Are Solar Panels Worth It? 2024 Updated Guide

Are solar panels worth it? Use our calculator to quickly answer this question or read on as we break down costs & savings.

Tom
February 14, 2024
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The question on many environmentally conscious minds is: "Are solar panels worth it?" And more importantly, are they worth it in the UK? The land of wind, rain and the eventual storm.

This comprehensive guide, updated for 2024, helps you answer this question by diving into the costs, benefits, and overall efficiency of solar panels in the UK’s unique context. We’ve also provided you with the latest data to help you make an informed decision.

Is It Worth Getting Solar Panels?

Solar panels are 100% worth it, just as long as your roof is suitable for solar panels. To give you a brief idea of how much you could expect to save, the average solar UK household has a 4kW system comprising 12 solar panels. This system would cost around £6,500 with no battery and would save you an estimated £700-£900 a year. This would make your payback period only 8-10 years!

Averages are a great way to quickly judge whether solar panels are a good investment but 96% accurate estimations specific to your property are much better. If that sounds of interest, use our solar panel calculator which does the leg work for you. It works out the following:

  1. Annual Solar Energy Output 
  2. Potential Savings on Your Energy Bills
  3. The Exact Number of Panels Required 
  4. How Much the Panels Would Cost You

Being armed with this information will help you make an informed decision about whether you think solar panels are worthwhile for you. 

Read on to become an expert on all things solar panels - including costs, grants, compatibility with smart metres, and more. But first, let’s look at the benefits they offer.

MakeMyHouseGreen's solar panel calculator on desktop

The Benefits of Installing Solar Panels

We’re big fans of solar panels and for good reason - there are multiple advantages to solar panels - which not only give them the edge over grid energy but also other green solutions: 

1. Cost Savings - The average solar household saves £700-£900 when you take into account your earnings from the Smart Export Guarantee. 

2. Increased Property Value - Installing solar panels can boost your home's resale value, with increases between 9-14% being common.

3. Reduced Carbon Emissions - Average UK households can save approximately 900 kg of CO2 emissions annually by switching to solar.

4. Energy Independence - You also decrease your reliance on utility companies and protect yourself from unexpected hikes in electricity bills. 

5. Long-Term Solution - Solar energy systems are efficient and effective even after 25 to 30 years, offering a sustainable long-term energy solution.

How Much Do Solar Panels Cost In the UK?

Solar system costs vary as they come in all sorts of sizes, each suited to different energy needs. The size, measured in kilowatts (kW), not only impacts how much you'll pay for installation but also how much electricity you'll get out of it. 

Here's a quick rundown of what you might expect to spend and save, depending on the system size. Please note that these prices don't include a battery – adding one would bump up the cost a bit. If you're curious about batteries, definitely check out our guide on solar panel batteries for the full scoop.

Got a small space? 

A 3kW system could be just right. It'll set you back about £6,000 - £7,000 and comes with 8 to 10 panels. You could save around £600-£800 each year on your bills.

Need a bit more power? 

A 4kW system might hit the spot. This one's priced between £6,500 - £8,000 and includes 12 to 15 panels, offering annual savings in the ballpark of £700 - £900.

Going all out?

The 6kW system, with its 17 to 20 panels, costs between £8,000 - £9,000. And the best part? You might save between £900 - £1,100 every year!

Just remember, these figures are just estimates. The final cost can change a bit depending on the panel types, where you live, and how complex the installation is.

To get a more accurate estimation tailored just for you, give our solar panel calculator a try. It'll crunch the numbers and tell you how much solar panels could cost for your specific setup. 

Could you get a grant for solar panels?

Because the price of solar panels has come down, there are currently no national government grants available in the UK, but VAT is charged at just 5%! There could also be a council-level grant available to you, but you’d have to contact your local council to find out.

You can also get paid to export energy to the grid by applying for the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) scheme. When booking a (free!) consultation call with one of our Green Homes Gurus, they’ll be happy to walk you through the eligibility criteria and other details you might be interested in.

How long does it take for solar panels to pay for themselves?

One of the first things that comes to mind when considering whether to invest in solar panels is how long it’ll take for the investment to pay off. In general, it takes our customers between 8 to 15 years for the solar panels to pay for themselves. But we’ve seen investment payback in as little as 4 years! 

So if you’re wondering if solar panels are worth it in the UK, those are the numbers to keep in mind. However, with electricity prices on the rise, the time it takes for solar panels to pay for themselves is likely to come down.If you would like a more personalised estimate of how quickly you can get an ROI, give our data-based calculator a try! It’ll show you your estimated savings and cost of investment based on a ten-year average so that you can see for yourself how long it would take for you to break even.

Solar panels on roof in the sun

How Long Do Solar Panels Last?

Since there aren't many moving parts, there isn’t much that can go wrong with solar panels! However, like most electronic goods, the system is guaranteed to function for a minimum amount of time. A 25-year performance guarantee is common, which means that you will be compensated if your solar panels do not perform at 85% or more of their original output in the first 25 years. 

