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Solar panels UK 2024 complete guide

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The average home can save £1,190 every year with solar panels
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Solar panels harness the sun’s power to generate free, renewable electricity for UK households. Also known as photovoltaic (PV) panels or systems, the best solar panels on the market utilise semiconductors to convert sunlight into usable electricity, helping you save on your energy bills while reducing your reliance on fossil fuels.

In this guide, we’ll help you decide if solar panels are right for you and whether you should join the thousands of homeowners switching to solar every month. We’ll outline how solar panels work – and if they work in the UK’s notoriously grey weather – and how much you can expect to save by installing solar panels on your own home in the UK.

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What are solar panels and how do they work?

solar panels explainer graphic
[1] Solar panels are typically installed on the roof of a house but can also be free-standing. [2] A solar inverter is required to convert the power from the panels to electricity that’s useable by appliances. [3] An app is typically used to monitor electricity usage. [4] An optional solar battery stores excess electricity which you can use on cloudy days, and to safeguard against power outages. [5] Electric cars can be charged by solar with the appropriate EV charger. [6] If you have an electric boiler, then even your hot water can be powered by solar (Independent Advisor)

A solar panel (or module) is a collection of solar cells that convert sunlight into usable electricity or heat. How your system does this depends on the type of solar panel you choose.

There are two types of solar panels:

  • Photovoltaic panels: Produce electricity
  • Solar thermal panels: Used for heating

Solar photovoltaic panels

Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels are made up of multiple cells containing conductive materials, most commonly silicon. These release electrons when exposed to sunlight , which creates a flow of energy. This energy is captured and converted, and the current is combined with the cell’s wattage to determine how much electricity is created. The most common panels used for residential solar systems are monocrystalline, polycrystalline and thin-film.

Types of solar PV cells

Monocrystalline cells

Monocrystalline solar panels are so named because their cells are made of a single ‘crystal’ of silicon. These cells are popular with consumers  concerned about the appearance of their panels, as their simple construction results in a sleek, nearly all-black design.

Monocrystalline cells also tend to be more energy efficient, and – thanks to their single-crystal construction, which allows electrons to flow more freely – perform better in low-light conditions. You would also need fewer panels to meet your energy needs than you would with polycrystalline panels, as they perform better in higher temperatures, t and have a longer lifespan, than other types of cells.

That said, monocrystalline solar panels’ high levels of quality and efficiency mean they’re more expensive than their polycrystalline counterparts, so they won’t be suitable for homeowners on tighter budgets.

Polycrystalline cells 

Polycrystalline cells are made of multiple silicon crystals. These crystals are melted – rather than cut, as in the case of monocrystalline panels – into squares, which are then connected to form a solar panel. 

The downside of using multiple crystals is reduced efficiency –  around 13 to 16 per cent, compared to the 15 to 20 per cent of monocrystalline cells – as there’s less room for electrons to move around. This also means you’d need more panels – and, as a result, more available space on your roof or in your garden – to cover your energy requirements. Polycrystalline cells also suffer more from temperature fluctuations than monocrystalline cells, and therefore have a shorter lifespan.

That being said, polycrystalline panels are much cheaper than monocrystalline cells, making them ideal for those on a shoestring budget.

Thin-film cells

Though they’re the least energy efficient of the three types of solar cells discussed here (topping out at around 7 per cent), thin-film solar panels require less material to make and are therefore the cheapest option. They’re made by transferring a thin film of silicon onto another material – usually glass.

Because of thin-film panels’ lower efficiency, we usually only recommend them  for installations where space isn’t an issue – for instance, on large-scale commercial or industrial solar developments. Because thin-film solar panels also tend to degrade quicker than crystalline cells, they’re not typically used as part of smaller-scale, domestic solar setups. However, they perform extremely well in low-light conditions, and have even been found to produce electricity in bright moonlight.

Grid-connected vs stand-alone PV systems

A grid-connected solar panel system is connected to the National Grid, which means you’ll never be without electricity. If your panels generate less electricity than your home requires, you’ll have instant access to power from the grid. Should your system generate more electricity than your home needs, this can be exported back to the grid via your energy supplier for a profit using the Smart Export Guarantee. 

Stand-alone solar PV panels are not connected to the National Grid. These types of systems are most common d in remote locations where connection to the grid isn’t possible. During daylight hours, stand-alone panels generate electricity that can be used to power your home, and store any excess electricity in solar batteries for use when your panels aren’t supplying any electricity – mostly at night. Stand-alone systems are more costly than grid-connected systems, primarily due to the cost of solar batteries.

