Solar panels – are they worth it?

How much can you really save?

As well as saving you money on your energy bills, solar panels can also earn you cash. And don't worry, panels can still generate some electricity on gloomy days, vital when the weather's as dull as dishwater. But with solar panels costing an average of £7,000, there are a few things you need to understand to work out if the sums add up.

How do solar panels work?

Put simply, solar panels turn the sun's energy into usable electricity. Solar panels contain electrons, which start moving when hit with direct sunlight. The moving electrons create an electric current, kind of like a stream of electricity, which is then channelled and turned into usable electricity.

The electricity is then sent out of the solar panel through wires, ready to power your gadgets, lights or even your electric vehicle, or it can be sent back to grid and suppliers will pay you for that energy. 

  • What are the benefits?

    Solar panels do give a number of benefits – some are fairly obvious, but there are others you may not have thought of:

    • Lower energy bills. Producing your own electricity to power your home and your vehicles means you can reduce the amount you take from the grid – which right now, is extremely costly. To maximise savings, you'll probably need to invest in a solar battery as well.

    • Get paid for any electricity you generate but don't use. You can get financial incentives from the UK government under the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG), which pays homeowners for excess electricity you generate and feed back into the grid. 

    • Solar power is a clean and green energy source. Your producing electricity without emitting harmful greenhouse gases, helping to lower your (and the UK's) carbon footprint.

    • Low maintenance. Solar panels have minimal moving parts so require little maintenance. Routine cleaning and occasional checks are usually enough to keep your system running efficiently.

    • They could increase your property value. Homes with solar panels can sell for more than those without, as potential buyers are attracted to the long-term savings and eco-friendly features. Though do be aware, some say that the increase in property values sometimes don't outweigh the cost of having them installed. 

    Yet while there are a number of benefits to getting solar panels, it doesn't mean you should rush out to get them. Always check the maths first, to make sure you can recoup the cost of getting them installed

What are PV solar panels made of?

There are many different types of solar panels, but the two most commonly used solar panels in the UK are monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels.

  • 'Monocrystalline' panels are the more expensive option (it'll cost you around 20% more than polycrystalline according to The Eco Experts), but are the most efficient for domestic households. 

  • 'Polycrystalline' solar panels are cheaper but they're about one-third less efficient than monocrystalline panels, meaning you'll need to have more panels on your roof to achieve the same power output. 

How many solar panels do I need?

Generally speaking, the more electricity your home uses, the more solar panels you'll need. Naturally, larger homes typically require larger solar panel systems. According to the Eco Experts the number needed ranges from between three and six panels for a small home with a low consumption profile, all the way up to at least 14 solar panels on the other end of the scale. 

That said, the number of solar panels you require will also depend on factors like:

  • Your available roof space: Ultimately, the size of your roof will determine how many solar panels can be physically installed.
  • The efficiency of your solar panels. The more efficient solar panels you choose, the fewer you'll likely need.
  • How much sunlight your home gets. The less sunlight your home receives, the less efficient your solar panels are and the more you'll require as a result. This is not only impacted by the climate, but shade caused by trees, buildings, or other obstructions around your home. Unfortunately, some properties are just not suitable for solar panels
  • Your budget. Your budget may also influence the number of panels you can install. More on solar panel costs below. 

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  1. The solar panel maths is getting better

    As the price of energy has rocketed, generating solar energy and using it yourself can mean big savings. Under the smart export guarantee (SEG) scheme, which launched in January 2020, households in Great Britain get paid for solar energy they 'export'. This is electricity you generate, but don't use yourself, which is then pumped back into the national energy grid. The prior feed-in tariff scheme (which closed to new applications in March 2019) was far more generous, as you got paid for generating solar energy, even if you used it yourself.

    However, if you've got savings you can use to pay for the panels, it's worth doing the numbers for yourself as the SEG scheme can work out well for some (we've full analysis of how much you're likely to save, and how much you're likely to get paid, below).

  2. The biggest gain comes from using what you generate – you could save up to £360/year on your bills

    First and foremost, you can use the electricity your panels generate, and so reduce your bills. Savings depend on system size, electricity use, whether you're at home during the day to use the energy you're producing and other factors.

