Is using solar energy at home cheaper?

BY Ned Browne

18th Sep 2018 Technology

Is using solar energy at home cheaper?

Since the Cost of living crisis, we're all looking for ways to cut costs where we can. Could using solar energy at home be a cheaper option for you? 

Renewable energy definitely represents the future of power generation, but do the economics work?  Over the next few months, we’ll look at how to green your property and, hopefully, save money too. This month we're talking about whether using solar energy at home could be a cheaper option 

How efficient are solar panels?

The efficiency of solar panels has improved dramatically over the decades.

The most efficient available for domestic use are made by SunPower (22.2%), Panasonic (20.3%) and LG (20.1%).  Efficiency is measured by the panel’s ability to convert energy from the sun into electricity. 

These numbers may sound low but, in the 1950’s, the best solar panels returned just 6 per cent. 

"As with all new technologies, solar panels costs are likely to fall"

That being said, the future could be even more exciting. NASA is using solar panels that are forty per cent efficient. These specialist panels are super-expensive to produce. But, as with all new technologies, costs are likely to fall.

How much do solar panels cost?

A calculator on solar panels Credit: Marc Calleja Lopez

Solar panel kits start at about £2,800. If you want to add battery storage you can expect to double that number. 

"The more panels you install, the lower the cost per panel"

Of course, if you have a large roof, this can rise in accordance with the number of panels you use. But, economies of scale do apply—the more panels you install, the lower the cost per panel.

Are solar panels worth it?

This is the million-dollar question. It’s reckoned that a £6,000 panel and battery kit from e-on will save you around £400 a year.  

Most panels come with a 25-year guarantee, so that would indicate a payback period of 15 years. But, there’s the opportunity cost too. Maybe that money could be put to better use?

Is my property suitable for solar panels?

Solar panels on a house roof between two trees Credit: Povorozniuk Liudmyla

Most solar panels are fitted on roofs—as such, the larger your roof, the better. 

Also, you need to ensure your roof isn’t in the shade. For example, if your roof is obscured by overhanging trees, this would significantly reduce the amount of electricity produced.

E-on have an online solar calculator, which allows you to find suitable solar packages for your home. 

What else should I consider before going solar?

It’s hard to argue that the UK has the perfect climate for solar panels—those living in California are always going to win. But certain areas in the UK get far more sunshine than others—make sure you do your research.

There are other things to consider too such as warranties, durability and aesthetics.  

Most solar panels sold in the UK are fitted onto roofs. The newer wave of solar panels effectively replace your roof tiles—if you need a new roof, these are an interesting alternative.

"Most energy providers also provide a free home solar survey"

Most energy providers also provide a free home solar survey, the idea being that they will be able to propose a system that’s right for your home.

Solar, so good? 

One of the issues with solar panels is the up-front cost. If you decide to sell your home, you’re unlikely to be able to pass on the cost to the buyer.

However, if you're planning on staying put, you should be able to recoup your money over the long term. This is especially the case if you need a new roof.

Banner credit: KangeStudio

Image of promotion for Reader's Digest Solar energy in partnership with Fusion-8

You can find a range of solar panels online at Amazon.

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