The Pros and Cons of Solar Panels

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Solar panels will reduce both your energy bills and your carbon footprint

They’re cheaper than ever, with prices having fallen by around 70% since 2010

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The popularity of solar is skyrocketing – nearly one million rooftops in the UK are now decked out with panels. We’re experiencing a sun-driven shift to green energy, and your household can certainly play its part.

But why could solar energy benefit you? Let’s discuss the key pros and cons of switching to solar energy. If you’ve already started picturing panels on your roof, find out how much a solar PV system would cost you by filling out this form – our trusted installers will be in touch before you can say “photovoltaic”.

 

What’s on this page?

 

solar panels in a big field

 

Summary: The pros and cons of solar panels

Pros:

  • Save money on energy bills
  • Cash in on the electricity you don’t use
  • Shrink your carbon footprint
  • No noise pollution
  • Independence from the grid
  • Easy to scale up
  • Low maintenance
  • Financial support available
  • Different solar options to choose from (thermal or PV)

X Cons:

  • Expensive installation
  • Performance is affected by weather
  • Not all roof types are suitable
  • Take up a lot of space
  • Production of panels can cause pollution
  • Expensive to move
  • Long return on investment (ROI)

 

Advantages of solar panels

 

Save money on energy bills

Fuelling your house with solar-generated electricity can shave a hefty sum off your monthly energy bills. Typically, a 4 kWp solar PV system could save you between £85 and £220 each year, depending on where you’re located in the UK.

Your energy bill savings will depend on two things:

  1. How much energy your solar panels produce – To increase your quantity of solar-generated electricity, you can buy high-efficiency solar panels, or add more panels to your roof
  2. How much of this electricity you actually use – You can buy a solar battery to store the electricity that your panels generate during the day while you’re out, so it’s available for you to use in the evenings (when the sun’s gone down)

 

Cash in on the electricity you don’t use

For most homes in the UK, solar panels generate so much solar power, homeowners don’t know what to do with it all – which is where the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) comes in. 

The SEG requires licensed electricity suppliers to offer tariffs to small-scale, low-carbon generators, e.g. houses with solar panels. Any solar-generated electricity that doesn’t get used is sent back to the National Grid, and the household receives money in return.

 

Shrink your carbon footprint

The primary reason solar panels are good for the environment is down to their carbon-busting technology. In fact, the average residential solar PV system in the UK saves between 1.3 and 1.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere each year.

So, amidst the din of ‘climate emergency’ klaxons, it’s about time you ditched those grubby fossil fuels. 

Did You Know?

You can save more than £400 each year, just by switching your home’s energy supplier. If you’re looking to cut down your bills, this one’s a bit of a no-brainer.

That’s why we’ve partnered with Switchd. With four different price plans (including a free option), Switchd will find you cheaper, greener energy suppliers in no time.

 

Listen to the silence

These sun-soaking sheets of silicon are great at producing power, but they don’t like to shout about it. 

Since there aren’t any moving parts inside a solar panel, they operate silentlya far cry from the racket of a domestic wind turbine.

 

Enjoy independence from the grid

Feeling shackled to the grid? Solar panels can provide the solution. Basically, the more energy you generate, the less you need to purchase from energy companies. 

While the average solar PV system won’t give you complete independence (you’re likely to still need to buy electricity from the grid for the evenings), adding a solar battery or two will empower you with genuine self-sufficiency. This way you can store any unused energy for a rainy day (or cloudy day, or night time, in fact). 

If you want to avoid using the grid while you’re out and about, you can even get flexible solar panels for your off-grid road trips.

 

Scale it up easily

That’s right: solar panels are scalable, which means you can simply add panels to an existing system, instead of having to uproot it and build a bigger one.

The same goes for solar energy storage. Most models of solar batteries are like LEGO bricks, in that they’re stackable – for example, you can build a tower of up to 10 Tesla Powerwalls before it becomes a health and safety issue.

 

Keep things low-maintenance

Solar panels are fiercely independent, meaning they don’t need checking on 24/7.

To get the most out of your panels, you need to keep them clean and unobstructed. However, since these smooth-surfaced panels are installed at an angle, you’ll find that most dirt and debris will just slide right off. Regular rainfall also helps to keep things squeaky clean.