Solar batteries

Solar battery storage systems are designed to store excess energy from your solar panels. You can then use this surplus solar to power your home at times of the day when your panels are not generating any electricity, for example at night, or in cloudy or low-light conditions.

In theory, solar batteries sound like a favourable idea – albeit one that will cost you around £4,000 on top of your initial solar panel system investment. With battery storage, however, you may no longer need to rely on grid electricity – cutting down your energy bill dramatically – and be unaffected by  power cuts in your area.

Solar thermal panels

Solar thermal panels, sometimes known as solar thermal collectors, are roof-mounted panels that use sunlight to heat water, which is then stored in a cylinder and used to heat your home’s water and inner spaces.

Solar thermal panels can provide up to 90 per cent of your home’s hot water requirements in summer, and save you between £135 and £255 on your energy bill – and prevent up to 930kg of greenhouse-gas emissions – every year. 

Are solar panels right for you?

In this video, we answer your most common questions about solar panels to help you decide if they’re a worthwhile investment.

What are the benefits of solar panels?

There are both pros and cons to solar panels that you’ll need to carefully consider before investing. As for the benefits, solar panels can:

  • Reduce your energy bills: Homes with solar panels in the UK are already  reducing their energy bills by up to £545 or more per year: even more, depending on their location, system size, and how much energy they use 
  • Make you a profit from your excess electricity: Homeowners can sell surplus energy back to the National Grid through a Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) tariff 
  • Increase your home’s value: Potential buyers are willing to pay an average of £2,038 more for a home with renewable energy systems, such as solar panels
  • Provide a constant supply of electricity: The average solar panel lasts up to 25 years or more and will generate clean energy all year round. And, providing you’ve installed a solar battery, you’ll still have an electricity supply in the event of a power cut 
  • Minimise your carbon footprint: Solar PV panels will cut the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions your house  produces. Research by the UN has found that PV produce between 25g and 32g of CO2 per kWh of electricity, compared to 400g/kWh for power generated by fossil fuels
icons8-question-64

How much is it to purchase solar panels?

The average cost of a solar panel system in the UK for a three-bed house is £9,000, with a solar battery.

 

Are solar panels worth the investment?

Yes, solar panels for homes are worth the investment if you can afford them – you’ll benefit from massively reduced energy bills.

 

Do solar panels work in the UK?

Yes, solar panels are highly efficient in the UK and can even generate electricity on cloudy days and throughout the winter months. 

 

When do solar panels pay back?

On average, solar panels pay back after 12 years, though the exact length of time will depend on the initial cost, the size of the system, and your house’s location.

 

Can I generate all my electricity from solar panels?

Yes, as long as the system is powerful enough to cover your usage.

 

Will solar panels fit on my roof?

That depends on the size of your roof and the system you want to install. We go into this topic in detail later in this article.

 

Will my solar panels require planning permission?

Most small-scale domestic solar arrays in the UK qualify for permitted development rights, which means they won’t require planning permission. Some houses, however – such as listed buildings, or those in conservation areas or World Heritage sites – will require planning permission.

How much can you save with solar panels for your home?

Solar panels are a long-term investment for your home and one that won’t pay out in a few short years. Still, there’s plenty to gain from generating your own electricity; and, in the long run, solar panels won’t just  pay for themselves – they  could even turn  you a healthy profit, too.

In the below table, our researchers have calculated the potential costs and savings for a three-bedroom semi-detached house with a Midlands postcode. These figures should give you an idea of what an average UK household stands to gain from installing a solar PV system.

System sizeEstimated installation costEnergy generated per yearElectricity bill savings per yearSEG payments per yearCO2 savings per year
3kW£4,9572,119kWh£168£81490kg
4kW£5,9422,826kWh£188£114654kg
5kW£6,9283,532kWh£203£147816kg
6kW£7,9134,238kWh£215£180980kg
7kW£8,8994,945kWh£226£2141,143kg

Source: Energy Saving Trust. Data assumes cost of electricity and SEG rate of 5p/kWh remains level for the lifetime of solar PV (25 years).

How much money can you save in your area?

Throughout our research, we discovered you could save over £400 on your energy bills – every year – by installing a 6kw to 8kW system and opting in to SEG payments, but this will vary depending on your location in the UK. 

