A Guide to Solar Panels for Flats Written by Tatiana Lebreton Updated on 15 March 2023 ✔ Solar panels can go on your flat’s roof, wall, or balcony✔ You need to check where you are legally allowed to install solar panels✔ Renters need their landlord’s permission before installing solar panels Solar panels can reduce the amount of grid electricity you use by half, saving homeowners living in a flat around £312 per year on energy bills – plus solar panel costs have fallen dramatically over the past decade.Flats can sometimes be left out of the discussion around solar panels. After all, getting permission to install panels for a flat can be complicated if you don’t own the entire block – but not impossible, and there are new innovations that are making it easier.In this article, we’ll take you through the solar panel options for people living in flats, and show you how more flats can get involved.We can also help you get quotes from expert installers to help you get a better idea of how much solar panels could cost you. All you need to do is enter a few details into this short form. Once we’ve received your details, we’ll put you in touch with local installers, who’ll provide free, bespoke quotes. Where do you want to install solar panels? Roof Ground Both Other / not sure Get started What's on this page? 01 Can you install solar panels on a block of flats? 02 Where can you install solar panels on a block of flats? 03 How much do solar panels on flats cost? 04 The pros and cons of solar panels for flats 05 Community solar for blocks of flats 06 Examples of blocks of flats with solar panels in the UK 07 Next steps 08 Frequently asked questions Can you install solar panels on a block of flats?Yes, you can install solar panels on a block of flats – as long as the building is suitable for them.However, getting permission to install solar panels is more difficult for people living in flats than it is for people in a detached house.This is because you can’t make changes to any spaces you don’t own in a block of flats, which means you might struggle to install panels on the roof if you are the legal owner of the flat but not the entire building.So the type of flat you own will impact where you can install solar panels around the block of flats. For example, depending on the local laws where you live, you might be able to install solar panels on the roof if you own the top-most flat. But if you own a middle- or ground-floor flat, you would probably not be legally allowed to put solar panels on the roof.What permissions do you need?The type of permission you need to install solar panels on a block of flats will depend on a few factors, such as:Who owns the block of flatsWhere the block of flats is locatedWhere you are planning to put your solar panelsHow big your solar panels are and how many you want to installIf you’re a tenant, you’ll need to ask your landlord for permission before installing solar panels. If you own a flat but not the whole building, you will need to get permission from relevant authorities, such as the building management company.Want to mount solar panels on the exterior of your block of flats, such as the roof or walls? You’ll need to check which restrictions apply, and whether you need planning permission.For example, if you live in a listed building, you need to get Listed Building Consent, and then apply for planning permission before you can install solar panels. If your flat is in a conservation area, you need to contact your local council.When implementing a shared solar panels system on your block of flats, you don't always need unanimous consent from your neighbours. But, make sure you're not at risk of running into legal issues, as some of the naysayers might own part of the roof.You might even be able to install solar panels on a council house, but you'll need to contact your local authorities to check whether this is possible. Where do you want to install solar panels? Roof Ground Both Other / not sure Get started Where can you install solar panels on a block of flats?You can technically install solar panels on the wall of a block of flats, or even on the ground next to it.However, the best place to install solar panels is usually on a south-facing roof, at an angle of between 20° and 50°. By doing this your panels will be exposed to more sunlight, which will generate more electricity for you.Don’t worry if your roof is flat, or steeper than 50°. You can still install solar panels by installing an additional mounting frame system that will angle them the right way – although it might increase the overall cost. might not be possible, or will be more expensive, since it will need to be angled.Solar panels can also be mounted on walls. Although wall-mounted solar panels are easier to maintain than roof-mounted ones, they tend to produce less energy because they’re not usually exposed to as much sunlight. The panels can be installed parallel to the wall, but will generate more electricity if they’re at an angle.Installing solar panels on the ground can also be an option, especially if you own a ground-floor flat that comes with a garden. But, you’ll need to make sure you have enough space to accommodate garden solar panels.Are apartment block rooftops big enough for everyone to have solar panels?There’s not usually enough