    But based on Energy Saving Trust estimates, a typical household with a 3.5 kilowatt-peak system can knock between £135 and £360 a year off bills at the current Energy Price Cap rates.

  3. You could get paid £370/year for any excess energy you generate, but SEG tariffs differ widely (though you're free to switch between 'em)

    The smart export guarantee (SEG) scheme works by requiring energy suppliers with 150,000+ customers to offer 'tariffs' to households in England, Scotland and Wales, which pay a set rate for each kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity you generate from solar panels, but DON'T use yourself.

    Crucially, the amount you get back depends on the company and ranges from just 1p per kWh to 40p per kWh (Octopus Agile Outgoing can pay more than this, but the rates fluctuate every half an hour) – so make sure you go for the best-paying tariff you can. Although it doesn't have to be the same firm that supplies your energy, but with some, it helps you get a better rate if you are a customer already. And keep an eye on the rate you're getting as many are variable.

    The Energy Saving Trust estimates a typical household based roughly in the middle of the country could make between £220 and £320 a year based on a rate of 12p per kWh (though of course, the better the rate, the more you'll make).

    If you had solar panels installed before 31 March 2019, it's likely you'll be on a feed-in tariff (FIT). If so, you might already be getting paid more than what's below, but if you're currently on a variable SEG tariff, you're free to switch to another provider that'll pay you more.

    How much you can get paid under the smart export guarantee by supplier

    SUPPLIER
    SEG TARIFF RATE/KWH VARIABLE/FIXED PAID
    BENCHMARK: You pay about 25p/kWh for electricity under the Price Cap.
    Octopus Energy Outgoing Agile Average 16p (1) Variable Monthly
    Good Energy Solar Savings 20p or 15p (8) Variable Monthly
    E.on Next Next Export 40p, 25p, 16.5p or 3p (9) Fixed for 12 months Annually (can request more frequently, max. four payments a year)
    Octopus Energy Outgoing Fixed  15p or 4.1p (3) Fixed for 12 months Monthly
    Scottish Power SmartGen 15p or 12p (2) Variable Every six months
    Octopus Energy Outgoing Fixed Lite 8p (4) Fixed for 12 months Monthly
    British Gas Export & Earn Flex 15p or 6.4p (3) Variable Every three months
    EDF Energy Export Variable Value 5.6p or 3p (3) Variable Every three months
    Utility Warehouse UW Smart Export Guarantee 5.6p or 2p (5) Variable Every three months
    Pozitive Energy
    SEG tariff 5p Variable Every six months
    So Energy So Export Flex 20p or 7.5p (6) Variable May be monthly, quarterly, or half-yearly
    Ovo Energy Ovo SEG Tariff 20p or 15p or 4p (7) Fixed for 12 months Every three months
    Shell Energy SEG V1.1 Tariff 3.5p Variable Annually
    Utilita Smart Export Guarantee 3p Variable Every three months
    E SEG January2020v.1 1p Variable Annually
    Correct as of April 2024. You will get one month's notice before a variable tariff changes. (1) The rate you get changes every half hour in line with wholesale energy prices. 16p is the average Octopus has paid over the last 12 months. (2) You get the top rate if it installed your solar panels. (3) You get the top rate if it supplies your energy. (4) You can only get this tariff if you're on the supplier's Octopus Go tariff, which is designed for households with a home EV charger. (5) You get the top rate if you have two or more services with Utility Warehouse. (6) You get the top rate if you buy and have installed So Energy's solar panels and battery. So Energy does not need to be your energy provider. (7) You get the top rate if it installed your solar panels and battery, and supplies your energy. You get the middle rate if it installed your solar panels, and supplies your energy. (8) The top rate is available to customers who have had a solar installation through Good Energy’s subsidiary Wessex ECOEnergy and are on Good Energy’s SVT. Lower rate available to households supplied by Good Energy on the company’s Standard Variable Tariff (SVT), and which have a second-generation smart meter. (9) You get the top rate if E.on Next supplies your electricity AND it installed your solar panels and battery since 1 January 2024. Full details on E.on Next's website.

    Octopus Energy has two new tariffs that can beat most of the rates above – but they're complex and you need to have a battery to store electricity

    Octopus has two new tariffs for existing customers with solar panels – Octopus Flux and Intelligent Octopus Flux. They're both import and export tariffs, meaning you'll pay for any electricity you use and it'll pay you for any power you send back to the grid. To get 'em, you'll also need a working smart meter and battery (and a particular kind of battery with Intelligent Octopus Flux).