The below tables are examples of what you could save on your energy bills based on a 3.5kW system. These figures are from Energy Saving Trust and based on electricity prices as of January 2024.

South East London

Amount of time spent at homeAnnual savings with SEG payments
Home all day£545
Home in the mornings£475
Home in the afternoons£450
Out all day until 4pm£375
Out all day until 6pm£345

Aberystwyth, Wales

Amount of time spent at homeAnnual savings with SEG payments
Home all day£510
Home in the mornings£445
Home in the afternoons£415
Out all day until 4pm£345
Out all day until 6pm£315

Manchester, North of England

Amount of time spent at homeAnnual savings with SEG payments
Home all day£505
Home in the mornings£435
Home in the afternoons£410
Out all day until 4pm£340
Out all day until 6pm£310

Stirling, Scotland

Amount of time spent at homeAnnual savings with SEG payments
Home all day£475
Home in the mornings£410
Home in the afternoons£390
Out all day until 4pm£320
Out all day until 6pm£290

Belfast, Northern Ireland

Amount of time spent at homeAnnual savings with SEG payments
Home all day£495
Home in the mornings£430
Home in the afternoons£405
Out all day until 4pm£340
Out all day until 6pm£310

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David H icon

Is now a good time to invest in solar panels? David Hilton, Energy-efficiency and Solar Panels Expert

Now is the very best time to invest in solar panels. Energy costs are high compared to previous years, and if we can generate our own energy, it’s an ideal outcome. In the past we relied on incentives to help pay for our solar installations. The Feed-in Tariff (FiT) was very generous – around 45p per kilowatt hour (kWh) generated at a time when electricity only cost 9p per kWh – but the installations were also very expensive. The payback time was around 11 years. 

 

When the FiT ended, the solar panel market dropped off a cliff and other renewables (such as heat pumps) came onto homeowners’  radars. But then in 2022, electricity and energy prices rocketed and the appeal of solar PV panels returned. The cost of electricity is now the driver of the payback, and given the cost of an installation is a lot less than it was a decade ago, the payback period is now around 10 years – sometimes less. This does, however, depend on how much you spend on the installation – and how much of the generated electricity you use.

When will you break even on solar panels?

Although we’ve  explored the potential savings from solar PV, the initial investment is costly – and one you should consider carefully. The savings on your energy bills may happen quickly, but the time it takes for you to break even on the initial cost won’t. 

However, as well as saving money on your energy bills, there’s also the potential to earn money by selling any unused solar energy back to the National Grid. By offloading this surplus power back to the grid, your solar panels will recoup your initial investment in less time than they otherwise would.

There are a few factors that will affect how quickly your solar panels pay for themselves; these include:

  • The amount of sunshine your area gets
  • The size and position of your roof and the number of panels installed
  • The price of electricity and the SEG tariff (the amount of money you’ll be paid for the electricity you sell back to the National Grid)
  • The amount of electricity your solar system generates
  • Whether you utilise solar panel grants to help offset the up-front outlay

The below table will give you an idea of how long it might take to break even on your investment based on these factors.

Typical house size for systemSolar panel system sizeTotal cost of systemAnnual savingsSEG paymentsWhen you will break even
Two bedrooms2kW£3,971£216£6314 years
Three bedrooms4kW£5,942£342£14112 years
Four bedrooms6kW£7,913£451£22311 years
Five bedrooms or more8kW£9,884£553£30511.5 years

The UK’s continually fluctuating  energy prices have a near-constant effect on the time it’ll take your solar panels to pay back. Higher energy prices mean that your system will pay for itself much more quickly; lower energy prices, along with lower SEG tariffs, will have the opposite effect. 

It wasn’t too long ago that it took around 14 years for solar panels to pay for themselves. However, systems installed in 2024 could pay for themselves in less than 10 years.

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What should you consider when deciding if solar panels are right for you?

Check your roof and panel orientation

Homeowners wanting to install solar panels need to be sure the panels can be installed securely to a south-facing roof. A west- or east-facing system will still work but may be around 20 per cent less effective than a south-facing array in the same location. 

 

Find out if you need planning permission

Solar panels do not usually require planning permission, as they are installed under the General Permitted Development Order (GDPO): or, more simply, permitted development rights.

