Solar panel installation received 1300% more google searches in 2022 in the UK compared to 2021. Due to rising energy costs, home solar energy is more popular than ever.
If you’re new to solar and are looking for more information on how it works, we’ve put together all the information you need to know about solar in one place.
What is new, is the technology behind them. Solar has become more affordable and more efficient at the same time. Throughout this page, we’ll cover how solar works, how to work out how many panels you might need, as well as guides to solar batteries and general maintenance.
There are a few misconceptions in the UK about solar panels too, but with the most up-to-date information about solar installation, you’ll leave with a better understanding of how solar could benefit your home or business.
Solar isn’t complicated, it’s the future of energy. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about solar panel installation.
How do solar panels work?
Solar panels as we know them were first invented by American inventor Charles Fritts in 1881. In 1957, the process was streamlined with the invention of silicon solar cells, which paved the way for the highly efficient panels we know today.
As the technology behind solar panels has advanced, it’s become more viable for the average person to power their home using renewable energy. But that’s not the only reason solar panels have become more popular in our modern age.
As the world continues to move away from fossil fuels, renewable energy has moved to the forefront of the world stage. Did you know that over 30% of Germany’s homes have solar panels installed? The number of homes in the UK with a solar PV system lags behind, at just 4%. However, there has been a huge increase in the number of solar panels installed in the UK.
As the price of energy skyrocketed around the world in 2022, the demand for solar to reduce energy bills increased to an unprecedented amount.How a home solar energy system works
It’s widely understood that solar power is a clean source of energy that has a positive effect on the environment. Solar power doesn’t emit greenhouse gases, therefore it’s great if you want to reduce your overall carbon footprint.
If you’re an environmentally-conscious person, installing solar panels is an easy and cost-effective way to do your bit for the environment. Solar energy is also incredibly safe and reliable. Solar panels even work in cloudy or bad weather conditions, not just on sunny days.
If you’re looking to reduce your environmental impact, solar panels just might be the best way to reduce your carbon emissions. By going solar, you’re giving less of your money to polluting oil companies and reducing the demand for fossil fuels.How to lower your carbon footprint
The UK government has pledged to get to ‘Net Zero’ by 2050. This involves cutting down on carbon emissions entirely and offsetting emissions we do create until we reach zero. A large part of this will involve the uptake of renewable energy, like solar panels.
The UK installed 556MW of new solar capacity in the first six months of 2022.Solar panel statistics UK 2022
Of course one of the main reasons people go solar is to save money on their electricity bills. Did you know that you could save over 80% on your electricity bill and in some cases, you can eradicate your bill completely.
The amount of money you could save depends on how many panels you install and your individual energy usage. It’s important to know that solar isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, and the system you might need could be different to someone else’s system.Are solar panels a good investment?
MCS stands for Microgeneration Certification Scheme. An MCS certificate is a mark of quality. The MCS governing body ensures that all installers registered as MCS solar installers adhere to the highest possible standards.
Without an MCS certificate, you won’t be able to apply to the SEG scheme. It’s therefore really important to choose an MCS registered installer if you want to get paid for your exports (unused energy from your solar panels.)
There are a few things you can do to get the most out of your panels. Our top tips include:
Set your appliances to turn on in the daytime, but prepare them at night. For example, load your dishwasher after dinner in the evening, and set it to run the next day. This way, you’ll use the free energy from your solar to power your appliances.
Use your appliances one after another, not all at the same time.
Keep your panels clean. While you don’t need to clean your panels often, booking a maintenance check once every couple of years could easily boost your system’s performance.
Don’t start to go crazy with power once your system is installed. Research has shown that energy use can double once a system is installed due to the excitement of getting solar panels. Keep your energy usage to what it was before panels to get the most out of your system; as that’s what your system will have been calculated to cover.
After you install your system, you can still save more energy by changing your energy habits. Switching ‘vampire appliances’ off, and making simple switches can lower your energy bills even further.