    • Octopus Flux

      Octopus Flux offers different rates for the import (what you use) and export (what you send back to the grid) of electricity, depending on the time of day (it changes three times a day). The rates vary depending on where you live, so to get an accurate quote, you'll need to plug your postcode into Octopus' website. You'll need to manually choose when to import and export your electricity.

      You'll also pay a daily standing charge, which is currently 48.87p/day – that's more than 4p/day less than the current average Price Cap.

      Octopus Flux import and export rates
      Time of day Import rate Export rate

      Off-peak: 2am to 5am. This is when it's cheapest to use, so the best time to top up your battery with any extra energy you may need.

      17.17p/kWh 6.17p/kWh

      Day rate: 5am to 4pm. The import and export rates during this time are priced between the off-peak and peak rates.

      28.62p/kWh  17.62p/kWh

      Peak: 4pm to 7pm. This is when it's most expensive to use, so the optimum time to discharge your battery and export surplus energy back to the grid.

      40.06p/kWh 29.06p/kWh

      Average rates as of 1 January 2024.

    • Intelligent Octopus Flux

      Intelligent Octopus Flux works slightly differently to the standard Flux tariff. The import and export rates are the same and you don't have to manually choose when you import and export your electricity. There is only a peak and off-peak rate.

      Octopus Energy says, with this tariff, your battery will automatically charge when the price is lowest, and will automatically export any surplus energy back to the grid when the prices are highest. So in theory this means your battery will be full at about 4pm, when demand hits it peak and rates spike, so you can sell your electricity during that peak period – good for you, and good for the grid (which needs more power at that time).

      The rate is the same for import and export, but varies depending on where you live and the time of day. There's a 21-hour off-peak rate which is always 10% less than Octopus' standard variable tariff 'Flexible Octopus'. You'll also pay a daily standing charge, which is currently 48.87p/day – that's more than 4p/day less than the current average Price Cap.

      With Intelligent Octopus Flux, you'll only be eligible if you have a GivEnergy battery, though Octopus has said more types of battery will be added to their technology soon. Octopus has to supply your electricity as well as being your SEG provider.

      Intelligent Octopus Flux import and export rates
      Time of day Import rate Export rate

      Off-peak: 7pm to 4pm. This is when it's cheapest to use, so the best time to top up your battery with any extra energy you may need. It's also the time you'll get paid less to export.

      25.75p/kWh 25.75p/kWh

      Peak: 4pm to 7pm. This is when it's most expensive to use, so the optimum time to discharge your battery and export surplus energy back to the grid. It's also the time you'll get paid more to export.

      34.34p/kWh 34.34p/kWh

      Average rates as of 1 January 2024.

    Important things to understand about the smart export guarantee 

    • If your solar export tariff provider goes bust, payments will stop until you find a new supplier

      If your firm goes bust, unlike your normal energy tariff, your export tariff won't automatically be moved by the energy regulator Ofgem to a different supplier (known as the 'supplier of last resort'). You are responsible for finding a new supplier and Ofgem will not appoint one for you.

      What's more, you won't receive SEG payments while you're in limbo, so get your skates on (see full SEG supplier list). Your new supplier will only pay you for exported electricity from the start of your new contract.

      One would hope the market doesn't change, but unlike the feed-in tariff scheme, there are no long-term guarantees for the export scheme, so things could always change.

    • You need a smart meter to get the smart export guarantee payments

      To get a SEG tariff, you'll need a smart meter that's capable of tracking how much solar electricity you're exporting to the grid. This includes what's known as 'SMETS 2' meters – the second generation of smart meters – and certain 'SMETS 1' meters (the first generation).

      If you're not sure what type of meter you have, you can contact the supplier you're thinking of using for your SEG tariff and it can arrange an appointment to get a new meter installed if needed – see our Smart meters guide for more on how they work.

      SMETS 2 meters are capable of tracking solar energy exports and your standard import energy tariff, even if you have a different supplier for each, so you won't need two meters.

    • To qualify you need certified PV solar panels with a capacity of five megawatts or less

      To qualify to receive payments from energy suppliers through the smart export guarantee, you'll need:

      • Solar panels with a capacity of five megawatts or less.