Store your excess electricity with a solar battery

You can also fit 16 Amps of panels without permission from the network operator. This is effectively 3.72kW, or around 10 panels. If you have a three-phase electric supply, then you can fit three times that amount.

 

As for your domestic solar array’s height, it must not project more than 20 cm – excluding the chimney – above your roof’s ridgeline (for slanted roofs), and 60 cm (for flat roofs). Different rules apply for listed buildings, or those situated in a conservation area or World Heritage Site.

 

Ground- mounted panels also come with a different set of requirements as to whether you’ll require planning permission or not.

 

Manage your appliances smarter with an app

Once your panels are installed, it’s then up to you to maximise the use of the energy being generated. The obvious solution to this is the use of a solar battery. A battery allows you to draw on daytime-generated electricity after the sun goes down and your panels are no longer working – especially if you’re not at home during the daylight hours. You will, however, need to factor in the cost of the battery and calculate its effect on your solar system’s break-even point.

 

Use a diverter to maximise generation

Another thing to  consider is adding an energy diverter device, which redirects excess energy from the solar panels to a water cylinder immersion heater. When you need new appliances – such as washing machines, tumble dryers or dishwashers – it makes sense to get appliances that can be remotely controlled through an app. They can then be pre-loaded before you leave the home and programmed to start at specific times later in the day – ideally, when the sun is at its peak – and your panels are producing the maximum amount of electricity.

Is your home suitable for solar panels? Key questions to ask

Solar panels installed on the roof of a typical red brick house in the UK
There are ideal conditions to keep in mind when determining your home’s suitability for solar panels. (Adobe)

Solar panels are effective in the UK, and can even work on cloudy days – but that doesn’t make them suitable for every household.

Before considering the below criteria to work out if solar panels are suitable for your home, it’s worth getting to grips with  the average cost of solar panels in the UK – we’ll go into more detail about solar panel costs later in this guide, but here are some headline figures to keep in mind: 

The average UK home with an average-sized family, and an average energy usage:

  • Three-bedroom semi with 29㎡ roof space
  • 3,000kW annual electricity usage

Would typically require: 

  • A 4kW solar system
  • Cost: £7,000

Is the angle of your roof optimal?

The angle of your roof matters when it comes to installing solar panels on your home, as it can impact their efficiency and how much electricity they will produce. So can the geographical location of your home. 

The orientation and angle of your roof determines how much sunlight your solar panels will receive. The optimal roof angle is between 30 and 40 degrees – studies suggest that solar panels at these angles maximise sunlight exposure and subsequently generate more electricity. 

Another factor to consider is which way your roof is facing. In the UK, south-facing solar panels will generate more energy than other orientations and save you the most money on your energy bills.  

The below table shows solar panels’ efficiency according to their angle, tilt and location in the UK. The percentages in the table show the efficiency you can expect.

Direction panels face from due north →WSE
Tilt ↓270°240°210°180°150°120°90°
84%84%84%84%84%84%84%
10°84%87%90%91%90%87%84%
20°82%89%94%96%94%89%82%
30°81%90%97%100%97%90%81%
30°78%89%97%100%97%89%78%
50°74%87%95%98%97%87%74%
60°69%82%92%95%92%82%69%
70°64%77%86%89%86%77%64%
80°57%69%78%81%78%69%57%
90°50%61%68%71%68%61%50%

Source: Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) guidance for domestic solar installations

Is your roof shaded?

After determining your roof’s angle and orientation, assess whether your roof is shaded; and, if it is, during which hours of the day.

To maximise your solar panel system, your roof should not be shaded during peak sunlight hours. (In the UK, this is between 10am and 4pm.) If your roof is shaded during this time, you may not be able to generate enough electricity to power your home.

Do you have enough roof space?

Installing home solar panels comes with many benefits: namely, the money they’ll save you on your energy bills. That said, you should also weigh up whether  your roof has enough space for the size of the system you’ll require to meet your household’s energy needs. 

Our researchers found that the average UK household requires a 4kW system, meaning you’ll need around 29m2 of available roof space.

Is your roof sturdy enough for solar panels?

Solar panels add a considerable amount of extra weight to your roof. It’s easy to check how much each panel weighs before you make any purchasing decisions, as every manufacturer discloses this information on their product specification sheets. 

To give you an estimate, though, we’ve calculated that  the average solar panel system – based on the fact that a typical UK household requires a 4kW system, and that this consists of roughly 16 panels – could weigh up to 280kg.

