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The Complete Guide for Solar Panels in the UK | Full Guide for Your Home

Solar panels are powered by the sun's energy to generate electricity sustainably and be environmentally friendly.

Using and producing renewable energy is now widespread in the UK, thanks to its multiple benefits and the government incentives such as the FIT scheme and the SEG.

Installing solar panel systems in your homes is the right move, and we're here to share with you with all you need to know.

What Are Solar Panels?

Solar PV systems use direct sunlight for electricity generation.

But what enables a solar PV system to produce energy and usable electricity?

The conversion happens through the PV cells, which we'll discuss more thoroughly below.

The Different Types of Solar Panels

There are three main kinds of PV.

  1. Polycrystalline
  2. Monocrystalline
  3. Thin film

These have similar solar panel functions, such as energy conversion, but the primary differences are materials, efficiency, and cost.

Your choice will depend on your home landscape and needs.

1. Polycrystalline Solar Panels

Polycrystalline solar panels are affordable yet efficient and long-lasting. They're made with multiple crystals of silicon that are melted to form solar cells. In this process, less waste is produced.

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    They are perfect for most residential purposes, as they are more affordable and available. Although they are not as efficient as high-temperature panels, they are more than sufficient for home use.

    Since they are less expensive, they are more commonly found in solar panel systems. We often see this type as blue-coloured squares.


    • More affordable
    • Less waste
    • Good for residential use


    • Less efficient in space, energy, and performance
    • Lower heat tolerance
    • Shorter lifespan

    2. Monocrystalline Solar Panels

    As polycrystalline solar panels have multiple crystal silicon, monocrystalline panels have only one. This composition allows smoother electron flow, which results in higher efficiency.

    Since they are more space and energy efficient, and more reliable, especially when there is little sunlight, they are the most expensive type on the market. Their sleek and black high-end appearance is also reflected in their price.


    • More efficient in all aspects
    • Best for commercial use or when more electricity is needed
    • You don't need to worry about low sunlight


    • More expensive
    • Their manufacturing process produces more waste

    3. Thin Film Solar Panels

    Thin film solar panels are the cheapest and most tolerant to heat. They use fewer materials and can be made to be flexible. However, they also take up a lot of roof space.

    Thin film panels are made with materials such as amorphous silicon, cadmium telluride, and CIGS.


    • Least expensive
    • Tolerate high heat


    • Take up space
    • Least efficient
    • Shortest lifespan

    What Is the Difference Between Solar Panels and PV Panels?

    Solar and PV panels shouldn't be seen as two different things but as complements working together in generating electricity efficiently. We combine solar PVs.

    That's why most are called PV solar panels, solar PV panels, or solar PV systems. They work together. But yes, they do have differences. Let us explain.

    PV Solar Panels

    From the term itself, photo means light. These panels convert direct sunlight into electricity involving electrons and semiconductors.

    We'll discuss more of the technicalities below.

    Solar Panel

    These deal with solar power and solar energy as a whole, including but not limited to the sun. PV is more direct and only deals with sunlight itself.

    But, since having the sun as a primary source can be limiting, the PV cells are connected to solar panels to convert radiation and solar thermal energy into heat.

    The solar panel system generates DC electricity that goes through your inverters at home to produce AC. Solar thermal panels are for heating, while PV panels mainly produce electricity.

    How Do Solar Panels Work?

    Combining the concept of PV and solar power, we get the solar PV system that many homes across the UK use. But how does it work?

    Don't worry; we'll simplify the science in five steps!

    1. Sunlight Hits the Solar Panel

    Each solar panel contains silicon and films (depending on the solar PV system you choose) that absorb sunlight.

    For better exposure, most of them come in the form of roof tiles.

    2. Electricity Is Generated

    Inside the solar panels are layers of semiconductors. One layer is positively charged, and the other is negative. this arrangement forms an electric field.

    When sunlight hits the panels, the electrons bounce between these layers and follow the flow of the field. This behaviour forms DC electricity.

