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How Much Do Solar Panels Cost?

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Solar panels

With energy costs still at relatively high levels in 2024, it makes sense to think about ways you can reduce your bills. One of the best ways of reducing energy bills is with solar power, but many people may be put off by the cost of solar panels which can be quite a significant cost. 

Installing solar panels at home will nearly always save you money in the long term. However, it makes sense to work out exactly how much you’ll save and how long it will take for the savings to add up and eventually pay off the investment. To do this, you’ll need to know how much it will cost to have them installed and how much impact they could have on your energy bills. This guide is here to help.

Solar Panel Cost Introduction

The exact cost of a solar panel system depends on the size of the system, whether or not it has any additional features plus a few other factors. In the UK, the average solar panel system is 3.5kW in size and the cost is likely to be between £5,000 and £7,000.

Remember that, as well as saving you money and potentially bringing you a small income if you sell any surplus electricity, solar panels also help you to reduce your carbon footprint. A 3.5kW system will reduce your carbon footprint by almost a tonne every year.

Solar panel systems vary in size. The larger the system, the greater the cost. A very small, 1kWp system, which would likely supply only a small percentage of your energy needs, could cost as little as £1,650, whereas a larger 6kW system will cost around £10,500.

How Much Do Different Solar Panel Systems Cost?

The main factors that affect solar panel costs include:

  • The size of the solar PV system
  • Whether or not it features any additional components
  • The type of solar panels installed
  • Factors affecting the solar panel installation cost

 

Usually, the bigger the investment you make in solar panels in the UK at the start, the more you’ll save in the long run. 

Let’s have a look at some typical solar systems based on size, roof space, output and cost.

System SizeRoof Space Annual Electricity OutputBasic Cost (including installation fee)Additional ComponentsTypes of Solar Panel
1kW4 panels/7m2790kWh£1,650 – £4,000 A PV diverter will add around £800 to the cost, and a battery will add around £4,500 to the cost. These will, however, save you money in the long run. More efficient monocrystalline solar panels will cost more than polycrystalline panels. Again, though, they’ll save you money in the long run. 
3kW12 panels/20m22380kWh£4,500 – £7,000
3.5kW (UK Average)14 panels/23m22775kWh£5,000 – £7,500
4kW16 panels/27m23170kWh£6,000 – £8,500
5kW20 panels/33m23960kWh£7,500 – £10,000
6kW24 panels/40m24755kWh£9,000 – £11,500

Note that some of the installation costs will be determined by the difficulty of installation and your location. Labour costs for solar panel installations are usually between £300 and £500 per day. However, prices do vary, with the cost of installation typically being higher in some parts of the UK (such as in South East England) and they may be higher if the installation has any added difficulties.

You can start looking into how much a solar system could cost you by getting some solar quotes. 

System Size (kW)

When it comes to solar panels, size matters. The bigger the solar panel system, the more it will cost. While this is true, bigger systems will obviously generate more electricity and, usually, save you more money in the long run. If you are wanting to be largely self-sufficient and reduce reliance on the National Grid, or even go off-grid, a larger system is a must.

Will Installing a Larger Solar Set Up Really Save Me More Money?

While bigger systems naturally produce more energy, building a system that produces a lot more energy than you need won’t actually save you more money. You need to match the system and the solar PV panels to the energy demands of your household. The reason for this is that it isn’t particularly cost effective to sell large amounts of excess solar energy back to the grid.

Additional Components

One very important thing to consider when installing a solar panel system is whether you’re planning on adding a diverter or a battery to it. Both these help to make more efficient use of the electricity your solar panels produce. 

Diverter 

A diverter redirects excess power generated by your solar panels into electrical devices in your home. 

What often happens with solar panel systems is that, at certain times (during the day), they produce more electricity than the household needs. This is particularly true when people are out during the day and at home in the evenings.

What happens by default is that this excess electricity is exported back into the grid. While you can be paid for this energy, it would actually be better to use it in your home. 

What diverters do is divert excess energy into a device in your home instead of exporting it to the grid. Typically, this device is an immersion heater, and so diverters are effectively used to produce free hot water.  

The typical cost of installing a diverter with your solar panel system is around £800. 

Solar Battery 

As with diverters, solar batteries also find a more efficient use for excess power generated by your solar panels. Again, if no one’s at home during the day to use the electricity that your solar panels produce, then a battery is useful, enabling you to store excess energy so it can be used when required. 