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Do solar panels affect home insurance?

There’s no simple answer to whether solar panels will affect your home insurance policy, but you should be aware of the following points:

  • You need to tell your insurance provider if you are installing or have installed panels, either when you take out the policy or when you have them fitted
  • Solar panels are an asset, so this may affect your premium
  • Installing solar panels would likely affect the cost to rebuild your home if required, and this could also affect your premium

That said, most insurers will include solar systems as standard, so don’t let that put you off. By notifying your insurer, they can make sure you have sufficient cover to replace them should you need to.

Do solar panels work in the UK?

Solar panels do work in the UK – and come with an attractive set of benefits to boot. That’s not to say there are no disadvantages, though – so let’s round up both sides of the debate below.

Pros

Reduced energy bills Earn money from excess energy Can be independent from the grid Reduced carbon footprint Year-round efficiency

Cons

High initial investment costs House location affects sunlight hours Roof angle needs to be between 30 degrees and 40 degrees

It’s a common myth that solar panels don’t work very well in the UK, a country with a lot of grey, cloudy days and a (sometimes insufferably) long winter season. However, although solar panels work best on sunny days when there is the most sunlight available, they still work on cloudy days, too. 

Domestic solar panels typically convert between 10 and 20 per cent of the UK’s solar energy into usable electricity

Below is a set of graphs showing the average amount of electricity the average 4kW system produced each month in 2022, based on sunlight data from the Met Office.

North of England

North of England solar panels efficiency

South of England

South of England solar panels efficiency

Midlands

Midlands solar panels efficiency

East Anglia

East Anglia solar panels efficiency

England North West and North Wales

England NW and N Wales solar panels efficiency

England East and North East

England E and NE solar panels efficiency

England South West and South Wales

England SW and S Wales solar panels efficiency

England South East and Central South

England SE and Central South solar panels efficiency

Scotland North

Scotland North solar panels efficiency

Scotland East

Scotland East solar panels efficiency

Scotland West

Scotland West solar panels efficiency

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How long do solar panels last?

Although a costly investment, solar panels for homes have an average lifespan of 25 years, and can last even longer. The best part is that you should break even on your solar panels’ initial cost long before you need to consider replacing them – and you can start earning money from them straight away through SEG payments.

Power output and power consumption

All solar panels quote a maximum power output figure, measured in watts (W). This figure is recorded under ‘Standard Test Conditions’ (STC). As an example, a 400W panel in three hours of testing should produce 1,200 Watt-hours, or 1.2kWh, of electricity.

The power output of the solar panels you select will determine how many you need to support your home’s energy needs. If you opt for panels with a lower output, you’ll need to install more of them – which, of course, means you’ll need more space on your roof or in your garden to place them. More panels also equates to higher installation costs, because of the extra mountings and wiring involved.

To explore the average annual UK household usage per kWh – and get an idea of what your own power usage might be – dive into the chart below.

Average energy consumption by house size for solar panels
Source: OVO Energy

How to calculate your solar needs

To know how many solar panels your household needs, you’ll first need to work out how much energy your home consumes – our step-by-step guide will walk you through it. 

Step 1: Calculate how much electricity your home uses

To work this out, you’ll need your electricity bill – either the paper version or on your online account. This will tell you how much electricity you use (which is measured in kWh) per month or per year. Either use the annual figure or work out how much you use by multiplying your monthly consumption figure by 12.. Then, divide this number by 365 to calculate your daily usage.

For this example, we’ll assume an annual usage of 3,500kWh for our hypothetical home.

Annual usage = 3,500kWh

3,500 ÷ 365 = 9.6kWh per day usage (or 9,600Wh)

Step 2: Work out how much electricity you want your solar system to generate

Decide how much of your annual electricity consumption you want your solar panels to generate. Generally, the more power your solar system supplies, the more it will cost  initially. 

For this example, we’ve based our figures on a household that wants to generate 100% of its energy needs through solar.

Household power usage per day = 9.6kWh (9,600Wh)

Required power generated by solar = 100 per cent

Step 3: Determine how much sunlight your house receives 

You’ll also need to work out how many sunlight hours your home receives per day. Sunlight hours vary day to day, month to month, and region by region. In the UK, the average sunlight hours per month in 2023 varied from a low of 27.9 in December to a high of 247.5 in June 2023 – but this will, of course, depend on where in the UK you live.According to the UK government, the average sunlight total across the country in 2023 was 4.3 hours per day.