    Knowing this, you can better understand the differences between polycrystalline and monocrystalline panels discussed above.

    With the former, electrons jump against the silicon fragments, making their flow less efficient, whereas with monocrystalline panels, having a single block of silicon helps with a smoother electron flow.

    3. The Electricity Generated Is Converted

    It's important to understand that our homes are powered by AC electricity, not DC electricity. Home appliances, light bulbs, and air conditioners use AC.

    So, you need an inverter that will convert the DC electricity generated.

    To explain, DC only travels in one direction, which makes it less efficient. AC is easier to control and can be easily adjusted using transformers and the like.

    4. Electricity Is Distributed to Your Home

    After the conversion, your home is now powered! What's great about solar electricity is that you don't need to change anything at home.

    The only difference is that your power source now comes from sunlight, not fossil fuels. You're still connected to the National Grid using the same energy grid.

    5. Managing With Surplus Energy

    Expect surplus electricity when using solar panels. These are excess electricity supplies that were generated but not entirely used up.

    According to the energy regulator Ofgem, an average house uses 2,900 kWh annually, and solar panels can generate almost 3,800 kWh.

    This figure depends on factors such as the number of people at home, usage activity, and types of appliances in use. You can keep the extra energy in solar battery storage for future or emergency use.

    You can also send excess solar energy back to the grid in exchange for credits or a cashback per kilowatt-hour. This process is called the SEG.

    Either way, no excess power is wasted, and circulation is kept going.

    The Advantages of Solar Panels

    A solar panel system is an excellent idea because of its many benefits, not only for personal purposes but for the environment and country:

    #1 Cheaper Electricity Bills

    Electricity bills are expensive if you source them from companies on the energy market – especially private ones.

    Since the primary source of solar electricity is the sun, which is a natural resource, you can generate more electricity at a lower cost. This will significantly reduce your electricity bills.

    Besides electricity, it's also a natural energy supplier in general, helping you to reduce your energy bills. In a sense, think of it as free energy!

    #2 Using and Producing Renewable Energy

    Those who are environmentally conscious prefer the solar PV system because it uses renewable energy. This means it is circular and inexhaustible.

    Generating energy using solar panels means less waste, and as you're not burning fossil fuels, you significantly reduce your carbon footprint. You're also not limited to consumption only.

    Since you won't be able to use up all the electricity you have collected, you can give away your energy and excess electricity to others.

    One is through the SEG, which we'll discuss more thoroughly below.

    #3 Easy to Maintain

    Solar panel installations are not high maintenance. For the most part, you leave it on your roof and let it do its job.

    The only maintenance needed for the best results is cleaning at least once or twice a year, and some annual inspections.

    Solar panels last for more than 25 years!

    #4 Higher Property Value

    Solar panels increase the value of a house or property. If you're planning to sell the house, buyers are more willing to invest in a place with solar panels.

    This means they'll have access to renewable energy and cut their electricity bills without going through the installation costs and process. It's a win-win.

    #5 Multiple Government Incentives

    Since the UK wants to promote the solar panel system to reduce carbon footprints and through the promotion of solar energy, the government offers many incentives.

    You can not only save money on electricity costs but also earn them! The SEG programme allows you to send excess electricity back to the National Grid.

    Because you're giving electricity, they will give you credit. This is possible if you're connected to the energy grid.

    #6 Environmentally Friendly Choice

    If you're environmentally conscious, want to reduce your carbon footprint, and want to help save the planet, installing solar panels is the right choice.

    Since the solar PV system gets its energy from the sun, and the conversion happens inside the solar panels, no burning or greenhouse emissions are involved.

    Imagine if everyone uses a solar panel system, then these climate change effects will slow down significantly.

    Additionally, since solar energy can be replenished, it means less waste. We're constantly reusing the energy produced, which gets circulated for the benefit of many.

    It's also worth mentioning that the UK government's support and incentives for solar panels make it easier for us to move forward with such innovations.