      • Solar panels that are certified by the Microgeneration Certification Scheme.

      • A meter that can track how much solar electricity you export, and send this automatically to your supplier every half hour.

      Unfortunately, if you have solar thermal panels, you can't get the smart export guarantee. Solar thermal, which allows you to heat water and can cut down heating bills, isn't covered. 

    • You need to apply directly with smart export guarantee provider

      To apply for a tariff, you'll need to fill in an application form on the supplier's website, or download one and email or post it back. You'll need your Microgeneration Certification Scheme certificate to hand and an up-to-date meter reading of the energy you export. 

  4. The break-even point is about 14 years

    The price of a typical 3.5 kilowatt-peak PV solar panel system is about £7,000. Based on the Energy Saving Trust's figures, it could take someone living in the middle of the country, in a typical home, anywhere between 12 and 17 years to recoup the costs of installing panels, based on current Energy Price Cap rates. This depends on how much electricity you use and when you use it, and what you're paid under the smart export guarantee.

    How much do solar panels cost in the UK?

    For a rough estimate of how long it'll take to break even, if you lived in about the middle of the country, see our table below. Electricity bill savings are based on the April 2024 Price Cap, which fell 12% on average from the previous Energy Price Cap.

    How long it will take to break even

    TABLE_CELL_STYLE If typical bills fall by 20% (1)
    Savings based on the Price Cap from 1 April 2024 If typical bills rise by 20% (1)
    Electricity bill savings (2)

    Average: £188
    (£112 to £276)

    Average: £235

    (£140 to £345)

    Average: £282

    (£168 to £414)

    Smart export guarantee payment (3) Average: £273
    (£220 to £320)
    Average: £273
    (£220 to £320)
    Average: £273
    (£220 to £320)
    Cost of system (4) £7,000 £7,000 £7,000
    Years to break even 16
    (15 to 17)

    14
    (13 to 16)

    13
    (12 to 15)
    Correct as of April 2024. Source: Energy Saving Trust. (1) Electricity bill savings are based on the 1 April Energy Price Cap, in place until 30 June 2024. (2) Savings vary depending on how often you're home, how much electricity you're using and when (we've given the range in brackets above). (3) Based on a rate of 12p per kilowatt hour. (4) Based on a 3.5 kilowatt-peak system.

    Many factors affect the payments you receive – such as where you live

    A combination of factors will determine how quickly you'll recoup your outlay:

    How much you'll make depends on where you live. The table above assumes you live somewhere in the middle of the country. If you live further south, in London for example, the bill savings will be about 12% higher, while savings in Scotland would be about 8% lower.  

    It's all about daylight, not hours of sunshine or temperature. Northern homes get slightly less, so where you live needs to be factored in.

    If you're at home all day, it will take you less time to make your money back. You'll recoup the installation costs in about 13 years on average, if you live in the middle of the country. In comparison, if you're only home during the evenings, it's about 16 years.

    This is all about how much electricity you're using. If you're home all day, you're using more electricity while your panels are generating solar energy, so the bill savings will be greater, but you'll export less (as you're using more yourself). Conversely, someone at home only in the evenings could make more from the smart export guarantee (SEG) than the savings on their electricity bill. 

    However, this is based on the SEG being available for the next 20+ years. While there are no plans for the scheme to end anytime soon, there's also no guarantee the scheme will last this long.

    For tons more top tips from solar nerds, read the MSE Forum's Make the most of solar panels thread.

  5. To max your savings, use most of your electricity while you're generating it

    While you currently pay roughly 25p per kilowatt hour for electricity on a standard tariff under the April Price Cap, you'll get paid a lot less than this for the energy you don't use yourself and export back to the grid. So try to shift as much of your electricity use to when you are generating it as possible (in other words, in daylight hours), as unless you have a solar battery, you're unable to store it to use later.

    While it means you'll be exporting less so will get paid less, overall you will be a lot better off as you won't be paying for as much pricey energy.

  6. Not all homes are suitable for solar panels

    To maximise what your panels can make, it's best to make sure your home is right for them:

    • You usually need a predominantly south-facing roof. If your roof faces south-west or west you'll still get some benefit, but it may be less effective, and you might not get the maximum savings.