space on apartment rooftops for every flat to benefit from solar panels. The more apartments there are in a block of flats, the less likely the roof will be able to fit enough solar panels to power each flat.According to Allume Energy – a company specialised in installing shared solar panels for flats – once the apartment building gets higher than seven floors, it might not be worth installing shared solar panels.Can you install solar panels on your apartment balcony?Installing solar panels on the balcony of your apartment can be a quick and easy way to use solar energy if you live in a rented flat. One main benefit of balcony solar panels is that they don’t require any permission – and you can usually set them up yourself.You just need to buy small plug-in portable solar panels, which come with a portable solar powered generator. These types of panels can also easily move with you if you switch apartments – a huge bonus for tenants that plan on relocating in the future.However, it’s worth noting that plug-in solar panels don’t often provide enough electricity to power an entire flat, but they can be used to power appliances, which will still reduce your energy bill. The amount of power your panels generate will depend on the size of your system and the amount of sunlight they’re exposed to.For context, a small flat in the UK will usually consume around 1,800 kilowatt hours of electricity per year. Homeowners will need at least six solar panels to provide this amount of electricity.To avoid complaints, it might still be worth notifying your landlord if you are a tenant.Balconies can also be used in flats to house air source heat pump units, if they're large enough. Find out more about this in our guide to heat pumps for flats. How much do solar panels on flats cost?A typical solar panel system costs around £4,716 for a 1-2 bedroom flat, which will usually need a 2.1 kilowatt peak (kWp) system. But, the total price will depend on the number of panels you need, the type of panels you choose, and their efficiency level.If you buy a solar battery to store excess electricity generated by your panels, it will cost an extra £4,500. This can be pricey, since solar batteries only last about 15 years, and you’ll need two of them during your solar panel’s lifetime. Solar batteries are also quite bulky and take up space, which won’t be suitable for most flats.You can find out more about solar panels costs by reading our page: How Much Do Solar Panels Cost in the UK?.Without a solar battery, the excess energy your solar panels generate will go to the National Grid. And under the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) scheme, you can get paid up to 12p per kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity that you export back.Want to install solar panels on your balcony? Plug-in solar panels can cost anywhere between £500 to £4,000, and usually come with a portable generator.Smaller balcony solar panels will usually only generate enough electricity to charge small devices, such as laptops. Larger ones, on the other hand, can power multiple appliances, but typically cost about the same as mounted solar panels.Can you earn money from having solar panels on your flat?Homeowners can earn money from having solar panels on their flat through the government’s Smart Export Guarantee (SEG), which allows solar panel owners to sell the excess energy their panels generate back to the grid.This means, if the solar panels are being used to power your flat – whether you have a shared solar panel system or a private one – then you can earn money through the SEG.But if you live in a block of flats where the solar panels have been installed to power communal areas – such as lobbies, lifts, and corridors – then the building owners or landlord will benefit from the SEG, not the people living in the flats.How are solar panels on flats financed?Solar panels on flats are usually financed either collectively by the people who live in the individual flats, or by a larger organisation.In most cases, people who own the flats will each pay their share. But if solar panels are being installed in social housing, they’ll often be financed by the local council.Funding is also available through government grants, such as ECO4 or the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund, or green loans from banks.Do solar panels on flats save you money?Installing solar panels on flats can save people around 50% on their electricity bills, and 70% if they use the Smart Export Guarantee.If multiple flats share a solar panel system, it’s likely that more of the electricity produced by the panels will get used, instead of being sent back to the grid. This is because the electricity generated will likely be used more evenly throughout the day in a block of flats, since people will be using electricity at different times.This means that, on average, a block of flats sharing solar panels will consume around 80% of the electricity they generate, compared to 50% for the average detached house, according to Allume Energy. The pros and cons of solar panels for flats Pros They can reduce your electricity bill They can shrink your carbon footprint There are portable solar panel options Government grants are available You can get paid for the excess energy they produce Cons