    The Disadvantages of Solar Panels

    While solar panels are significant innovations for a better world, there are undeniable disadvantages that make them inaccessible or impractical for some:

    #1 High Investment Cost

    The installation process for a solar PV system is thorough and expensive. The initial expenses are high, depending on how many panels your house needs.

    You can save money in the long run, but the high initial cost must be thought of as an investment. The solar panels, solar batteries, inverters, and everything needed for the solar system is expensive.

    #2 Dependant on Environmental Conditions

    Since solar panel systems rely on sunlight, they are weather and environment-dependent.

    You can't expect high efficiency if you live in an area with very little sunlight.

    Where you live also dictates the type of solar PV panel to get. Some materials are not as tolerant to heat in hotter regions. These are things you must assess carefully!

    We also know that less solar energy will be collected during winter and rainy seasons, which is a genuine concern.

    But that's precisely what the battery storage is for, so you can store solar energy that you didn't export back to the grid for future and emergency purposes.

    #3 Requires Larger Space

    If you want more electricity, you need more solar panels that absorb solar energy — and more solar cells and panels mean using more roof space.

    You need a large surface area to generate more electricity, which is not plausible for all homes.

    It's also harder for people who live in apartments and compounds since their property boundaries are more limited.

    #4 Not 100% Sustainable

    Although solar panels can help with energy bills, and offset your carbon footprint, they're still not 100% environmentally friendly and sustainable.

    Of course, there are no perfect innovations that don't have footprints. The materials in solar panels and the installation process must contribute to emissions.

    Additionally, despite the longevity of solar panels, breaking down is still possible. We can't avoid some troubles and maintenance.

    There's still a certain amount of energy needed to install and prepare solar panels. However, they are significantly less than the traditional way, especially in the long term.

    What to Consider Before Installing Solar Panels for Your Home

    You may now be tempted to install solar panels, but there are some things to consider before doing so:

    1. Your Energy Consumption

    First, assess how much electricity and energy you're consuming. This will indicate the number of solar panels needed.

    Remember that every panel comes at a cost, so avoid being careless in these assessments. For reference, each panel generates 355W of energy under direct sunlight, according to the Energy Saving Trust.

    Careful calculation will help you to manage your energy bills and determine how much battery storage you’ll need and how much energy you'll send back to the grid. All of these have financial impacts.

    2. Your Location

    It's possible that your location isn't ideal for solar panels. Some conditions aren't too friendly, such as frequent rain, no sun, etc.

    This isn't to say you can't and shouldn't install solar panels. You must choose the proper type and the materials wisely to avoid rapid deterioration and low efficiency.

    3. Home Conditions

    It's also crucial to check the conditions of your house.

    How much roof space do you have? Do you have a north or south-facing roof? What surrounds your home?

    How Much Space Do You Have?

    This correlates with how much electricity you need, which brings us back to #1 on this list. To have efficient solar panels, you must have adequate space.

    If you don’t have enough space, you'll need to consume from other energy sources, which defeats the purpose.

    Which Direction Does Your Roof Face?

    A south-facing roof is more optimal than a north-facing roof because it means more sun exposure throughout the day.

    But don't worry; north-facing roofs can still be exploited. The angle and position of your roof are crucial. It has been found that a 34-degree tilt is ideal.

    What Surrounds Your House?

    It's best if you are not in the middle of tall buildings or trees since these will interfere with sun absorption on your solar panels.

    Describe these conditions to your installer company. They’ll know how to optimally position the solar panels.

    To ease your mind, most solar panels generate more electricity than needed. You'll realise that you don't use that much energy with smart consumption.

    4. Your Residential Permanence

    Are you the type to move from one home to another? If so, installing solar panels may not be for you. According to the Energy Saving Trust, installation costs around £5,000 to £12,000.

    Despite other benefits, it still takes several years to see a return on investment based on the SEG returns and your savings on electricity and energy bills.

