful to the environment. This is because it takes a lot of energy and resources to produce them and so their carbon footprint is actually quite large.
This is something that you should consider if you are looking to install solar panels in order to reduce your carbon footprint as it may not be as effective as you think.
Solar Panels are Weather-Dependant
Solar panels are also weather-dependent and so their efficiency can vary depending on the time of year and the weather conditions. This means that they will generate more electricity in the summer when there is more sunlight but less in the winter when it is darker for longer periods of time.
This can be a particular problem in the UK as we often have cloudy and rainy weather for long periods of time. However, there are ways to offset this such as by using batteries to store excess electricity generated in the summer to use in the winter.
To Sum Up
When deciding whether solar panels are the right choice for you, there are various things to consider, including?
- How much do solar panels cost?
- How much does it cost to have solar panels installed?
- How much money do solar panels save?
As you can see, the potential savings from installing solar panels far outweigh the initial cost, making them a great investment for your home. In addition, solar panels have a number of other benefits such as reducing your carbon footprint and helping to slow down climate change.
If you decide that solar panels are the right choice for you, click here to find out more about the potential incentives available.