    • Your roof should be unshaded between 10am and 4pm. While some early or late shading from other buildings or trees is OK, during the peak period for daylight you want the panels to be out of any shade.

    • You need a fair bit of space. Solar panels typically take up two square metres each, so the size of your roof matters. 

    • Your roof needs to be in good condition. Make sure you've had an inspection carried out to ensure your roof isn't damaged, as this could affect the installation. If you have old tiles, it may be worth getting them replaced before your panels are installed. 

    • It's best to have a diagonal roof to catch the most rays. If you want to install panels on a flat roof it could cost more, as you may need fixings to hold the panels in place.

    • You generally won't need planning permission. In England and Wales, the Government's Planning Portal says that panels are likely to be considered as 'permitted development' – meaning you don't usually need to apply for planning permission. The big exceptions are if your property has a flat roof, is listed or is in a conservation area. In these cases, you might need to get approval from your council's building control team, so check with your local authority.
  7. If you're likely to move home in the next decade, it probably doesn't add up

    As it typically takes at around 14 years to recoup your installation costs, if you're considering moving, solar panels probably aren't worth it (though see the point below on whether this could be offset by them pushing up the value of your home).

    While you could physically remove the panels from your old home and install them on the new one, this could prove costly. Plus, while you could still use what you generate yourself at your new address, you'd no longer get paid for what you export. To receive payments your panels need to be certified by the Microgeneration Certification Scheme and the organisation told us it wouldn't certify panels that have been moved.

    It's also worth noting solar panel installations are tailored to each home – to fit the roof and be positioned to maximise the level of sunlight they receive – so it's likely they wouldn't perform as well if you installed them on a different home anyway.

    • Are solar panels covered by home insurance?

      Generally speaking, solar panels are typically covered under standard buildings insurance policies for damage, such as storm, fire, and some even cover glass breakage. Solar panels are also typically covered by a manufacturer warranty, so if you do notice a fault, you should first contact the company that installed them before going to your insurer.

      If you don't yet have solar panels but are looking to get them, tell your insurer before you get them fitted to make sure they have no concerns regarding the works going ahead.

  8. Don't assume you'll always recoup the cost of solar panels on your home's value if you sell your house early

    Some people assume that a more efficient home generating its own solar energy would be more attractive to buyers. But others worry that 'ugly' panels plastered all over their roof could push the price of their house down. 

    Solar panels are a hefty investment and might not be suited to those planning to move in the next few years – certainly you shouldn't expect a big upfront investment to be immediately reflected by a jump in your home's value.

    Do solar panels increase home value?

    Trade body Solar Energy UK recently published a report which found homeowners who move having had panels installed would claw back some of the value of their investment in a higher sale price. It looked at more than five million property transactions and said a typical home with solar panels could increase in price by at least £2,000. And according to EcoExperts, solar panels could increase a property's value by as much as 14%, on average.

    When we asked NAEA Propertymark (the National Association of Estate Agents) for an overview, it was more cagey. It said: "Having such sustainable technologies will become more attractive for homeowners in the future. There are benefits to having solar panels – however, in the short term, they don't provide an increase in house value, with the panels often costing more than they attribute in value. With houses coming on to the market in short supply and other factors, people are being forced to compromise on their preferences, including energy saving measures."

  9. You can still switch energy supplier

    If you have solar panels, don't think this locks you in to your energy provider – you can still switch your supplier, although there's only a couple of options cheaper than standard tariffs under the Price Cap right now, and most are for existing customers only. You can see what your options are in our Should you fix? guide.

    Your energy provider doesn't need to be the same as the supplier that pays you for your solar-generated energy, so you're free to switch. Though with some providers, Octopus for example, you can get better export rates if it also supplies your energy.

    Also, with a modern SMETS 2 smart meter, two firms can use the same device, so you don't need to get a new smart meter.

    It's just as simple to switch your supplier for the export tariff, and as rates vary wildly between firms, make sure you're always getting the best rate possible – see what each firm pays.

  10. If you decide solar panels are right for you, find a registered solar panel installer and get three quotes

    As we're MoneySavers, not electricians, picking solar panel installers isn't our speciality. You can see the firms shortlisted for the British Renewable Energy Awards 2023, run by the Renewable Energy Association, or ask friends and colleagues for recommendations.