The vast majority of solar panels come with a 25-year warranty, and will be operational for upwards of 40 years – so they’re with you for the long haul.

 

Look into financial support

These costly companions can put a strain on your purse strings, but there are numerous government schemes that can swoop to the rescue:

  • The Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) – A replacement scheme for the Feed-in Tariff. The SEG enables low-carbon electricity households to receive payments for the surplus energy they export back to the grid
  • The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) – For homeowners looking to invest in solar thermal panels. The RHI encourages homeowners to invest in renewable heat technology by helping them pay for it, sending payments quarterly over a seven-year period.

 

Explore the different types of solar

Solar energy covers all bases, whether you’re after renewable electricity, or a green way to heat your home.

There are two types of solar energy that you can get for your home: solar thermal and solar PV. Solar PV panels absorb the sun’s heat and convert it into electricity, whereas solar thermal panels transform the sun’s energy into heat for household water. 

 

rows of solar panels in field

 

Disadvantages of solar panels

 

They come at a price

A typical 3-4kWp solar PV system will set you back around £6,500 – not exactly a cheap purchase, although solar panels are becoming increasingly affordable. 

The average price of panels has fallen by about 70% over the past decade, and this is set to continue as solar energy becomes increasingly widespread. If you want the full lowdown, check out our detailed guide to solar panel costs.

 

Dependent on the weather

We’re stating the obvious here, but solar panels work much better in the gleaming summer months than in the dark days of winter. When the skies are clear and the sun is beaming down on your rooftop, your solar panels will naturally be at their most productive.

But if there’s one thing Brits can agree on, it’s that our weather is not the most reliable. So during dreary days and winter woes, you’ll rely more on the grid – but that doesn’t mean your solar panels will stop working entirely. 

In fact, sunlight is not an essential ingredient in solar power, although it certainly helps. All your solar panels will need to work is daylight.

 

They require the right roof

Solar panels require your roof to be south-facing, at a 30-45 degree angle, and unobstructed by shade. If your roof doesn’t fit the criteria, then you might struggle to set up an effective solar PV system. 

There’s a lot you can do to optimise your roof conditions, including buying high-efficiency solar panels (if you have limited space), cutting back trees (to reduce shading), and using tilted racks (to angle your panels perfectly).

 

They take up a lot of space

Solar panels are rather sizable pieces of kit, averaging around 2 m2 per panel – and the more electricity you want to generate, the more panels you’ll need to install. So, the bigger the roof, the better.

If you find yourself running out of room, you can opt for premium, high-efficiency models. Although more expensive, a small number of high-efficiency panels can do the same job as a larger number of standard panels.

 

They contain toxic materials 

Despite their air-cleaning qualities, solar panels are made with a concoction of toxic materials. Although these chemicals won’t affect your home, the manufacture and waste stages of a panel’s life can release a lot of harmful chemicals into the atmosphere. 

However, a study published by Nature Energy showed that the global environmental impact of creating solar panels is vastly outweighed by the environmental benefits of using them. Only 4% of the energy generated by a solar panel is offset by the energy required to create it – making solar power one of the world’s cleanest renewable energies.

 

They cost a lot to move

Like a trusty friend, your panels are here to stay. So, if you’re considering installing solar panels onto your home, make sure you’re set on living in that property for a substantial amount of time. 

These panels are hefty pieces of equipment, and will be pricey to haul from place to place – not to mention the cost of getting them reinstalled. 

 

Long return on investment (ROI)

In 2019, we carried out a study to discover how long it takes to break even on solar panels. The answer? If you install solar panels today, you’ll break even by 2037. 

Although this seems like a far-away speck on the horizon, ROI on green tech is showing improvements year-on-year. 

 

What now?

The switch to solar brings benefits that significantly outweigh the cons. Although the initial investment is a lot of money, you can look forward to living in a home decorated with glistening panels, saving money year-on-year, and shrinking your carbon footprint. 

Sound tempting? To get the ball rolling, you can find out how much it would cost you to install solar panels on your home – simply pop your details in this form, and our professional installers will be in touch. 

 

Beth Howell Writer

Beth is The Eco Experts’ newbie. She’s keen to use her writing skills, and passion for green living, to help the environment. Whether you’re after a new boiler, or just interested in how solar panels can improve your home, she’s got your back.