3,500 ÷ 365 = 9.6kWh per day usage (or 9,600Wh)

Required power generated by solar = 100 per cent

Sunlight hours = 4.3 per day

Step 4: Assess the power of your chosen solar panels

Now, estimate the power from each solar panel in your selected system. Panels range from 200W to 450W for UK households.

For this example, we’ll use 350W panels.

Our power usage per day = 9.6kWh (9,600Wh)

Required power generated by solar = 100 per cent

Sunlight hours = 4.1 per day

Panel power rating = 350W

Step 5: Figure out how much power your solar panels will generate

Using these figures, you can work out your potential power generation per day. Simply use the following formula:

Solar panel watts x average hours of sunlight × 0.75* = daily Wh

*The 0.75 modifier takes into account any variables such as solar panels not in a perfect south-facing position or under shade for some of the day.

350W × 4.3 sunshine hours × 0.75 = 1,128.75Wh per day

Step 6: Understand how many panels you’ll need

Finally, you’ll need to work out how many panels you require to cover your daily usage. To do this, simply divide the amount of energy you use per day (which you calculated at the beginning of this process) by the amount of energy our system can generate from the previous step.

In our example, our hypothetical household uses 9,600Wh per day, with a system capable of generating 1,128.75Wh per day. So the formula looks like this:

9,600Wh ÷ 1,128.75Wh = 8.5 panels

So, in our example of a 350W panel, we’d need eight and a half solar panels to generate enough power to cover our electricity needs. Remember, you can always sell any unused electricity back to the Grid, so we’d even consider fitting nine, or even 10 panels to allow us to pay off our investment quicker.

David H icon

How to best utilise solar energy generated – David Hilton, Owner, Heat and Energy Ltd

Fitting solar PV panels to your roof is the low hanging fruit and the addition of a battery could mean that you could store any energy generated during the day and use it at night. You could also charge the battery during off-peak tariff times and use it when the energy is more expensive during peak times. Having the ability to set your appliances, such as washing machine, tumble dryer and dishwasher via wifi and smart app devices, to run during the daylight hours means that you can better optimise the use of solar generation.

What to consider when choosing the right solar panels

Although cost may be the overriding factor when picking between solar panels, there are other important aspects to bear in mind to end up with  the right system for your home. 

The most important factors to remember are:  

Efficiency – and what affects it

Solar panels in the UK typically convert between 10 per cent and 20 per cent of the energy they receive into usable electricity in the UK. This rate is called their efficiency – and it imply refers to the percentage of energy collected from the sun’s rays that your solar panels are able to convert into usable electricity. Therefore, the higher percentage that your panels are rated for efficiency, the more electricity to power your home they will produce. 

Power degradation and lifespan 

Power degradation refers to the gradual, year-on-year loss of usable energy your panels can generate, which has a bearing on its lifespan: which, basically, refers to how many years your solar panels will last. Solar brands will disclose this information in their product specifications and datasheets.

Product warranty 

Solar panels have an average lifespan of 25 years, and – although they can last longer than this – their efficiency will have decreased significantly. Since most solar panels have a relatively long lifespan, suppliers should also offer a long warranty with them – ideally as many years as they are expected to last. 

Our researchers found the average warranty offered by solar manufacturers and companies is 15 years, with the highest being a lifetime guarantee. 

Size

Our researchers compared hundreds of solar panel datasheets and discovered there’s no standard size for solar panels. This means you’ll need to know your roof’s size, or have an installer measure it for you, to know how many solar panels will fit. But remember, you’ll need to take into account how many panels your household needs to meet your energy consumption requirements – for that, scroll back up to our comprehensive walk-through above.

Which companies or manufacturers are best for solar panels?

With any new investment or purchase, sometimes knowing where to look – or which manufacturers or companies to trust – is the hardest part.

That’s why we’ve spent hundreds of hours researching different companies, manufacturers, and solar panels to find out which brands can be trusted – and which ones are most worthy of your investment – and compiled them all in our lists of the best regional solar panel installers  and the best national solar panel installers, in the UK.

How to find an MCS-accredited installer

Once you’ve worked out which solar panels are right for your home and calculated the size of the system you require, it’s time to have them installed. But before you dive in, you’ll first want to find yourself an MCS-accredited installer. 

