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Read on to find out more about the pros and cons of solar energy, solar energy materials and solar energy companies that can offer you this renewable energy source.

What are solar panels?

So, you want to buy solar panels?

So many people are now deciding to buy solar panels for their environmental and economic benefits. Solar panels absorb light and heat from the sun and convert it into energy that can be used for electricity production. Solar energy is an inexhaustible and renewable energy source, fuelled by the sun’s light and heat production.

A quick breakdown of the pros and cons of solar panels

Advantages of Solar EnergyDisadvantages of Solar Energy
Possible financial savings, through bill reductions and Feed-In-Tariffs (FIT)High cost of installation and maintenance
They are out of the way, on the roof or in the gardenThey require a lot of space
A renewable source of energy, which is better for the environmentInstallation and creation of solar panels does create some pollution

Last modified the August 13, 2020

How do solar panels work?

Put simply:

  1. Solar panels are made up of a number of cells that absorb sunlight. There’s no point getting into the nitty-gritties of solar panel materials and cells, but it’s important to know the basics.
  2. When the sunlight hits these cells, electrons gain energy and convert the sunlight into DC (direct current) electricity.
  3. Your solar inverter will then convert DC electricity into AC electricity, which is compatible with most household appliances and devices. 
  4. AC electricity will flow through your household.
  5. Any excess can then be stored or sold back to the grid through a Feed-In-Tariff.

How do I sell back solar energy?

A Feed-In-Tariff (FIT) is a plan introduced by the UK government in 2010, aimed at paying people back for the energy they produce but don’t use. This way, homeowners are incentivised to opt for renewable energy sources, which is both better for the environment and for their wallet.

Participating licensed energy suppliers partake in the scheme in order to encourage solar energy amongst their customers. How does it work? FIT payments are made through smart meters.  FIT payments are made quarterly based on the meter readings you provide to your energy supplier.

However, Feed-In-Tariffs have now stopped, according to Ofgem. In April 2019, suppliers no longer had the funds to pay back all their customers for their excess energy. You could say that the scheme was too successful!

How many solar panels do I need?

The number of solar panels you need entirely depends on:

  • Your household’s average energy consumption.
  • How much energy you want to sell back to the grid.
  • The size of your roof.
  • The amount of sunlight in your area.

By assessing all of these factors, you will be able to accurately judge how many solar panels your household will need. You can find your energy consumption on any recent energy bill from your current supplier.

If you want to know more about your solar energy options, give us a call and we can find the best plan for you. Or, check out our switching guide to see how we work!

Want to know more about switching to solar?

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Solar panels advantages

Solar energy certainly has its advantages and disadvantages. It’s been criticised for its price and inefficiency, however recently people have started to reap the benefits of solar energy. It has environmental effects, as well financial. This is because solar technology and nanotechnology has improved vastly in recent years that increases the efficiency of solar panels in creating energy.

Environmental Impact

There are so many solar energy advantages. The main benefits of solar energy are environmental. Light and heat from the sun are inexhaustible, meaning they will never run out, like coal for example. This means that solar energy is renewable and can be harnessed anywhere in the world. Of course, in areas of the world with little sun exposure, the ability to harness solar energy is more limited. However, solar panels can still convert energy when it’s cloudy. In fact, solar panels can overheat in overly warm temperatures, so the UK is the perfect climate to generate electricity through solar.

By choosing to switch to solar energy, we can reduce our dependence on fossil fuels that, when burnt, emit dangerous gasses into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change and global warming. If you want to go green, solar energy is a step in the right direction.

Solar panels make your house much more energy efficient. On sunny days, your house itself will no longer absorb light and heat from the sun, but rather the solar panels will, converting that energy into power so it doesn’t go to waste.

Economic savings

If your house is being fuelled by solar energy, this means that you are not consuming energy directly from the national grid, which can save you a lot of money. In fact, you can even be rewarded with money back if you export the energy you save back into the grid through FITs or incentives like Smart Export Guarantee. The larger your solar system, the more you can save on your bill. Pretty simple!

With solar panels, you can also rely on very low maintenance costs. Generally, solar panels do not require much upkeep beyond occasional cleaning over their 25 – 30 year lifespan. The higher quality panels you buy, the less likely you will have to pay for regular maintenance, so it’s worth finding the best option. Therefore, after the initial upfront cost of installation, solar panels are relatively cheap to maintain and very economical to run. In fact, E.ON Energy predicts that you can save up to £400 a year by powering your home with solar energy, as well as benefiting from the greater independence from the Grid, allowing you to be more efficient and aware of your energy consumption.

Install solar panels to improve the sustainability of your home

Disadvantages of solar energy

Despite recent technological advances in solar energy, there are still a number of drawbacks. These include the cost, the efficiency of panels, and the space needed for panels.

Cost

Purchasing solar panels is pretty expensive, as well as their maintenance. You need to buy a lot of materials aside from the panels, such as batteries and the cost of installation. However, it’s likely that as solar energy becomes more and more popular, the prices should go down. Although we can’t be certain!

Efficiency

As we’ve said, solar energy is most efficient on cloudy days, so as to avoid overheating. However, it certainly doesn’t generate the same amount of electricity. Rainy days, especially, will affect the efficiency of your solar panels. Also at night, solar energy of course cannot be generated. This means that solar energy is only efficient at very specific times, making it a less efficient energy source than other renewables.

Space

The bigger the roof you have, the more solar energy can be generated. This is an incentive to install more solar panels, however if you live in a small property, it also means that solar energy might not be very cost effective for you. You can of course install panels in your garden, on the turf, however if you also only have a small back garden, or if it is shielded from the sun, this isn’t a viable alternative. One panel is better than none, but you have to think about what is feasible for your living quarters.

Do energy suppliers also offer solar panels?

Not all energy suppliers offer solar panel installation, however lots of providers have tariffs that allow you to make the most of the energy you save by paying you back for what you don’t use. Below are some of the solar offers on the market: 

E.ON Solar Panels

  • E.ON offers three different solar packages for their customers.
  • They also offer their solar customers an exclusive SEG tariff, allowing them to sell the energy they don’t use back to the grid.
  • You have the option of adding a battery system which would allow you to store excess energy.

Octopus Solar Panels

  • Octopus’ tariff ‘Outgoing Octopus’ offers you money back for every kW of energy you export into the grid.
  • You can sell your saved electricity to your neighbour, or back to the grid.

nPower Solar Panels

  • nPower’s Solar PV will install solar panels on your home to help you opt for more renewable energy.

Call us to switch your energy supplier for free!

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FAQ

🏘️ Do I need a big roof to have efficient solar panels?

Most houses in the UK have a roof big enough to have solar panels. You typically need about 28 square meters of roof space to generate 4kW. However, if you want to generate lots and lots of energy, and potentially get money back through FITs, then the bigger roof the better!

👉 What direction should my roof face?

It would be best for your roof to be facing south to generate the most energy. However, this isn't the be all and end all. You will still generate plenty of electricity through west and east facing roofs!

Redactor

Written by eleanor

Updated on 23 Sep, 2020