    If you can't be there to see your installation’s fruition, it's probably not worth it. You may be able to sell the property at a higher price but you may incur a greater loss.

    6. Your Budget

    Solar panels are expensive; each type may vary, but they're all pricey. Your budget is crucial when choosing the kind, quantity, and overall quality of panel to install.

    You should match these costs with your needs. For example, if your home doesn't require the highest efficiency, you can settle with polycrystalline over monocrystalline.

    If you live in a hot place, getting a thin film solar panel system would be the wiser choice. Your budget and needs must go hand-in-hand.

    7. Choose Good Energy Suppliers or Energy Companies

    Finding reputable suppliers will save you a lot in the long run in terms of money, time, and energy.

    You wouldn't want to skimp on service fees and keep encountering trouble in the next few years. This will cost you more than getting it right during the initial process.

    How Much Do Solar Panels Cost in the UK?

    The costs are highly subjective, but a standard 250W system is around £400-£500. But that's on a smaller scale. You typically need a 4kW solar panel system with 29 square metres, which is about £6,400.

    This range will only go higher depending on the materials, sizes, and types.

    On top of the panels, there are other things to invest in, such as battery storage, maintenance, and inverters.

    Factors That Affect the Efficiency and Costs of a Solar Panel System

    Some solar panel types are more efficient than others, and it's all subject to crucial factors, such as the following:

    Solar Panel Materials

    As discussed above, materials play a huge role in the efficiency of solar panels.

    The internal materials facilitate the electron behaviour, which is linked to the generation of electric currents.

    The most efficient material is found in monocrystalline solar panels, followed by polycrystalline, and the least efficient is found in thin film solar panels. They are all efficient, but the degree varies.

    However, note that efficiency doesn't always mean high quality (although monocrystalline panels are often exceptional and expensive).

    You should also consider your needs first. Most of the time, an average residence doesn't need a highly-efficient panel.

    Climate Conditions of the Location

    Again, solar panels are powered by the sun. Naturally, places with a hot climate and most access to sunlight can expect more efficient solar electricity.

    Other weather conditions include rain, storm, hail, or hurricane (you shouldn’t need to worry about this in the UK). These can affect solar panel absorption and may even cause physical damage.

    Solar Panel Design

    There are instances when solar panels are installed even when the environmental factors don't favour them. While this is not wrong, expect the efficiency to decrease significantly.

    For instance, if the angle of the solar panel is not optimal, the sunlight doesn't reach it. Manufacturers should've considered this from the beginning.

    Another example is where the building is situated. If it is surrounded by tall buildings and trees, the chances of shading are high.

    Inverter Performance

    If the efficiency is still poor even though the external factors and materials are good, it's time to check the inverters and transmissions.

    Conversion is a crucial step in the process. If these ‘in between’ factors are not performing correctly, it affects the overall efficiency of your system.


    Although we said solar panels don't require much maintenance, cleaning them yearly helps improve their performance. If possible, a yearly inspection is good, too.

    If you notice a drop in efficiency, your panels might need some cleaning and maintenance.

    Are Solar Panels Worth It in the UK?

    Yes. The UK, in particular, is very supportive of installing solar panels. Besides the specific advantages discussed, such as:

    • Lower bills
    • High ROI
    • Renewable energy

    The government also has incentives that further encourage you to start.

    For instance, significant initiatives include programmes such as the SEG, which allows you to earn back money.

    It benefits the solar panel owner, creates a more sustainable generation of electricity contributed by the public and circulates it back to the grid.

    Furthermore, it's a worthwhile investment if you own your home and plan to stay permanently. It becomes a good practice and way of life that goes a long way, for you, others, and the environment!

    Additionally, many programmes help fund solar panel instalments if you don't have the up-front budget. They are similar to loans.

    But this is another topic on its own. Vigilance and caution are crucial when applying to these programmes unless they are government-certified.

    How to Choose the Best Solar Power System for Your Home

    With many solar panel variations and options available, the proper system is essential, But what must you consider?

