Can You Get Free Solar Panels and Solar Panel Grants in 2022? Charlie Clissitt Last updated on 16 August 2022 12 min read ✔ Solar panels cost 88% less than they did in 2010✔ The Smart Export Guarantee typically pays homeowners £112 per year✔ Solar panels can cut your energy bills by up to 50%The sunlight-absorbing magic of solar panels has captured the hearts and minds of eco-conscious homeowners up and down the country.More than 970,000 UK homes have solar panels, and that number is rising – perhaps because prices have dropped by 88% since 2010 (UK Government, 2020 and 2021).There's never been a cheaper time to go solar, especially with a 0% VAT rate on solar panels, and the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) paying you for any energy you don't use.In this guide, we'll tell you everything you need to know about the SEG, as well as the government’s other solar panel initiatives, new and old.Want to find out how much it’ll cost you to get a set of panels? Rather than scrolling through the internet to find out, compare solar panel prices with our easy-to-use tool. Once you’ve filled out a few questions, we’ll get you in touch with our expert suppliers, who will send you free quotes to compare.What’s on this page? 01 Free solar panels 02 Solar panel cost calculator 03 Government grants for solar panels 04 ECO4 05 The Feed-in Tariff 06 The Smart Export Guarantee 07 0% VAT for solar panels 08 Is it still worth getting solar panels? 09 Key takeaways 10 Finding an installer Can I still get free solar panels in 2022?The short answer is no, unfortunately.It’s hard to believe that, back in 2010 when the Feed-in Tariff began, companies would literally buy your solar panels for you. They’d put them on your roof, you’d benefit from the energy bill savings (and all that eco-friendly electricity), and they’d earn all the money from the Feed-in Tariff. It was an efficient system, but the 64% reduction in Feed-in Tariff payments in 2016 hurt the initiative, and it was shut down in 2019.Although the Feed-in Tariff has now concluded, a new government initiative called the Smart Export Guarantee has launched. Please note: these costs are estimated and based on industry averages. They are not an exact indication of how much you’ll be charged by a solar panel installer. Want a better idea of how much you’ll end up paying? Pop your details in this short form, and talk directly to our qualified solar panel suppliers near you. Are there any government grants for solar panels?There's just one grant that may help you buy solar panels: ECO4. The government used to provide interest-free loans and grants as part of the Green Deal, but this concluded in 2015. The Feed-in Tariff also came to an end in April 2019, but the new Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) started in January 2020.The story of the Green Deal is a short and disappointing one: Back in 2013, the government set up the Green Deal, which gave people a loan to help them buy solar panels (amongst many other energy efficient home improvements) In 2014, the government launched a second Green Deal, changing the loans to grants – an upgrade that people took for granted… In 2015, the government scrapped the Green Deal, largely due to lack of interest from homeownersThe current Green Deal Home Improvement Fund (GDHIF) is not quite the resurrection you’d be hoping for. It focuses on multiple types of energy-saving home improvements, but there’s no funding for solar panels.Solar finance and solar panel loansIf you can’t afford the total upfront cost of a brand new solar PV (photovoltaic) system, there are ways to source the cash.Some companies offer homeowners low-interest loans and reasonable repayment plans to help them make the switch to solar. For example, check out the options currently offered by Pegasus Finance and EvoEnergy.You can also get a loan from your bank to cover solar panel installation costs. Most banks offer personal loans specifically for home improvements, which could be used for renewable energy developments. ECO4If your home's heating is powered by electricity – for instance, with an air source heat pump or electric boiler – you may be able to get solar panels through the ECO4 scheme.You can access the government-funded initiative, which started in July 2022 and will run until March 2026, if you fulfil any of these criteria:Your household earns less than £31,000 per yearYou've been referred by your energy provider, local authority, or doctorYou receive certain benefitsYour home must be insulated to a certain level before you receive solar panels, which means you might also be able to get insulation through the scheme. What about the Feed-in Tariff?The Feed-in Tariff was a government initiative that paid households for every kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity that they produced from renewable sources, also known as the Generation Tariff. On top of this, homeowners were also able to sell any unused electricity to the National Grid (this was called the Export Tariff).The Feed-in Tariff was a success. During its nine-year lifespan, it was a significant reason why the UK solar market has grown so rapidly.The Feed-in Tariff concluded in April 2019, but anybody who signed up before the deadline will still receive payments until their contract (usually 20 years long) expires.Why has the Feed-in Tariff concluded?The government wanted to focus on more commercial, high-impact solar projects, and the fact that solar panel costs have fallen by 88% since 2010 means there isn’t quite as much need for subsidies.That’s right, a solar PV system for a three-bedroom house in the UK currently costs £4,800. Compare that to around £20,000 just a decade ago. Check out our detailed guide to Solar Panel Costs to learn more.Subsidies are of course helpful though, and fortunately the government has set up a replacement for the Feed-in Tariff… The Smart Export Guarantee (SEG)The Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) has filled the hole that the departed Feed-in Tariff has left behind. However, instead of being based on payments from the government, the SEG will ensure that energy suppliers pay homeowners for any unused solar-generated electricity. Check out our full guide to the Smart Export Guarantee for more info.While the Feed-in Tariff involved Ofgem setting the rates, the SEG allows energy suppliers to determine their own prices. In a competitive market, this should lead to companies outbidding each other with higher repayment rates, creating better deals for the homeowner. Ideally, you’ll be sitting back in your solar-powered home while suppliers scrabble for your business.What’s more, the SEG is a lot fairer than the Feed-in Tariff. The government used to pay