    The solar panel system and the installer should meet the standards of the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS). And make sure the installer is a member of the Renewable Energy Consumer Code or the Home Insulation and Energy Systems Quality Assured Contractors Scheme (HIES).

    As always, get at least three quotes, and get 'em in writing. When comparing quotes, check the following are included: scaffolding, removal of the existing roof and other roofing works, internal wiring works, sorting out a connection agreement with the energy supplier, electrical connection work, and a generation meter. Fitting the panels themselves is a one or two-day job.

    Once they're fitted, registering your panels is a must – you'll need an MCS certificate, which you'll use to register for smart export guarantee payments with a licensed energy supplier.

    Want a quote for PV solar panels? 

    If you think solar panels might be for you, then this link takes you to a Federation of Master Builders tool* (the FMB is a trade association for the construction industry). It works with selected solar panel installers, that have nationwide coverage, and are subject to customer service and financial security checks. Do be aware that if you go through this tool, you'll be asked for a phone number and email address so solar panels firms can contact you.

    These aren't necessarily the cheapest or best performing providers, so do make sure to do your own research before agreeing to any work (and do let us know how you get on). 

    Never borrow from solar companies to pay for the panels

    Some installers let you buy solar panels on credit. If you don't have the cash upfront, panels aren't for you. The loan's interest could dwarf the savings.

    Solar panels are generally low maintenance

    The Energy Saving Trust says little maintenance is required on a properly installed, well-designed solar PV system, though you'll likely need to replace the inverter – a gadget that is a key part of the mechanism – within about 10 years (costing around £800).

    Of course, though, things can go wrong. If so, check the installer warranty you get – it can cover you for up to 20 years. If the panels are damaged by something unexpected, such as a storm, you may also be covered by buildings insurance – check with your insurer before you have them installed.

    • Pay with a credit card for extra safety if you can

      Pay by credit card for something over £100, and Section 75 laws supercharge your consumer rights. Unlike with debit cards, cheques and cash, pay in full or in part (even just £1) on a credit card, and by law the lender's jointly liable with the retailer.

      This means you have exactly the same rights with the card company as you do with the retailer, so if it goes bust, you can simply take your complaints there instead and get money back if there's no delivery. See our Section 75 guide for a full explanation.

      If paying by debit card, there's also valuable hidden protection that means you may be able to get your money back if something goes wrong. It's called 'chargeback' and applies to most debit and charge cards, as well as Visa, Mastercard and American Express credit cards – though it isn't a legal requirement. See our Chargeback guide.

    • Watch out for scam cheap installation and maintenance ads

      We've heard numerous reports of scam emails and websites offering cheap solar panel installation and free health checks, so do be careful.

      It's important you do your research and use a reputable company before getting solar panels fitted and once you've got them, don't fall for ads trying to sell you solar panel servicing or cleaning.

      Solar panels are designed to be low maintenance and we get enough rain in the UK to keep them working efficiently without the need for regular cleaning.

  11. Solar batteries are expensive but may be worth it for those who use a substantial amount of electricity

    A solar battery can store any excess power generated by your solar panels that you don't use at the time, rather than exporting it back to the grid. They can cost as little as £1,000 for a three kilowatt-hour battery. The Eco Experts estimate the average price to be around £4,500.

    The savings you make on your bills can be significant, though. The price you're paid for each unit of energy you export to the grid is usually much lower than the price you pay your supplier for electricity. So, economically, it makes more sense to store the solar energy and use it yourself – with E.on saying a household with a battery could use 30% more of the electricity they generate themselves.

    The battery isn't all about what you generate yourself, either. If you're on a flexible 'time-of-use' energy tariff, with cheaper electricity overnight for example, you can charge the battery at cheaper times from the grid and use it to power your house during more expensive hours.

    But for most, the initial outlay won't be recouped quickly enough. The extra cost can add years to the break-even point – Solar Energy UK says it could typically add anything from an extra five to 13 years, depending on the size of the battery and system.

    However, if you use a large amount of electricity (for instance, you have a big family and have electric cars) and use time-of-use tariffs to maximise cost-efficiency, it could be worth considering a battery. See our Economy 7 and Electric vehicle tariff guides for more on how these tariffs work.

