Here’s how solar panels will power your home AND help save the planet

Curious about how solar panels work? We've got your questions covered.

Updated

solar power panels

Solar panels are becoming more commonplace as we all become more concerned about the planet. Solar power is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint – it’s self-sufficient, no greenhouse gases are released and it only needs a source of clean water to function. If you use solar power, you’ll also cut down on traditional electricity (which relies heavily on fossil fuels).

Whether you’re thinking about installing solar panels to your current home or you’ve just moved into a property with them already included, we’ve got everything you need to know.

How do solar panels work?

Solar panels are made up of photovoltaic cells, which turn sunlight into electricity. This electricity then powers appliances currently being used in the home - and any electricity that isn’t used is sent back to the grid. You don’t need to switch solar panels on, and they usually have a manufacturers’ guarantee of 25 years (though you’ll probably get another 10 to 15 years on top of this).

How much do solar panels save you on your bills?

If there’s electricity available from the solar panels, your home should automatically use it. Properly designed and installed solar panels use your solar energy first, before hitting the standard source, thus reducing bills.

The amount of money you’ll save will depend on various factors including how much light the home solar panels are receiving and also how much you use electricity during the daytime. Make the most of your solar energy by using appliances like your dishwasher and washing machine during the day. This is also a good time to try and charge your phones and laptops. You’ve also finally got an excuse to use that slow cooker to make a delicious easy meal for the evening!

What’s more, you should receive money for any electricity you send back to the grid. This will either be through the Feed-in Tariff scheme or the Smart Export Guarantee, depending on when you start using solar panels (the Feed-in Tariff scheme closed to new applicants in March 2019). Check the latest Ofgem information for which scheme you’re eligible for and how much money you could be paid.

Are solar panels suitable for my home?

You can install solar panels on many UK homes, but there are some things to consider:

  • Firstly, do you own your home? If you rent, you’ll need to negotiate with your landlord. If you have a leasehold you’ll also need to get permission from the freeholder.
  • If you live in a flat, you’ll need to check with the freeholder of the block. If you live on the ground or a middle floor, you probably won’t be able to use solar panels.
  • A south-facing roof without shade is most ideal for solar panel installation.

How to buy solar panels and solar panel installation

Decided to take the plunge and install solar panels? Firstly, you shouldn’t need to worry about applying for planning permission – solar panels have been classed as ‘permitted development’ since 2008. The only exceptions are if your property is a listed building or if your house is in a conservation area.

Installing the solar panels themselves is not for the faint-hearted, so look for an MCS (Microgeneration Certification Scheme) contractor to carry out your installation. They will also confirm that your solar setup meets all the legal requirements and will notify the Distribution Network Operator, which is another legal requirement. You should also get MCS certification.

Then, once you’re ready to go, don’t forget to clean your solar panels to keep them in top working order.

Originally published