As we move away from using fossil fuels for power, industry leaders, manufacturers, and homeowners are looking for other ways to heat homes.
Solar panels are one option that many people are already using – mainly to work alongside their gas heating. But, are they a viable option for those looking for an eco-friendly alternative?
The answer is yes, even in the UK which isn’t known for its sunny climate.
How Do They Work?
Usually made from a semiconducting material such as silicon, when light reaches the solar panel, electrons become loose – generating a flow of direct current (DC) electricity. Though this works best in strong sunlight, panels can generate electricity on cloudy days as well.
Solar panels are highly recommended for those with south-facing roofs, being in the best position to capture sunlight. They also work well on east and west-facing roofs. North-facing roofs won’t capture enough sunlight to make solar panels worthwhile, however – both in terms of cost and energy production. (Source: The Eco Experts)
Typically, solar panels are installed on the roof of a property. Still, they can be installed on the ground if necessary and if there is enough space surrounding them not to be overshadowed by anything. Alternatively, instead of large panels, solar tiles are another option. Designed to resemble regular roofing tiles, they are generally more aesthetically pleasing.
Solar panels, while more affordable than heat pumps, are still a costly investment. The general cost of installing a system is between £5,000 – £10,000, at around £350 per panel. For an average-sized home requiring a 4kW system, it would cost between £6,000 – £8,000. The difference in price for a solar panel setup depends on your home size and the amount of electricity required. The more people in your home and the more electricity required, the higher the price.
Although the initial price is high, several benefits will not only save you money but earn you money as well. On average, those using solar-generated electricity can expect to save £270 a year. With just these savings alone, you can expect it to take around 22-25 years to recoup your initial costs of the panels. However, the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) will pay for the electricity you produce and put back into the grid. With this, you should expect to recoup costs within 16-20 years.
The bigger your system size, the more money you are likely to save. 5kW systems save homeowners £320 per year and 6kW systems result in a £430 annual saving. (Source: Green Match). And not only can it save you money every year, but solar panels add an average of 4.1% to the value of your property.
Though cost is an essential factor for many people, solar panels are an excellent choice for the environment. Relying less on the national grid and using the sunlight to produce electricity helps to reduce your carbon footprint.
- Money-Saving: You will save on average £270 each year.
- Renewable – Sunlight will not run out, unlike fossils fuels like oil and gas – our primary source of energy.
- Eco-Friendly – Solar panel produced electricity is much more eco-friendly than gas, saving between 1.5-2 tonnes of carbon each year.
- Low Maintenance: Easy to install and they require very little maintenance.
- Off-Grid – Being off the grid, you are producing electricity that is eco-friendly and reliable.
- Developing – With technology continually evolving, solar panels are becoming more effective.
- High Initial Cost: Though they may save you money in the long-run, they are costly to install.
- Aesthetic – Some people aren’t keen on the way solar panels look on homes.
- Weather Dependant – Less efficient in cloudy weather, though they will produce less electricity in the darker months.
- Not for everyone – Depending on location and property type, solar panels may not work for you.