A solar battery is typically more expensive than diverters and will be expected to have a shorter lifespan. Usually, the lifespan of a battery is less than that of your solar panels, at between 5 and 15 years. This means that you’ll probably have to replace it during the life of your solar panels.

The average cost for a solar battery in the UK is £4,500, but prices typically range from £2,500 to £6,000.  However, overall, batteries are probably a better option than diverters.

Batteries often end up working better than diverters because they are more powerful, and they can usually store more energy than a diverter can use to heat an immersion heater. That said, what turns out to be the best option will depend on your particular household requirements. 

The Type of Solar Panels

The two main types of solar panels used for domestic solar energy in the UK are monocrystalline and polycrystalline. Both of these are made using silicon photovoltaic cells.

The main difference is that monocrystalline panels are made from a single silicon crystal, while polycrystalline cells are made from a number of pieces of silicon crystal fused together during manufacture. Monocrystalline cells are usually more efficient and ultimately capable of generating more electricity, but there are still some upsides to polycrystalline solar panels.  

Monocrystalline Panels

  • Produce electricity more effectively
  • Have a longer lifespan
  • Work better in low light conditions
  • Take up less space
  • Are less environmentally friendly
  • May not work as well in high temperatures
  • Cost more than monocrystalline panels

 

Polycrystalline Panels

  • Are more affordable
  • Are more environmentally friendly
  • May work better in high temperatures
  • Produce electricity less effectively
  • Take up more space

 

What About Solar Roof Tiles?

Solar roof tiles basically work in the same way as solar panels. They’re just solar panels made to look like roof tiles. While they might be less noticeable, they cost considerably more than solar panels. Prices for a 3.5kW solar tile system, for example, will start at around £10,500 — that’s instead of around £5,500 for the solar panels that would be required for a similar sized system. 

Integrated Solar Panels

Another alternative to solar roof tiles is integrated solar panels. These are solar panels that are embedded into the roof of a house. You can learn more about integrated solar panels here

Solar Panel Installation Costs

The cost of installing a solar panel system will also depend on how difficult the installation process is and where you’re located in the country. If it’s difficult to install solar panels on your property, for any reason, this will add to the price.

Access difficulties or problems mounting panels to your roof, for example, might push the price up. It’s also worth remembering that not everyone chooses to have solar panels built on their roof, which may cause prices to vary. Ground mounted systems are possible, but prices for ground mounted systems can be unpredictable, and you’ll need to get a quote from an installer. 

As well as prices varying slightly from property to property, they also vary from region to region, in the UK. Using solar panel installers in London and the South East, for example, is likely to be more expensive than elsewhere. Similarly, you might end up paying slightly more if you live in a remote location with poor access. 

Is it Possible to Build Your Own Solar Panel System?

While it is possible to make your own solar panel system, it’s usually not a good idea. If you’re going to capitalise on the renewable energy opportunities by investing in a solar system, you want to have confidence that it works properly, is likely to last, and most importantly is safe.

Professional solar installers know what they’re doing and provide a huge amount of expertise for what’s actually a small cost. Additionally, if you do install your own solar panels, you still need to have your system certified by a professional in order to qualify for the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG). 

Is Your House Even Suitable For Solar Panels?

Before investing in solar panels, you need to check that solar panels are actually suitable for your property. Our partner installers can help you with this, but here are some things to consider:

  • It’s best if you’ve got a south facing roof Definitely don’t write off the idea if you’ve got an east or west facing roof because it will probably still work. You might need to get some advice first, though. North facing roofs usually don’t get enough sunlight to make solar panels worthwhile. 
  • It’s best if your roof doesn’t get much shade during the day The best time for solar panels to produce electricity is between 10am and 4pm. It’s best if your roof is unshaded at this time. 
  • Your roof needs to be big enough – Solar panels take up a good amount of space, and your roof needs to be big enough for them. Have a look at the chart at the top to see how big the different systems are. 
  • Your roof needs to be in good condition – If your roof is old or damaged, it might not be able to support solar panels. Have your roof space inspected by a professional before the solar panels are fitted to make sure it’s strong enough. 

 

How Much Money Will Solar Panels Save You?

Now that you have a rough idea how much a solar panel system is going to cost, you’ll want to know how much money you could save you on your electricity bills through the energy your solar panels generate. The good news is that you should notice the difference in your bills straight away, and it should be substantial. You’ll also have the satisfaction of knowing that the electrical devices in your home are being powered by your own panels at a minimal cost to the environment. 