The number of solar panels you might need is dependent on your energy consumption and your roof size. The majority of systems installed at UK homes are 3.6kW - 4.4kW.
Generally, solar installers will work off your energy bill and try to cover as much of your bill as possible using solar panels. They’ll ask you about your average monthly or yearly bill, and calculate how much power your habits use in a day. How many panels you need will be calculated from this information.
Different types of solar panels might differ in size, which is another reason why it is important to talk to a solar expert when sizing up your system.Read more
Solar panels come under ‘permitted development,’ which means you don’t need planning permission for solar panels.
There are exceptions to this rule, however, that you might need planning permission if your home or property is a listed building, or in certain cases if you live in a conservation area or place of natural beauty.
Another exception is that you might need planning permission if you are looking at getting ground-mounted solar panels.
In 2022, the London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea scrapped planning permission for its listed buildings. It is widely thought that as the world continues to become more carbon-neutral, it will become easier for historic buildings to get solar panels installed.
Another great thing to note is that in 2022, the government scrapped VAT for solar panels. The VAT on solar panels is now 0%. You’ll also benefit from zero per cent VAT on a battery if you buy the system and battery together. If you already have a solar system installed and are looking to add a battery, you won’t, unfortunately, be able to get zero per cent VAT on a battery on its own.
Around 80% of our customers buy a battery and a solar system at the same time.
After your solar system is installed, as long as you have chosen an MCS accredited solar installer, you should receive an MCS certificate. This certificate is important because it allows you to access the SEG scheme.
At Smart Energy, you will receive a handover pack that will include your MCS certificate, relevant warranties, and extra information about your system.
Solar panels vary in cost due to the different types available. A small solar system will usually start from around £7,000. Also to take into account is whether or not you add a solar battery, which can add to the overall cost of the system.
Around 80% of our customers buy a battery and a solar system at the same time.
Your solar system, installation, applications to the grid (otherwise known as the DNO,) and scaffolding costs are all included in your solar installation with Smart Energy.
It’s important to note that as well as your solar system, you’ll also be protected by Smart Energy’s SmartCare - meaning, in the unlikely event anything goes wrong with your solar system, you’ll be covered by your warranty and one of our professionals will be with you shortly to help.
The SEG scheme, also known as the Smart Export Guarantee, is a scheme developed by the government to allow those with a solar system to get paid for the excess energy they export to the grid. The excess energy created by your system will help power other people’s homes with green energy.
How do you apply to the SEG scheme?
While your solar installer will apply to the DNO for you, as well as take care of planning permission details, solar companies are unable to apply the SEG scheme for you.
This is because the SEG scheme has to do with your energy provider. It’s important to know that you have to apply to the SEG scheme with the same electricity provider you are with. In other words, you can’t buy electricity from one provider and sell it to another provider.
To apply to the SEG scheme, you will need to fill in the SEG form from your electricity provider, and let them know you now have a solar system. The process is easy, however, it can take a while to hear back from electricity companies due to the high amount of requests they receive.
Fill out our quick form to download the guide
A solar battery is a form of home energy storage that can be linked with a solar system to store excess solar power. You can then use energy stored in the battery to power your home in the evening and avoid paying high costs for electricity from energy companies.
In recent years, the cost of solar batteries has reduced dramatically. At the same time, solar batteries have become more efficient.
Whether or not you might need a battery depends on your energy usage. Not every household will need a battery. However, if you do use a lot of energy in the evening after the sun goes down, it might be worth looking into a battery.
If you don’t want to add a battery to your system, make simple changes to your lifestyle so that your high-energy use appliances are ready during the day. For example, you can set appliances to turn on in the daytime.
Decide what you would like to get out of your solar system to help you figure out if you need a solar battery or not.
The majority of home solar energy storage solutions have just one battery. However, if you would like, you can add multiple batteries to a solar system to store more energy.
If you have an existing solar system and are looking to add a battery, you will need an inverter that works with your battery.
