The Cost of Solar Panels: Is It Worth Going Solar?

Rising electricity bills are causing an increasing number of people to explore the possibility of going solar. 

Costs are based on the number and quality of panels required, which means that there are a number of options to suit different applications and budgets. 

Thanks to the technological progress in solar energy, solar panel costs have seen a significant dip in recent years.  

The idea of going solar may be attractive,  but that decision will inevitably include an assessment of whether the initial costs of installation can be justified against potential future savings. 

This article highlights the various issues to be considered.

How Much Can A Solar Panel Help You Save?

Solar panels are designed to help you reduce your electricity bills. Since the electricity that you consume through your solar panels does not cost you anything, a PV system will inevitably reduce your electricity bills, but it’s hard to predict exactly how much. This depends on a number of factors:

  • Where your panels are situated
  • Electrical usage during the daytime 
  • The efficiency of your solar panel
  • Income generation by selling electricity to the grid

Additional information is provided below:

Panel siting

Being able to site your solar panels correctly will ensure that they generate the maximum power. Usually this requires the panels to  face south in order to capture the maximum amount of sunlight overall. Usually they are also tilted at between a 30 and 40-degree angle and avoid any shade from nearby buildings and trees.

Electrical usage

To obtain the maximum benefit from solar power, it’s worthwhile considering how your electricity usage can work most effectively for you. For example, where possible, use appliances that require a lot of electricity during the day rather than in the evening. Even a few minor changes can lead to substantial reductions in your energy bills.

Solar panel efficiency

The efficiency of your solar panels is an important factor in determining your cost savings. A mono-crystalline panel is more efficient (and hence, costly) while a poly-crystalline panel is cheaper but less efficient. The greater the efficiency of the system, the more electricity it will be able to produce within a certain time. 

Selling electricity back to the grid

UK residents can further reduce their solar panel costs by using solar panel grants, such as the SEG (Smart Export Guarantee). This arrangement allows you to export any excess solar energy produced by your panels back to the grid. 

How Quickly Can The Solar Panel Installation Costs Be Recovered?

This is a difficult question to answer because it depends on the size of the system (larger systems will deliver a better rate of return) and how efficiently the solar power is utilised. A typical user will use between 50% and 75% of what they generate. While the national average is 9.5 years, the further south you go, the better the result. It takes only 8.4 years in Plymouth, Exeter and Truro (the top three) for a domestic solar panel installation to pay for itself.

Impact Of Solar Batteries

Purchasing solar battery storage will significantly increase your total solar panel investment costs. Whilst the financial justification for adding battery storage is not as strong, a number of other factors make this an attractive option.

Switching from petrol & diesel to electric

The government’s target of moving to zero emission vehicles by 2030 means that households will substantially increase their electrical power requirements to charge up their cars. Being able to charge your car using your own stored solar power is proving to be a very appealing prospect and this trend is  expected to dramatically increase over time as we get closer to 2030.

Cheaper off peak electric

Some energy companies provide a significantly cheaper off-peak electric tariff. By shopping around to take advantage of this option, batteries can not only be charged from solar but additionally ‘topped up’ with off peak electricity.  Using this combined approach will ensure that power needs are met via the cheapest route. 

Coping with power cuts

Although these have happened infrequently in the recent past, that is no guarantee of what might happen in the future. Many natural, economic and political issues could arise that may cause temporary power cuts. Having an independent power supply provides a useful backup which minimises the disruption to the household in such events.  

Tips To Obtain The Best Deal On Solar

Shop around:

Carry out your research before approaching a solar supplier. It is often tempting to go with the first contractor that you find, but that may not be the best option. It is important to obtain quotes from several contractors, as well as researching these companies to ensure that they have a strong reputation and a history of satisfied customers.

Prior to signing a contract:

Review the contract wording with the contractor. A reliable contractor will talk through the contract and clarify any areas of concern. 

In particular, we would recommend focusing on the following:

  • Financing expectations.
  • Ownership expectations. 
  • Performance expectations. 

Don’t  assume that the cheapest deal is the best value for money:

Solar panel efficiency has dramatically improved over time, whilst the cost of going solar continues to drop – prices have fallen by 25% since 2014. Solar Panel Costs | How much are they? | January 2021 However, you need to assess the value for money here – low-end or cheaper solar models are also often less durable – such solar panels can not only affect your investment value but also reduce any potential long-term savings. 

Discuss the various options available to ensure that you purchase the right solar panels for your particular circumstances

Other Issues To Consider

The roof: ensure that:

  • It is structurally sound
  • It is in good condition. Solar panels last for around 25 to 30 years, and any roof repairs will be harder to carry out once solar panels have been installed.
  • It faces the right way (ideally it would be installed on a south-facing roof, although an east-facing or west-facing roof is still sufficient.)
  • It is not shaded by buildings or trees
  • It is ideally at an angle of between 30-40 degrees (although between 10 and 60 degrees is ok)

Battery (if required):

  • It’s better to purchase with the solar panels rather than at a later date. It’s more difficult to retrofit a solar battery to solar panels which have already been installed.

So, Is It Worth Going Solar?

The free electricity that you generate will create significant savings on future utility bills and provide considerable financial relief. 

Moreover, by signing up for SEG and similar funding schemes, you can actually earn money by exporting excess electricity that your solar panels generate. 

Alongside the decreases in electricity bills, solar panels also help consumers reduce their carbon footprint. And with the addition of a battery, it provides greater independence in the event of power cuts.To learn more about the costs of solar panels, the type of solar panel that will work best for you, or to get a free quotation, please feel free to contact us.