Ultimately, you’ll need to work out how long it’ll take to pay off your initial investment. After that, you’ll effectively be getting free electricity.

Things to Consider When Working Out How Much Solar Panels Could Save You 

It’s not always obvious how much a household in the UK will save on their energy bills with solar panels. Like working out how much it will cost to install a solar panel system in the first place, there are a few aspects that make a difference. 

The main factors that will affect how much you save are: 

  • The type of solar system you have
  • How you use the energy it produces 
  • The Smart Export Guarantee and the Feed-in Tariff (FIT)
  • Your location

 

Your Solar Panel System

The type of solar panel system you have will determine how much energy you produce and how efficiently you’re able to use it. Usually, it’s fairly straightforward – a solar panel system that’s well matched to the needs of a household, with additional features that make it more efficient, will save more money on energy bills.

Household Habits 

The way that a household uses the energy produced by its solar panel system can have a significant impact on the amount of money it saves. Households where people are at home during the day to use the electricity produced by their panels will usually save more money. If you or someone in your household works at home, for example, solar panels could be a good investment.  

Estimates from the Energy Saving Trust suggested that a household in London, with an average size solar system, where the occupants are at home during the day (and selling any excess electricity produced under SEG) could save or earn as much as £630 on their energy bills per year. This compares to savings of £520 for households where the occupants are out until 6pm (all based on fuel prices as of April 2024).

Batteries and Diverters are Important

Note that batteries and diverters (or other technology that might be introduced in the future) can really help with this issue of maximising energy savings. It’s worth speaking to a solar panel installer to decide what will work for you. 

Estimates of savings made by systems that don’t have a battery or a diverter, in households where the occupants are out during the day, suggest that significantly lower savings will be made. It’s important to make sure you maximise your savings by looking at how energy is used in your household and how a diverter or battery could help. 

The Smart Export Guarantee and the Feed-in Tariff

One particularly important thing to know about in 2024 is the Smart Export Guarantee. The SEG is a government backed initiative that requires some electricity suppliers to pay small scale generators (you, if you’ve got solar panels) for energy they export into the National Grid. You can use the SEG to earn money from excess energy you produce. Ultimately, the money you receive will contribute to what you save from having solar panels. 

Rates under the SEG vary from supplier to supplier, and you don’t have to use the company that supplies your energy. You’re free to swap. However, it often helps you to get a good rate if you’re an existing customer. 

The Feed-in Tariff is similar to the SEG, but applies to people who had their solar panels installed before 31st March 2019. The conditions of the Feed-in Tariff scheme were actually better, with solar panel owners often receiving money for exporting electricity to the grid when they actually used it themselves. 

Your Location

Your location will impact the amount you save by affecting the initial cost of installation, as well as the efficiency of your solar panels and the amount that you earn for exporting electricity to the grid. 

How Much Money Will Solar Panels Save You?

Here’s a summary of the savings predictions from the Energy Saving Trust. 

These are predictions for households with different energy requirements in different parts of the UK. These are the Energy Saving Trust’s predicted savings for a household:

  • That qualifies for the SEG
  • Lives in a gas heated, 4 bedroom house
  • Has a solar panel system featuring a diverter used to power an immersion heater 

 

This is a fairly normal arrangement. However, it’s worth noting that these figures don’t take into account the improved efficiency savings offered by installing a battery with a solar panel system. Installing a battery could boost things further.

 Household Energy Habits
Occupants Home All Day Occupants Home All AfternoonOccupants Out All Day Until 6pm
 Annual SavingsTime to Pay Off Investment Annual SavingsTime to Pay Off InvestmentAnnual SavingsTime to Pay Off Investment
London £7159 years 10 months£61011 years 6 months£48514 years 5 months
Aberystwyth, Wales£67610 years 4 months£57512 years 2 months£45515 years 4 months
Manchester£66010 years 7 months£56512 years 4 months£44515 years 9 months
Stirling, Scotland£63511 years£53513 years 1 month£42016 years 8 months

Note that we have calculated the time to pay off the investment based on the household installing a 4kW solar panel system at a cost of £7,000. This is a typical example, although it’s worth noting that the price could be slightly cheaper or more expensive, based on household needs.

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Oliver Creevy
Ollie Creevy has over three years of expertise in the home improvements and solar panels sectors by writing content across multiple websites. He is highly knowledgeable about the latest trends, technologies and practices in this industry, and is passionate about sharing his insights with others. Ollie's writing has been featured in numerous publications, including MSN, Bustle, and Realtor.com.

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