  12. There's funding available for some households for solar panels

    There's help available to get solar panels installed in your home, but you usually need to be on certain benefits or have a low income to be eligible. What each scheme offers, and its eligibility criteria varies:

    • The Energy Company Obligation (ECO) scheme: If you live in England or Wales, under the ECO scheme you can get up to £14,000 towards energy-saving initiatives if your home qualifies, including solar panel systems. To qualify, you'll need to meet specific criteria, including having a household income less than £31,000/year or be receiving certain benefits, plus your home must have electric heating.

    • Home Upgrade Grant: 45 local authorities in England are offering grants of up to £10,000 to homeowners in their area for improvements, including solar panels. Typically, a local authority will cover the majority (and in many cases, all) of the cost to install. To qualify, you must have total household income of less than £31,000/year and your property must have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of D, E, F or G.

    • Warmer Home Nest Scheme Wales: The Welsh Government initiative offers free energy-saving home improvements, including solar panels. You may be eligible if you own or privately rent a home that's expensive to heat, and you or someone you live with receives a means-tested benefit OR has a chronic respiratory, circulatory or mental health condition. You can check full eligibility details on the Nest Scheme website.

    • Home Energy Scotland Grants and Loans: This scheme offers interest-free loans of up to £6,000 to install solar panels on your home in Scotland. And if you take on multiple energy-saving measures through the scheme, up £1,250 of the loan won't be repayable. You may be eligible for the funding if your home has a poor energy rating, and someone in your household receives certain benefits, or is over 75 and has no central heating system. You can check full eligibility criteria on the Warmer Home Scotland website.

    There are no grants available for solar panels if you live in Northern Ireland.

  13. You can spread solar panel costs with a subscription

    Can't afford to pay for panels upfront? A solar panel subscription service could be just the ticket. If going down the solar subscription route seems of interest, here are your main options:
     
    • Tomatopia from Tomato Energy: Tomato Energy has launched a scheme called Tomatopia. If you sign up, the company will install solar panels and/or a battery for free, but you pay a fixed monthly price (based on your annual energy consumption) for 10 years to cover the cost of installation and your electricity use. If you move home within the 10 years, the new owner can take on the contract at the same price, otherwise you'll need to pay for the remainder of the contract.

      After 10 years, you'll own the solar panel system and you're free to switch your energy supplier at that point if you wish. The scheme is currently only available if you live in one of 10 areas in England, but the firm has told us it's expanding rapidly.
    • Sunsave Plus from Sunsave: Sunsave Plus from Sunsave allows you to pay for solar panels over 20 years. Its subscription service has no upfront payment and will set you back a minimum of £69 a month. This fee doesn't just cover the solar panel and battery installation and interest you'll pay, but 24/7 troubleshooting, free replacement parts if required, and insurance protection against damage, theft and fire. Sunsave will also cover your payments if your panels don't work for more than two weeks.

      The solar subscription service isn't a lease or rental, meaning you'll own the panels from the off. You're able to pay off the balance early with no early repayment fees or penalties, though you'll no longer get the insurance cover and other service features mentioned above. 
    • Energy Shield from Effective Home: You can get solar panels installed within four to six weeks of registering your interest for Effective Home's Energy Shield solar panel subscription service – provided your roof is the right size, pitch and orientation. You'll need to pay a £99 onboarding fee for installation and maintenance, before buying solar energy at a reduced rate from the company itself. This starts at 19.9p per kilowatt, which is much lower than the 28p per kilowatt average in the UK. Subscribers are put on fixed tariffs that increase annually by 2% and are reviewed every five years. 

      As is the case with Sunsave Plus, the Energy Shield solar subscription agreement lasts 20 years. You'll essentially lease your roof space to Effective Home during this time and will only own the solar panel system once the subscription is over. 
    • Otovo: Another 20-year solar panel subscription service comes from solar energy company Otovo. Starting from £20 a month, Otovo will install and maintain your solar panels for you and promises to design a tailor-made system at the lowest possible price. You won't own the solar panel system until the end of the subscription – however, you're able to buy out the contract at any time should you wish. Otovo's systems also enable battery integration, allowing you to get more out of your solar panels

      Unlike other solar panel subscription services, Otovo enables you to lock in the price you originally agree. The company claims that its solar panel systems are 16% cheaper than the national average overall.
  14. If you already have solar panels and get the feed-in tariff, nothing changes

    If you already have solar panels and get the feed-in tariff, the fact the feed-in tariff is now a closed scheme won't affect you. Depending on when your panels were installed and certified, you're guaranteed to get the payments for at least 20 years:

    • 25 years if installed and certified before 31 August 2012.
    • 20 years if installed and certified between 1 September 2012 and 31 March 2019.
    • I installed my solar panels before 31 March 2019 – what payments should I be getting?

