Installing solar panels
If you’re thinking about using solar power as an energy source for your home, you might be wondering exactly how you go about installing solar panels. From the number of panels you might need, to how much power you can expect to generate, take a look at our handy guide to solar panel installation.
Is my home suitable for solar panels?
The best thing you can do to help you to make your decision is to seek out expert advice. A good rule of thumb is to speak to three different suppliers, share your home’s individual specifications, and ask for detailed quotes. Ideally, your roof should be inspected by a solar panel installer to make sure it’s strong enough to support a roof-mounted solar panel system.
However, as a starting point, think about the direction your home faces. If it’s north facing, solar panels may not be suitable. And, a system facing east or west will yield less energy than one facing directly south.
Does your roof receive a good quantity of sunlight without being blocked by trees or other properties? And is your roof space a good size, with a standard pitch, or is it flat?
Also consider your standard electricity usage at home and the existing tariff you’re on from your electricity supplier. The case for solar panels becomes more compelling from a financial point of view as electricity costs increase – for example, if you’re home most days.
And think about at what point in the future you intend to move, because you’ll need to weigh up whether you’ll be able to recoup your initial outlay to install solar panels.
READ MORE: How does solar power work
Do I need planning permission to install solar panels?
No planning permission is required for solar panels, as long as they meet this criteria:
- The panels should minimise the effect on the external appearance of the building as far as possible.
- They should not protrude over the highest part of the roof, excluding the chimney, and should be within 200mm of the surface of the roof where they are placed.
If you’re not sure if your home meets the above criteria, check with your solar panel supplier to see if they can confirm this for you. And contact your local council to check if there have been any restrictions in your local area, or on similar properties.
If you’re a leaseholder, you’ll require the permission of your freeholder before you can install them.
You’ll also need permission to add solar panels to a listed building. You cannot add them on to any roof or space facing the highway of a property in a conservation area, or on a World Heritage Site, such as the City of Bath.
You’ll also need to register a solar panel system with your electricity provider, or Distribution Network Operator (DNO). Your installer will usually do this for you.
How many solar panels will I need to power my home?
Solar panels sizes are expressed in kilowatts – kW. The Energy Savings Trust says the average domestic solar PV system for a three-bedroom house is 3.5kWp. According to British Gas, this system will generate around 2,900 kWh, which is the average amount of electricity used in a three-bedroom house, with two- to-three people living there.
A system of this size will typically require 10-12 roof panels, but this varies between homes and different roof types. Each panel on average measures two square metres, but there are more compact versions available.
READ MORE: How much do solar panels cost?
Three key factors to consider when choosing solar panels for your home:
- How many Kilowatt hours do you require? Look at your bill and consider your average daily electricity consumption.
- How sunny is it where you live? This differs around the UK.
- How much suitable roof space do you have?
How will I know how much electricity my solar panels generate?
A meter will record the amount of electricity being produced by your solar panels. You can choose the best place for this to be installed in your home. Most new models can connect this to an app on your phone, so you’ll be able to keep an eye on the volume. If the output drops unexpectedly, it might mean there’s an issue with your panels.
How long do solar panels take to install?
It depends on the size of your home and how high the roof is, but allow a few days at least, especially if scaffolding needs to be constructed.
How long do solar panels last?
According to industry standards, panels should last between 25 to 30 years – some panels installed in the 1980s are still operating today. But they will slowly degrade and lose efficiency.
Do solar panels require any maintenance?
They must be kept clean, brushing off leaves and snow for example, to make sure they max out all available sunlight. Otherwise, they require very little upkeep.