The benefits of solar panels for homes

With a rise in the price of fossil fuel energy and a growing focus on the environment, many people are turning to solar panels for homes. How can they help with energy bills, and are there any other benefits to installing a system?

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October 19, 2023
Solar panels for home. A set of solar panels installed on the roof of a large white house with the sun shining on them.

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Jump to: Energy bill savings | Solar batteries | Using an EV with solar panels | Heating water with solar power | Is your home suitable? | Planning permission | Solar panels for rental properties | Homeowner testimonials | FAQ

With the emphasis on money-saving solutions to ease the cost of living crisis whilst acknowledging our need to reduce carbon emissions, manufacturers have developed a range of solar panels for home and business. 

Also known as photovoltaics (PV), solar panels capture energy from the sun. By converting it to usable electricity to power your home appliances, they can dramatically reduce the electricity households usually draw from the National Grid—as well as their carbon footprint.

Saving on energy bills with home solar panels

By reducing your reliance on electricity from the grid, installing solar panels can save money off your electricity bills. The amount saved varies depending on how your household uses electricity, but it can be as much as £1,200 annually.

Solar panel systemPotential annual savingsPayback period

3 kW

£900

Six years

4 kW

£1,000

Seven years

5 kW

£1,100

Eight years

6 kW

£1,200

Nine years

Approximate prices for Oct 2022

The power delivered by a solar panel system is measured in kilowatts (kWs), with panels typically generating between 250 and 400 kW per hour (kWh) each. Larger households generally use more electricity and will require a more powerful system. A 4 kW system suits most homes, generating enough electricity for about four people. 

The way your household uses electricity significantly affects the money you’ll save on your bills. As solar panels don’t generate electricity at night, any power you need during darkness will be drawn from your main supply charged at the standard rate, reducing the available savings. 

Using your energy-hungry appliances, such as washing machines, dishwashers, and electric car charging during daylight hours will reduce your reliance on bought electricity. For those who are out all day, most modern appliances have timers, allowing you to use them while at work. 

Solar storage batteries will enable you to save unused electricity for when you need it. Although batteries can increase the cost of your solar panel system, they can greatly reduce your need to buy electricity from your supplier. 

Any electricity that doesn’t get used or stored can be sold back to the National Grid via an electricity company. The payment for this varies between suppliers but is generally far less than the amount customers pay for their electricity. As a result, to gain maximum savings, it makes sense to use your home-generated electricity as much as possible, leaving little to sell back.

Using solar batteries to store energy

As mentioned above, a solar battery allows you to save the surplus electricity your home solar panels generate and use it when needed—for example, at night when there is no power being produced. If you want to reduce, or even eliminate, your use of supplied electricity, a solar battery—costing between £1,800 and £9,000—could be a worthwhile investment. However, if the electricity generated by your solar panels fulfils the needs of your household, or is near enough, a battery shouldn’t be necessary.

Can you use an electric car as a solar battery?

Solar panels for home. An electric vehicle charger installed on a wall outside with two vehicles parked on the driveway next to it.
Home solar panels can charge your EV. (Image credit: Adobe)

Electric vehicles (EV) are growing in popularity, with charging points appearing at workplaces, public car parks, and service stations around the country. This is only likely to speed up thanks to the UK government’s plan to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030. 

Home charging stations are rapidly becoming the norm among EV owners, with two main options—slow or fast chargers. The slow chargers are perfect for overnight charging when combined with a solar battery, while faster versions, although more expensive to purchase, will charge your EV in a few hours. The Consumer Code for Home Chargepoints suggests that the charger price and installation cost is around £1,000 for a fast charging point. 

Under the government’s Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme, you may be entitled to a grant towards the cost of a residential chargepoint. If you fulfil the criteria, you could receive up to 75% off your chargepoint.   

Charging points can be powered by solar panels and using them could save you in excess of £1,000 annually, meaning that your chargepoint could pay for itself in around a year.

EVBattery CapacityCost to fully charge from supplier

Nissan Leaf Acenta

40 kWh

£13.60

Renault Zoe

41 kWh

£13.90

Hyundai Kona

64 kWh

£21.76

Tesla Model X 100D

100 kWh

£34.00

Prices correct Nov 2022

An innovative new option for storing solar power is emerging. Vehicle-to-home (V2H) allows your EV to store electricity generated from your solar panels, delivering it back to your household later. In the same way a solar battery stores power, V2H gives you control over when and where you deploy the electricity your panels have generated.

Heating water with solar energy

Add a power diverter to your solar panels, and you have the option to divert any unused energy to heat your immersion heater to provide hot water or charge your EV. Most models will divert automatically or allow you to decide where the power is channelled. Including a diverter into your system adds to your savings and lessens your need to use supplied electricity.

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Which homes are not suitable for solar panels?

Solar panels for home. A set of solar panels installed on the roof of a large white house with the sun shining on them.
Home solar panels are suitable for most properties, but there are some factors to consider. (Image credit: Adobe)

Although solar panels are suitable for most types of property, including bungalows, terraced, and flat-roofed homes, certain properties will not benefit from a solar installation. 