      In addition to electricity bill savings, anyone who installed their panels before the payment scheme's closure on 31 March 2019 gets what is known as the 'feed-in tariff' and the 'export tariff':
       

      • The 'feed-in tariff'. This is money from the Government (but paid via an energy supplier) to households in England, Scotland and Wales for ALL the electricity they generate – whether they use it or not. The final rate before the scheme ended was 3.79p per kilowatt hour (kWh).

        The feed-in tariff is income tax-free, guaranteed for up to 25 years and index-linked, so rises with inflation. The Energy Saving Trust estimates panels registered to someone in a typical home who signed up just before the scheme ended would earn between £90 and £165/year on average under the feed-in tariff, depending on where they live.

      • The 'export tariff'. This is a payment for solar energy you don't use that is sent back to the grid (unless you have an export meter, it's normally assumed 50% of energy produced is exported). The final rate before the scheme ended was 5.24p per kWh.
    • How much can you make under the feed-in tariff?

      What you get depends on where you live, how much electricity you use, the size of your system and when you signed up to the feed-in tariff. According to figures from the Energy Saving Trust, earnings can amount to between £90 and £165/year.

      The rates you got under the feed-in tariff also changed every three months – our estimates are based on the final rates for January to March 2019.

      How much you can earn on average (before March 2019 changes)
      INCOME GENERATOR EARNINGS EACH YEAR
        London        
      Aberystwyth    Manchester    Stirling          
      Feed-in tariff payment (1) £165 £145 £140 £130
      Export payment (1) £110 £100 £95 £90
      TOTAL £275 £245 £235 £220
      Payment scheme covers England, Scotland and Wales, not Northern Ireland. Source: Energy Saving Trust. (1) Based on a four kilowatt-peak solar photovoltaic system.
    • Can I switch my energy supplier?

      If you get feed-in tariff (FIT) payments, you're also free to switch your energy supplier. Like the smart export guarantee, your FIT supplier doesn't need to be the same as your energy supplier.

      You are also free to change your FIT supplier if you want, though the rates are set by the regulator and depend on when you joined the scheme, so you'll get the same amount regardless of the firm you're with.

    • If your firm goes bust, payments won't transfer automatically

      If you're on a feed-in tariff (FIT), your payments won't transfer automatically to a new provider if your current supplier goes bust.

      This is different from the smart export guarantee – if you're on a FIT, regulator Ofgem will appoint a new supplier for you, but payments won't start until your contract starts.

      The new company will contact you to confirm your tariff information and it must also confirm whether it's a FIT licensee. If it's not, you may need to find another FIT supplier to continue to receive payments.

      As above, you're able to choose a different supplier from the one Ofgem appoints for you if you wish, but it shouldn't really matter, as your FIT rates won't change.

  15. How long do solar panels last?

    Solar panels have a life span of around 25 years or more, but this can vary depending on what they're made from and when they were installed. According to experts, some of the latest models of solar panels that are being installed today could have a useful life of 40 years or more. Either way, their efficiency will begin to slowly decline after around 20 to 25 years.

    • Solar panels are recyclable

      Most of the materials used to make solar panels are widely recycled, but there are some components that must be disposed of by a specialist and should never go to landfill. All solar panel manufacturers and importers in the UK are required to join a Producer Compliance Scheme (PCS), such as the Government-approved PV CYCLE. So once your solar panels have reached the end of their useful life, you need to ensure they're removed and recycled properly, through an approved scheme.

    • You do not need to pay for solar panels to be removed and recycled

      Under EU regulations, your solar panel installer is legally obliged to take your obsolete solar panels off you at no cost – that's right, it shouldn't cost you a penny. They'll take your old panels to a designated collection facility before the panels go on to a recycling plant.

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