The Microgeneration Certificate Scheme (MCS) is an accreditation that quality-assures renewable technology’s products and installers. The MCS was government-owned up until 2018, and has certified more than 4,000 contractors in the UK to date.

The MCS scheme isn’t mandatory. However, by choosing an MCS-accredited installer, you can trust they have the experience needed to do the job well. It should also be noted that, in order for your solar system to benefit from the SEG, the scheme which allows you to sell surplus energy back to the grid, your installer must be MCS-accredited.

Tom Armstrong, Project Solar

What is the installation process for solar panels? – Tom Armstrong, Sales Director at Project Solar

After introductions, your solar representative will inquire about your home’s energy needs, current electricity usage, and any specific goals or preferences you have for your solar system. Your solar representative will then analyse your historical energy bills to understand your electricity consumption patterns.

 

Your solar representative will then conduct a site evaluation to assess your property’s solar potential. This involves examining your roof’s orientation, pitch, shading, as well as its available space for solar panels. If applicable, they may also look at other potential installation areas, such as ground-mounted options.

 

Based on the site evaluation and energy analysis, your solar representative will design a tailored solar system proposal for you. This proposal includes details about the system’s size, the number of solar panels, the estimated energy production and the installation cost.

 

Then, your solar company will present the financial analysis, including potential cost savings, export credits, and financing options. They should explain the solar system’s return on investment and payback period.

 

You can then ask questions about the solar system, the installation process, warranties, and maintenance. Your solar representative should provide clear explanations and address any concerns you have.

 

If you decide to proceed with the solar installation, your representative will review and complete the necessary paperwork and contracts. This includes agreements related to equipment warranties, financing (if applicable), and interconnection with the utility grid.

 

Once all paperwork is finalised, the solar company will schedule the installation date based on your availability and any permitting requirements. The solar company should provide information on what to expect during the installation process and the timeline for system activation. They may also discuss ongoing customer support and maintenance services. They’ll also provide you with all the relevant documents and certificates: including MCS, NAPIT, HIES, and EPVS. 

 

It takes up to six weeks from the first inquiry to energy generation. An installation typically takes four to five hours, including connection. As long as there’s enough light left once the installation is finished, your panels can start generating energy immediately.

Installing solar panels for homes

Three people installing solar panels on the roof of a house
Installing solar panels is a multi-step process, but your installer will talk to you about what will happen and when. (Adobe)

Once all the planning and certification is complete and you’ve chosen your installer, you’ll receive your installation date. On the day of installation, you might want to oversee the process; even if you don’t, it’s good to know what to expect. 

Step 1: Scaffolding goes up

A day or two before installation begins, a team will put up scaffolding around your house. This allows the installation team safe access to your roof and is a legal requirement. To avoid any unwanted fees, you should make sure the cost of the scaffolding is included in the price when you receive your quote. This will vary between installers, and you should double-check that it’s included as standard.

Step 2: Roof team turns up

Once the scaffolding is safe and secure, your roof team will arrive with your solar panels. At this point, you should check that they have brought the correct panels: you can do this by locating the sticker on the back, which outlines the model number, make, and output. 

Step 3: The anchors are attached

To attach your solar panels to your home’s roof, your installer will first need to attach anchors. The anchors are brackets that hold the rails on which your panels will be mounted. The roofers will first remove a roofing tile for each anchor and screw the anchor brackets into your roof’s rafters.  

The roofing tile can then be slotted back in as normal and rest onto the long arm of the anchor. A small bit is all that will stick out from under the tile, which is where the rail sits. 

Step 4: Solar panel rails are installed

The frame for your solar panel system is made of lightweight aluminium rails – cut on-site by your installer to fit the size of your roof. The rails will be secured to each anchor bracket and secured with two bolts running vertically and horizontally across the roof to form a frame, on which your panels will sit. 

Step 5: Solar panels are installed

At this point, your roof has now been prepared and your solar panels can be installed. Each unit will be mounted to the roof frames via a clamp. Once your installer is certain your panels are in the correct positions and are placed at optimal angles, they can be secured and tightened. 

Step 6: The electrics are set up

The final step requires a certified electrician, who will connect your pre-wired panels to your inverter. Usually, the inverter is installed in your loft. The inverter is what converts the direct current (DC) electricity that’s generated by your solar panels into the useable alternating current (AC) electricity that will be powering your home.

