Last year, domestic solar energy in the United Kingdom has seen tremendous growth and 2023 is shaping up to be a similarly big year. Not only do solar panels help shrink carbon emissions and reduce our reliance on the grid but they also helps us save money on our electricity bills.
How Do Solar Panels Work?
Solar panels work by converting sunlight into electricity. The panels consist of photovoltaic cells that absorb sunlight and transform it into direct current electricity. Then, an inverter converts this electricity into the alternating current electricity you can use in your home or feed back into the grid. To use solar power, you need to install solar panels on your roof, in your garden or somewhere on your grounds where they are angled towards the sun.
Despite being around for years, the growth of solar panels has been slow. With the reasonable prices for home energy batteries and an overall increase in electricity prices resulting from the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the sector is now experiencing a revival. In 2022, solar panel installations in the UK doubled to reach the highest levels since 2015. More than 1.2 million UK households have them on their roofs – the equivalent of 4.5% of houses.
How Much Do Solar Panels Cost?
On average, installing solar panels will set you back between £5,000 and £10,000 (approximately between US$6,330 and $12,700), with a cost of about £786 (US$995) per 350W panel. Depending on the size and occupancy of your house, prices might also be a bit higher. For a three-bedroom house, you can expect an average solar system price of £7,860 (US$9,950).
Variables such as the roof size, the location of your house, and the type of hardware all influence the costs of panels. The reason why so many people are choosing to invest in the technology now is that solar panels will provide most of the energy you need at home. With the excess power exported to the grid, it is even possible to make money through the Smart Export Guarantee. This scheme has replaced the feed-in tariffs that were in place before. In addition, solar panels will cut your home’s carbon footprint and improve its energy performance (EPC) rating, increasing the value of the property.
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How Much Can You Save With Solar Panels?
Homeowners can reduce their energy bills by up to 62% with solar panels. This means that renewable energy is a great purchase for cutting costs while also reducing carbon emissions. Despite the relatively high up-front costs, your investment will break even in a short time span of around 8 to 9 years. Once you hit that break-even point, you will start to see profits from having panels but even before then you will notice a reduction of well over half in your energy bill.
The amount of money you can save on your electricity bills with solar panels depends on several factors, such as the size of the system, the amount of sunlight your property receives, and the cost of grid electricity. On average, homeowners with solar panels can save around £450 a year in electricity bills. And if you export excess electricity back to the grid, you could make another £600 to £700 (US$760-$886) a year. According to The Guardian, smart power use, such as running the washing machine in peak sunshine and using discounted off-peak electricity, could reduce most household’s electricity bills from an average of £1,200 (US$1,519) a year to only £200-£400 (US$253-$506).
According to The Eco Experts’ latest National Home Energy Survey, over two-thirds of Brits said that they would like to buy a property with solar panels. The idea of generating your own electricity is particularly attractive in current times, where we all face challenges such as rising energy prices (the next increase is expected in July 2023) and uncertainty about the reliability of the grid.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Solar Panels
When looking at the potential savings that solar panels offer, it is hard to think of any reasons against them. The renewable energy technology also brings benefits such as reduced carbon footprint, meaning everyone can contribute to mitigating the effects of climate change. With solar panels, we reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, which are a finite resource and contribute to climate change. The panels also bring increased energy security and less dependence on the grid.
However, it is important to also be aware of the drawbacks of solar panels:
- Upfront costs: The installation of panels can be expensive. It will take several years to recoup the initial investment through electricity bill savings and earnings through the Smart Export Guarantee.
- Space requirements: Solar panels require a significant amount of space, ideally on a south-facing, unshaded roof. This might not be practical for all properties.
- Weather dependency: Solar power relies heavily on sunlight to generate electricity. In areas with less sunlight and in winter, the panels are less effective.
- Maintenance: Solar panels require regular maintenance to ensure that they are working efficiently and safely. Annual servicing is recommended.
Are Solar Panels Worth It?
Solar panels are one of the best ways to reduce your electricity bills and do something good for the environment. While there are some drawbacks, such as the upfront costs and weather dependency, the financial and environmental benefits as well as the increase of a property value convince many homeowners to give solar power a try. It is always important to do your own research.
When wondering whether panels are worth it, the rule of thumb is that if you generate enough electricity and stay in the same house long enough, the investment will pay off. Consider your home’s electricity needs, the necessary size of the solar power system and any financial incentive schemes, regionally or nationally, before you make the decision. No matter the situation, solar energy in the UK is worth it for monetary benefits, for protecting the environment, and for reducing your carbon footprint.
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