For more warranty information, read our guide on the upkeep and maintenance of solar panels. If you’re interested to learn more about the efficiency of solar panels and what impacts performance we’ve got an article on that too!

Impact of Solar Panels on Your Carbon Footprint

Switching to solar panels makes a big difference in reducing your carbon footprint. By using this renewable energy source, you're cutting down reliance on fossil fuels, thereby decreasing CO2 emissions. In the UK, a typical home solar panel system can save about 900 kg of CO2 annually, equivalent to planting a small forest!

Curious about your specific impact? Our tool offers a 96% accurate estimate of the annual carbon savings from your solar panels, making it easy to see your contribution to a greener planet. 

Do Smart Metres work with solar panels?

Yes! If you want to sell money back to the grid you’ll need a Smart Meter to get paid through the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) scheme. The reason for this is that it’s able to measure the exact amount of energy that you’re exporting to the grid.

Other Factors to Consider 

Do you have a well-insulated house?

Another aspect to consider when trying to decide whether solar panels would be a sound investment is whether your house is well insulated. It doesn’t make much sense to spend money improving the way that you heat your home if the heat won’t stay within your home. Fortunately, our free and impartial tool can give you an indication of costs and savings on both wall insulation and window insulation - so a poorly insulated house doesn’t mean that you can’t get panels!

One way to check if your house is well insulated is by placing a hand on your home’s outward walls or floors. Do they feel warm or cold? The latter will indicate an insulation problem.

Damp and moisture often accompany the cold walls. Some other signs of poor insulation include drafts and fluctuating temperatures – no matter how much you heat your house, the warmth disappears quickly and you find yourself spending a lot of money on heating.

Are solar panels worth it if you have an EV?

Using solar energy to fuel an electric vehicle sounds like a no-brainer. The energy produced by solar panels can indeed help charge an EV. In theory, your EV could even act as a battery for your system!

On the downside, pulling back electricity from the vehicle to use in the house has an impact on the degradation of the EV’s battery and it’s not yet clear whether it offsets the benefit from the improved solar. In our view, solar panels are great to fuel your EV, but probably won't be something you can pull from to power your home.

Our Green Homes Gurus are happy to discuss this in greater detail! You’ll be presented with the option to book a (free!) call when using our platform.

Your Electricity Usage

When thinking about investing in solar panels, one crucial factor to consider is your electricity usage. It's not just about how much energy you use now, but also how your needs might change over time. Life events like buying an electric vehicle, switching from gas to electric heating, or expanding your family can all increase your energy requirements. This will in turn affect how worthwhile the investment could be.

But here's the good news: you can actually "play around" with these variables to see how future changes might affect the cost-effectiveness of solar panels. By tweaking the model to reflect potential increases or decreases in your energy usage, you can get a more accurate picture of what to expect in terms of pricing and savings.

Knowing exactly how much energy you currently use is the first step in getting a better estimate of potential costs and savings. Here's a simple way to gauge your electricity usage:

1.    Find the wattage usage for your appliance

Firstly, look at the information in our helpful table below or at the wattage labels on the appliances you commonly use. For example, a dishwasher is likely to have a wattage between 1,200-2,400W (watts). 

Let’s say we want to know how much it costs to run the dishwasher every month if you use it for 2 hours every day.

Below, we’ve included a helpful table showing the wattage levels of the most common household appliances. The exact number will depend on the appliance’s model and energy efficiency.

DeviceWattage (W)Tumble dryer1,800 – 5,000WElectric oven2,000 - 2,200WElectric shower7,500 - 10,000WHair dryer2,200WTV125 - 450WMicrowave600 - 1,500WKettle2,200 - 3,000WVacuum cleaner500 - 1,200WFridge40 - 120W

2. Calculate Daily Usage

Multiply the appliance’s wattage by the number of hours you use it per day. For example, if you use a 1,200-watt dishwasher for 2 hours, that's 2,400 watt hours per day.

3. Convert to Kilowatt-Hours (kWh)

Electricity usage is billed in kWh. To convert watt-hours to kWh, divide by 1,000. In our example, that would be 2.4 kWh per day.

4. Monthly Usage

Multiply the daily kWh by the number of days in a month to get your monthly usage. Continuing with our example, 2.4 kWh daily for 30 days equals 72 kWh per month.

5. Calculate Monthly Cost

Finally, multiply the monthly kWh by your electricity rate (found on your utility bill) to see how much you’re spending each month.

Knowing exactly how much you use would allow you to receive a highly accurate estimate of the solar system size that is required, the cost and your potential savings.

Final Thoughts: Are Solar Panels a Good Investment?

In the majority of cases, solar panels are a wonderful investment. Not only do they reduce your carbon emissions by around 900 kg per year, but they can also help you make sizable savings on your energy bill.  

However, there are many factors, including your electricity usage and potential changes in your lifestyle, to consider. Our solar panel calculator is here to help, offering a tailored estimate of costs and savings based on your specific situation.

Don't forget to explore our other green guides for more insights into solar panels and other ways to make your house green.

Recommended Guides:

- Do solar panels need to be in direct sunlight?

- Can you put solar panels on a flat roof?

- Electric car home charging guide

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