To get started on your solar journey, it’s best to research several installers that work in your area. Source quotes from multiple installers and compare them to find the best deal, as well as consider their accreditations and experience.

Tom Armstrong, Project Solar

Are there any common reasons why installations don’t go ahead? – Tom Armstrong, Sales Director at Project Solar

Solar installers can work with most roofs, but if there’s too much shading, no space for panels and a north-facing orientation, the payback could be 20 to 21 years (the standard for south-facing roofs is six to seven years) and, therefore, not worth the investment.

Solar panel maintenance

It’s important to regularly maintain your solar panels throughout their lifespan. Luckily, they require minimal maintenance and you only need to check on your solar panels once a year. 

To maximise your panels’ lifespan, essential maintenance should include: 

  • Removing old leaves and tree branches
  • Hosing them down to remove debris (never use a sponge, as this will damage your panels)
  • Get them checked regularly by a certified service provider

Read our guide to solar panel cleaning for our best practice tips.

Solar panels FAQs

Simply put, yes – and not only are solar panels still worth having, but the need for them will only increase year after year. The UK is moving towards renewable energy, and solar panels can help homeowners rely less on expensive National Grid electricity.

The average household in the UK requires around 16 solar panels, which equates to a 4kW system. The exact amount required, though, will depend on household size and energy consumption.

A solar panel system can power an entire household, as long as the amount of energy converted into useable electricity is enough to meet the household’s energy consumption. Adding a solar battery can help, as you can store excess energy produced during the day for use at night when the panels aren’t generating electricity.

Homes with solar panels need a lot of direct sunlight to operate at maximum efficiency. However, solar panels do work during the winter months, as well as on cloudy days. If they’re not generating enough electricity to power your property, you can turn to the National Grid to make up the shortfall.

Yes, you do need to notify your electricity supplier. Usually, your installer will register your system with your Distribution Network Operator (DNO) at the time of installation. You should check who this responsibility lies with during your installation to be sure.

Simply put, no – it’s not worth buying cheap solar panels. Cheaper panels tend to be less efficient and have a shorter lifespan than premium models. This means your panels probably won’t generate enough electricity to meet your home’s needs, so you’ll save less money. They also might not last as long, meaning you’d need to replace them much sooner than if you’d paid a bit more initially.

As well as driving down your energy bills and earning you money through SEG payments, solar panels can also increase the value of your home if you decide to sell it. Recent research conducted by FirstPort found potential buyers are seeking eco-friendly features; and they’re willing to pay, on average, £2,038 more for a home with solar panels already installed.

This also means that, should you decide to sell your home, you could recuperate nearly half of your initial solar investment.

Solar panels calculator

See how much it would cost to get solar panels installed on your home.

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The data used to power this calculator is sourced from various solar companies and industry bodies, including the UK government, the Energy Saving Trust and Ofgem. Please note that costs are estimated and based on a UK average, and should not be taken as the exact price you would pay. If you’d like to get an accurate quote for solar panels, then you can use this form to get an estimate from one of our trusted partners.

rachel

Rachel Sadler

Home Tech Writer

Rachel is a seasoned writer who has been producing online and print content for seven years. 

As a home tech expert for Independent Advisor, Rachel researches and writes buying guides and reviews, helping consumers navigate the realms of broadband and home security gadgets. She also covers home tech for The Federation of Master Builders, where she reviews and tests home security devices. 

She started as a news and lifestyle journalist in Hong Kong reporting on island-wide news stories, food and drink and the city’s events. She’s written for editorial platforms Sassy Hong Kong, Localiiz and Bay Media. While in Hong Kong she attended PR events, interviewed local talent and project-managed photoshoots. 

Rachel holds a BA in English Language and Creative Writing and is committed to simplifying tech jargon and producing unbiased reviews.

Rob Binns

Writer

Rob is an experienced writer and editor, with a wide range of experience in many topics, including renewable energy and appliances, home security, and business software. He has written for Eco Experts, Home Business, Expert Market, Payments Journal, and Yahoo! Finance. . 

Rob has a passion for smart home technology, online privacy, as well as the environment and renewables, which leads him to the Independent Advisor where he writes about related topics, including cyber security, VPNs, and solar power.

Kevin Henney ECO4 Hub Director

Kevin Henney

Director, ECO4 Hub

Kevin is a Director at ECO4 Hub and an expert in the solar panels market here in the UK.