Roof direction and pitch

Solar panels need sunlight to generate electricity, and in the UK, a roof that faces due south captures the maximum energy from the sun. Conversely, a roof facing due north receives around 55%, which, although still able to generate power, results in a less efficient solar system.

The pitch of the roof plays a role in property suitability, too. The optimum roof pitch for solar panels is between 30 degrees and 45 degrees, however anywhere between 15 degrees and 50 degrees is considered viable. If your roof pitch is more than 50 degrees, your panels are likely to be shaded for much of the day, and therefore unable to perform efficiently. 

Not enough roof space

The more electricity the system is required to generate, the more panels are needed, which means more space is required to accommodate them. While most solar panels measure around 1 metre by 2 metres, there are more compact models on the market. Designed for smaller roof spaces, they can still generate the same electricity, albeit at a higher purchase cost. 

If your roof is too small, it is possible to fit solar panels on a shed or garage, or have them free-standing on the ground. Your installer will talk you through whether these options are possible.

System sizeNumber of panelsApproximate roof space required

3 kW

12

22 ㎡

4 kW

16

29 ㎡

5 kW

20

32 ㎡

6 kW

24

43 ㎡

For more information on which roofs are suitable for solar panels, read our guide here.

Do you need planning permission for home solar panels?

Solar panels for home. Solar panels installed on the roof of an older building in a conservation area.
Buildings in conservation areas are often suitable for home solar panels and in most cases won’t require planning permission. (Image credit: Adobe)

Planning regulations are instigated by local authorities to ensure residents in a particular area are not impinged upon by their neighbours. Windows overlooking a neighbour’s property or high fences that block sunlight for the house next door would negatively impact on their lives, for example. Building laws also prevent new developments from altering the appearance and feel of a place, potentially spoiling it for the existing inhabitants.

Fortunately, most solar panel installations do not require planning permission, falling under the ‘permitted development’ guidelines. This is due to their unobtrusive appearance and the government encouraging homeowners to adopt renewable energy. 

If your property has listed status, you may need to apply to your local council for listed building consent (LBC). Approval is typically dependent on the placement of your panels and the condition of the building. Likewise, if you live in a conservation area, you will need to contact your local council to ensure any changes preserve the aesthetics and integrity of the area.

Are solar panels a viable investment for landlords?

Landlords are under constant pressure to ensure their properties meet the government’s legislative requirements for rental suitability. Installing solar panels brings several benefits to both landlords and tenants. 

Homeowner testimonials

We’ve gathered some customer testimonials from people who have had solar panels installed on their home to find out what the experience is like and the benefits they have seen since making the decision.

“We have had our panels for a week now, and they have been amazing. From the person coming around for information and a quote to the installation, everything has been really smooth. There was no pressure about signing up at the time, and we had constant communication from when we did sign up to the day of installation. Even on cloudy days, we have still made a good amount of energy from it. I would 100% recommend it to our family and friends.”—Mrs. Cheasman on Trustpilot

“My experience of Project Solar UK was/is excellent, and I would thoroughly recommend them to family and friends. The team arrived on time to install the system. Installation went very smoothly, and the system was well explained afterwards. I was making my own energy as soon as the system was switched on. One very happy customer—thank you.”—Deborah Clemitshaw on Trustpilot

Home solar panels FAQ

What are the two main disadvantages of solar energy?

There’s no denying that solar panels can be a significant investment, typically costing several thousand pounds to install. However, with the rising energy costs in the UK, the return on investment on a solar system is becoming increasingly short—in some cases as little as five or six years.  While it’s true that solar energy is weather-dependent, manufacturers are producing panels that are more effective at generating electricity in poor weather conditions. Although panel efficiency decreases when the sky is cloudy, generally, the overall performance isn’t vastly affected. 

Are solar panels worth it?

Having a solar panel system installed can reduce your household electricity bills by as much as £1,200 annually, and if energy prices continue to rise, the savings are greater. Solar power also reduces your carbon emissions by more than 1.5 tonnes yearly, helping the UK reach its net zero by 2050 goal. Read our full analysis of whether solar panels are worth it.

What is the average cost of installing solar panels in the UK?

The UK’s most popular solar panel system size is 4 kW, which costs around £800 to install on top of the cost of the panels and extras such as the inverter and batteries. Larger systems generally require a two-person installation team and, consequently, cost more—in some cases more than £1,000. 

How many solar panels are needed to power a typical house?

A typical 4 kW system generates enough electricity for a family of four or five and comprises 16 1-metre by 2-metre rectangular solar panels. This can take up around 30 square metres of roof space. Many manufacturers are focusing on producing compact, highly efficient panels requiring a smaller surface area to capture the sun’s energy, making solar systems suitable even without large amounts of roof real estate.

How much do solar panels cost in the UK in 2022?

The cost of solar panels depends on several factors, including the size of the system required, ease of installation, and whether you require a storage battery, PV diverter, or other optional add-ons. Typically, however, a 4 kW system costs around £6,500 and can save you up to £1,000 annually on your energy bills.

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