Case study: Shirley Ward, North Yorkshire

Shirley has a 2.4 kW solar array and a Solax battery

She broke even on her solar panels in 10 years

Five solar thermal panels provide her with hot water


We spoke with Shirley Ward, a 73-year-old retired office worker, about her experience with solar technology.

Shirley and her late husband Bryan installed solar panels and a solar thermal system on their home in North Yorkshire. Here’s what she had to say.

shirley ward's solar panels on her house

Q: How long have you had your solar panels?

A: “We purchased five thermal solar panels in March 1993 at a cost of £5,250, and they are still working well today. They mean that I very rarely need to heat the water in the summer, which keeps gas costs down.

“The photovoltaic system was installed in November 2011 and it has a 2.4 kW capacity at a cost of £10,000. We then had an upgrade to the system (Solar Edge Solar PV system with power optimisers) in May 2017 at a cost of £3,945.00.

“In December 2021 we had a Solax battery and EV charger fitted at a cost of £6,199.”

Q: Why did you decide to get solar panels?

A: “We used to keep Koi carp and because we had pumps and filters running 24/7, our electricity costs were quite high, so Bryan decided to invest in solar power as a means of offsetting those costs.”

Q: Are you pleased you bought solar panels?

A: “I am very pleased we bought both types of solar panels because, particularly now, they have come into their own. My energy costs are very low.”

Learn more: Solar Panel Costs

Q: Do your solar panels generate enough power to cover all your electricity needs?

A: “With the use of the battery, I’m finding I don’t need to use the grid at all at present, but obviously when the winter comes and there is less sun, I might need to.”

Learn more: A Beginner's Guide to Solar Batteries

Q: How much money do your solar panels save you on your electricity bills?

A: “At the present time, with the battery as well – and taking into account that since Bryan died I had to find another home for 25 very large Koi – my electricity costs have gone down.

“I would estimate that instead of £50 per month in summer and more in winter, I am paying £15 per month, which I think is mainly the standing charge.”

Q: Have you managed to break even on your solar panels?

A: “We were told initially that we would break even in 10 years, and we did.

“However, as above, we have spent additional money which we haven’t yet recouped, but I think it will happen sometime.”

Q: How has your opinion of solar panels changed over time?

A: “I think we were always in favour of them, and our experience has not changed that.”

Q: Please can you describe your experience maintaining your solar panels?

A: “Our electric solar panels are monitored online, and up to now we haven’t had any problems.”

Q: Would you recommend solar panels to other homeowners in the UK? Why/why not?

A: “I think solar panels are the way to go, and I would recommend them to anyone who’s going to stay in their home for a long time.”

Learn more: Are Solar Panels Worth It?

Q: Is there anything you wish you'd known before you bought solar panels?

A: “No. Bryan did all the hard work researching everything before we went ahead with the purchases, and we never regretted it.”

Check out some of our other interviews with UK homeowners about their solar panel systems:

josh jackman
Josh Jackman Senior Writer

Josh has written about eco-friendly home improvements and climate change for the past three years. His work has featured on the front page of the Financial Times; he’s been interviewed by BBC One; and he was the resident expert in BT’s smart home tech initiative.

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