homeowners for just 50% of their unused solar-generated electricity, even if households were exporting as much as 80% of their electricity back to the grid.In contrast, with the SEG in place, energy suppliers pay homeowners for every single bit they send back – and this process is a lot simpler if your home is fitted with a smart meter.If you'd like to take advantage of the SEG, just try out our easy-to-use tool, and after you've filled in a quick form, our local experts will send you free quotes to compare.How much can you earn with the SEG?With the SEG in place, homeowners are now benefitting from 100% of their solar panels’ hard work. Here’s how: All used solar power saves you money on your energy bills – £422 per year, on average All unused solar power is exported to the National Grid and bought by an energy supplier, with suppliers as much as 7.5p per kWh – which will typically net you £112 per yearThe best way to make the most of your solar panels is to combine them with a solar battery, and create a ‘solar-plus-storage’ system. A solar battery will stock up some of the solar electricity that’s generated during the day (while you’re out), so it’s there for you to use in the evenings.To find out how much a solar battery will cost you, and to check out the best models on the market, visit our guide to solar batteries. 0% VAT for solar panelsFrom April 2022 to 2027, homeowners will pay 0% VAT on energy-saving materials like solar panels.The new rate applies to these eco-friendly home improvements:Solar panelsAir source heat pumpsControls for central heating and hot water systemsDraught strippingGround source heat pumpsInsulationMicro combined heat and power unitsWood-fuelled boilersBefore the latest change, energy-saving materials were subject to a VAT rate of 20% – with a 5% rate for people on certain benefits, or if the cost of the products or materials was less than 60% of the cost of installation.This 0% rate will save the average home £240 on new solar panels, which should encourage Brits to jump on the solar bandwagon and ride it to reduced carbon emissions and energy bills. Is it still worth getting solar panels?The short answer is yes, solar panels are worth it. Since Ofgem's new price cap took effect in April 2022, the break-even point for an average three-bedroom house has fallen to just 10.2 years, according to our calculation.With solar panels typically lasting for at least 25 years, that leaves 15 years of pure profit. The Smart Export Guarantee is also up and running, and solar panels still come with a whole host of other big benefits.Here are the main advantages of installing solar panels on your home:You’ll save money on your energy bills. A 3.5 kWp solar array (10 panels) will save the average home £534 per year, according to our calculations. They’re eco-friendly. The planet is spluttering its way through a humanity-induced climate emergency, and solar panels can help. A typical 3.5 kWp solar PV system will save 13 tonnes of CO2 (compared to a household that isn’t using any renewable energy, the swines).They’ll give you electricity independence. You’ll rely far less on energy suppliers, so you won’t have to pay whatever they decide to charge you. You'll still need to buy some electricity from the grid, but the storage capability of a solar battery has the potential to completely take you off the grid. So long, grid!There's a reason why 65% of homeowners would buy a house with solar panels, according to our latest National Home Energy Survey.And for the biggest savings on your energy bills, it’s sensible to get your hands on high-efficiency panels. To find out more, check out our guide to the most efficient solar panels on the market.If you’re keen to use as much as 100% of your solar panels’ electricity output, you should install a solar battery, and make sure your solar panels are insured.The Renewable Heat IncentiveThe Renewable Heat Incentive closed to new applications on 31 March 2022, when it was replaced with the Boiler Upgrade Scheme.This new initiative doesn't fund solar panels, but will reduce the cost of an air source heat pump by £5,000, and the cost of a ground source heat pump by £6,000.You'll typically save £422 per year on its air source heat pump's running costs by partly powering it with solar panels.All told, if the average three-bedroom household bought solar panels and an air source heat pump now, it'd save £16,650 over the next 20 years, compared to a home that chose not to purchase either one.This government-funded scheme is only be available to a maximum of 90,000 homes, on a first-come, first-served basis – so make sure you're quick.What about the Green Homes Grant?The £2bn Green Homes Grant ended on 31 March 2021.It didn't help households to subsidise their solar PV systems, and it didn't help many people in general.The scheme was meant to award £5,000 vouchers to 600,000 homes to cut their emissions and energy bills, but it fell short of this goal by 93.5%.Just four months after the scheme was extended until March 2022, it was cancelled, with only 39,000 vouchers issued – a mere 6.5% of the original target.The rollout was “shambolic,” according to Greenpeace UK, and the Parliament’s Environmental Audit Select Committee reported that 86% of people had a poor or very poor experience with the scheme. Key takeawaysThere are no government grants for buying solar panelsThere’s currently no such thing as a free solar panelHowever, the Smart Export Guarantee pays solar panel owners for their excess electricityAnd the Boiler Upgrade Scheme provides grants for heat pumps, which work well with solar panelsThe average home will save £534 per year with solar panelsSolar panels have never been cheaper – they cost 88% less than in 2010 Finding an installerSo that’s that – the Feed-in Tariff has checked out, but the Smart Export Guarantee is very much in, and energy companies are coming up with all kinds of tempting initiatives. Meanwhile, solar panels are the most affordable they’ve ever been, promising hefty energy bill reductions and wholesome eco-friendly gains.Depending on the size of the solar panel system, as well as the makes and models that you get, the price will fluctuate. If you’d like to get an accurate reading of how much it’ll cost you to get a set of panels on your roof, we can help you get tailored quotes. All you have to do is answer a few short questions on this form, and we’ll connect you with our expert installers who will be in touch shortly. Charlie Clissitt Editor @charlieclissitt Charlie has been researching and writing about solar power for four years, which makes him great fun at parties. Ever since he can remember, Charlie has worried about the planet, and he one day dreams of owning his own solar power farm.