Also known as solar photovoltaics or solar PV, solar panels have been the go-to choice for renewable energy enthusiasts for over 20 years. Government schemes and funding opportunities in the past decade have incentivized property owners to install solar panels, but even without these benefits, solar PV panels remain an outstanding option for reducing your carbon footprint and cutting down on electricity costs.
You may be thinking, “Why bother getting solar panels in the UK where sunlight is limited?” The truth is, even on cloudy and overcast days, solar panels can harness enough solar radiation to generate electricity. While stronger sunshine produces more energy, don’t underestimate the power of solar panels on even the gloomiest of days.
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You’ll need between 12 and 24 solar panels to run a whole house. The exact amount will depend on how much electricity you use, how much sunlight your home gets – and how much roof space you have.
A rough estimate is that a 1-bedroom house will need 6 panels and a 2.1kWh system, a 3-bedroom house will need 10 panels and a 3.5kWh system – and a 5-bedroom house will need 14 panels and a 4.9kWh system.
You’ll discover more on this topic in our blog: home solar panels: how much sunlight does it take to power a home? And you can find out what size system your home will need with this handy solar energy calculator from The Energy Saving Trust.
Solar panels are around 95% silicone (including the most common monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film designs). This semiconductor material is perfect for the job because it’s cost-efficient, easy to use, and really durable.
The other 5% is usually made up of an anti-reflective glass coating, metal, wiring, and a plastic/polymer frame – to mount the panels on a roof or secure them to the ground.
Ages! Solar panels are a big investment, so it’s reassuring to know they last a long time. Most will give you a good 25 to 30 years of power. And you can get a generous 40 to 50 years with some of the latest models.
The performance of solar panels does drop slightly over time, but many come with warranties to guarantee efficiency levels of above 80%.
Not necessarily! Amazingly enough, solar panels produce power on cloudy days too. Even if it’s snowing or hailing, your solar panels can still generate electricity, so long as there’s a bit of light. That said, solar panels will perform at their very best when it’s sunniest.
There are ways to make your solar panels more effective. You should install them on a south-facing roof ideally, where they’ll catch the most rays. (We wouldn’t recommend installing solar panels on a north-facing roof.) It’s also best to install them at a 30 to 40-degree angle.
You only need planning permission for solar panels if your home is listed or in a conservation area. If that’s the case, get in touch with your Local Planning Authority to find out more.
Solar panels are also subject to building regulations. So you’ll need a certified installer to complete some checks before you get the panels fitted.
They might do, yes! A report by Solar Energy UK found that solar panels could increase the value of a typical home by at least £1,800. They could also make your home more attractive to future homeowners, because of the savings on energy costs.