    Here are some factors to get you started:

    1. Cost-Efficiency

    One of the solar panels' main goals is to be efficient in energy and costs. It won't make sense to install one without reaping their benefits or if it means incurring more loss.

    Hence, the first consideration should be the system that's most cost-efficient for you. This decision-making process must include the materials, size, and type.

    But note that the term we use is cost-efficient and NOT the cheapest. These are very different considerations!

    We're not telling you to choose the cheapest or the most low-quality option. Often, these are the ones that cost more down the line.

    In evaluating cost-efficiency, you should weigh the costs versus the benefits. The latter should overshadow the former, and that choice could be the more expensive one.

    2. Situation & Needs Assessment

    Part of a cost-benefit analysis is the assessment of your needs. Your priority should be addressing your problem points without compromising what matters the most.

    Make a personal assessment of your electricity and energy usage at home, along with the number of people and type of activities that occur in the household.

    This will give you an insight into the type of solar panel to get and what you should classify as benefits as you analyse the cost-efficiency of these considerations.

    3. Manufacturer Quality and Reliability

    We highly recommend you approach trustworthy manufacturers and companies.

    We understand that the cost may be high, and it's tempting to reduce as much cost as possible. However, home improvements such as this should be considered investments. The expenses you incur today are expensive, but you will save more tomorrow.

    Do not skimp on quality.

    Choose manufacturers, installers, and engineers that are professional and knowledgeable!

    4. Research

    Before committing, ensure that you've done a lot of personal research. This article won't be able to tell you everything about YOUR needs since homes are highly personalised.

    Explore more and find out everything you can. Research the best manufacturers in your area or ask around trusted peers for referrals.

    For an investment like this, you should be equipped and ready.

    When Shouldn't You Install Solar Panels for Your Home?

    In an ideal world, everyone would have solar panels, and we could collectively reduce carbon footprints and use energy efficiently. Unfortunately, it's not for everyone.

    If You're Not the Homeowner

    People who only rent shouldn't install PV panels since you'll eventually move away and leave these investments behind for your landlord to possess.

    Unless you're THAT generous, it's safer to refrain from it and avoid legal repercussions.

    If You Don't Have Space

    Solar panels take up a lot of space. If you have a smaller home with a limited roof, it's probably not wise to install them.

    For one, it wouldn't be as efficient as you'd want it to be. And two, a small house probably has smaller energy bills already.

    If Your Location Doesn't See the Sun

    If you live somewhere with little to no sunlight, forget about solar panels for now. You wouldn't maximise the benefits, and it won't be cost-efficient.

    If You Don't Have the Budget

    Last but not least, budget is crucial. Investing in a solar panel system is NOT a joke. There should be proper financial management and preparations beforehand.

    Choose solar panels within your budget allocations and pursue improvements as you move forward.

    If Your Electricity Bill Is Already Low

    This may be good or bad advice, but if you already have budget limitations and have cheaper electricity bills, you may want to skip installing these.

    The overall goal of solar panels is to save money. If your expenses aren't too high, you can accumulate the funds and go all out when finances are better.

    Although investments are great, avoid going broke if you're not yet ready.

    Final Thoughts

    Is your home ready for a solar panel system?

    So many benefits await you, but make sure to match your needs and budget to the type of system you're getting.

    It's a worthy investment in sustainably improving your home!

    Did you know that Solar Panel Installation can match you with 3 local installers who will provide you with a free quote? Fill out our form today to get in touch with installers.

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    Mark McShane
    Content Writer
    Mark McShane is a seasoned professional in the solar industry and the owner of Skills Training Group, a leading provider of solar training and education. With years of experience in the field, Mark has developed a deep understanding of the latest trends, technologies and best practices in the industry. His expertise and passion for solar energy have helped countless professionals develop the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the fast-growing field of solar energy. Whether you’re an aspiring solar professional or an experienced industry veteran, Mark is an excellent resource for anyone looking to enhance their skills and knowledge of the solar industry.
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