Getting permission to install them can be complicated They can be expensive Small flats might not have enough space Mounted solar panels can be expensive to move It takes a while to break even Community solar for blocks of flatsThe term ‘community solar’ is typically used for projects on publicly owned buildings, such as schools, sports centres, or communally owned solar farms.So far, Allume Energy is a popular option that offers community solar installation for apartment buildings in the UK. Its SolShare solar panel system costs between £2,500 and £5,000 per private flat.SolShare can also be installed in social housing and new buildings. Opening up schemes like this will help reduce the bills of lower-income households. In England, rented social housing made up 16.6% of homes in 2022, so more social housing with solar panels will also go towards reducing the UK’s emissions as a whole –.Community solar projects allow multiple flats in the same building to access the electricity generated from solar panels on the roof. This opens up the possibility of solar energy to any flat owner, not just the ones on the top floor.If you want to get involved in this type of project, you still have the challenge of convincing several neighbours in your building to buy into it. Thankfully, you don’t usually need all the residents in your building to participate, in order to be eligible.It's worth mentioning that this isn't the same as the Rent-a-Roof initiative, which leases homeowners' roofs to energy companies so they can profit from any excess electricity generated by the solar panels. Examples of blocks of flats with solar panels in the UKThere are a few examples of blocks of flats that have solar panels in the UK, which have proven to be successful.SolShare systems have been installed in three new blocks of flats in England – one in Kent and two in London. According to Allume Energy, two of the blocks of flats have used 43%–56% less energy from the grid, and the third block has used 15%–25% less. Combined, these projects have prevented around 20 tonnes of carbon emissions from entering the atmosphere.SolShare has also been installed in social housing in Cardiff. According to Allume Energy, this has meant a 60%–70% reduction in grid energy used by the 24 flats, which means between seven and nine tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) have been prevented from entering the atmosphere.But there are other people getting involved in community solar projects. One landlord in England is planning to go green by installing solar panels, solar batteries, heat pumps, and insulation across his network of 127 student accommodations. Next stepsThe future looks bright. To make sure renewable energy isn’t just reserved for people living in houses, the industry is creating new solar panel solutions for flats.And whether you rent or own a flat – or own a whole block – installing solar panels will reduce both your energy bills (not to mention your carbon emissions), and increase the value of your property.Ready to talk to experts about installing solar panels for your flat? Enter a few details into our quote form and we’ll share them with professional installers who will offer you their best prices and can help you find the best solar system for you. Frequently asked questions How many solar panels does it take to power a flat? To power a one to two bedroom flat, you’ll need around six solar panels, which will take up around 12 square metres. This will produce enough electricity to cover around 46% of your annual usage.How many solar panels you need and how much electricity you generate will depend on the size of your flat, the efficiency of your solar panels, and the amount of sunlight your panels are exposed to.To find out how many solar panels you need for your home, go to our page. Are solar panels worth it for apartments? Yes, installing solar panels for an apartment can save 0.42 tonnes of CO2 per year, and can reduce energy bills by around £312 per year. Solar panels can also increase the value of your apartment by an average of 2%. How do you use solar panels in flats? If you live in a flat, you and your neighbours can invest in community solar panels. This when solar panels mounted on the roof of a block of flats supply electricity to multiple apartments.Alternatively, if you live in the topmost flat, you can install solar panels for yourself on the roof above your apartment. If you don’t live in a top-floor flat, you can buy plug-in solar panels for your balcony. These won’t power an entire flat, but can power some appliances.How you can use solar panels in your flat will depend on your individual circumstances, so it’s worth discussing it with other residents, landlords, or building management companies. Can neighbours complain about solar panels? If you have legal permission to install your solar panels, your neighbours cannot force you to remove them. To avoid complaints, it’s always best to let your neighbours know you’re going to install solar panels before you go ahead with the installation. Written by: Tatiana Lebreton Tatiana has written about multiple environmental topics, including heat pumps, energy-efficient household products, and solar panels. She is dedicated to demystifying green tech to make eco-friendly living more accessible.