If you have a DC inverter, you won’t be able to add a battery to your system. If this is the case, you will need to change your inverter type to hybrid or in most cases, you can fit an independent AC couple inverter to charge and manage your battery.
If you have an AC inverter or hybrid inverter, you’ll be able to add a battery to your existing system.
Simply put, solar panels would be a good investment if the amount you save on your energy bills is higher than what you would pay for your system.
The average household could save over £25,000 over the lifetime of their system.
Before making any decisions, you’ll be able to find out what you could expect as a return on your investment in solar panels. By taking your average or monthly energy bill into account, a solar specialist will work out what you could save with a system. As one of the main reasons for going solar is to reduce energy bills, we wouldn’t recommend going solar if your panels aren’t going to cut your bills down.
In some cases, the amount of energy you would generate with panels wouldn’t reduce your energy bills by a reasonable amount. As an example, the reason for this may be that your home is covered in too much shade by nearby trees or tall buildings. If it doesn’t look like you wouldn’t receive the usual amount of sunlight we would expect the UK home to receive, we would not be able to recommend solar panels for you.
Before, installation, if your home is higher than one floor, scaffolding will need to be erected for safety reasons. This will allow installers to safely access your roof along with their equipment.
If your home or property is only one story - for example, a bungalow, scaffolding is not necessary.
Your solar installers will arrive with an idea of where your panels will be placed for maximum efficiency. However, due to the nature of the job, the exact placement of your panels might change slightly on the day, as well as the location of your inverter and battery. This is because there might be unforeseen problems with accessing certain wiring or spaces.
After your panels are safely installed, you’ll be given a run-through of your inverter, panels, and battery. If you have an app, you’ll also be shown how to use your app, and what the readings mean. By the end of the day, you’ll have a working solar system and some understanding of how your system works.
After six months, we’ll send you an optional email that allows you to let us know what your new bill looks like, compared to your old bill. We’ll also continually monitor your generation to make sure you’re continuing to save money on your electricity bills.
Solar panels are known as ‘self-cleaning.’ This is because they are coated with a hydrophobic layer that repels moisture and dust. Furthermore, because panels are installed at an angle, debris will naturally fall off.
If you live in a particularly dirty area, you might benefit from getting your panels professionally cleaned once a year, but generally speaking, you don’t need to get your panels professionally cleaned.
If your panels have suddenly dropped in performance, you might benefit from a professional clean. If you do decide to clean your panels, make sure you get an MCS-certified cleaner. This is so that you don’t invalidate any of your warranties.How to clean home solar panels
Generally speaking, solar panels are very low maintenance. After installation, you don’t need to do anything to keep them maintained. Once in a while, you may benefit from getting them professionally cleaned, but other than that, you can keep your panels running.
Panels have a very long life span and have industry standards that guarantee that they don’t drop under a certain amount of efficiency, usually around 85%.
If you ever notice a big drop in the amount of energy your panels make, they might need a maintenance check. If you think you might benefit from a maintenance check, get in touch with a professional so that you don’t invalidate your warranty.Solar panel maintenance
Due to safety reasons, solar panels will automatically switch off in a power cut if they are connected to the National Grid. If you're off-grid, panels won't be affected.
Solar batteries can be set up to work in a power cut, meaning you can still power your home in an outage with solar energy.Do solar panels work in a power cut UK?
Before buying solar panels, it’s important to find out if they are suited for your home. You can do many things to work out if your house is suitable but our solar specialist team have specialised strategies to work out the perfect solar system for your home. Every home has different needs and therefore a different system design is needed to maximise output.
It’s a good idea to get your goals clear in mind before you talk to a specialist about designing a system. There are a lot of different system types so give the specialist an idea of the design you’re going for. For example, do you want a smaller simple system with minimal output and no battery, or a bigger system with maximum output and solar storage for your home?
Next, let’s talk about your payment plan. Smart Energy has a Smart Savers Plan that equips our customers with the option to pay back for their system slowly each month - at a custom amount. You can pay upfront - if you have the money to do so - but most of our customers choose our Smart Savers Plan. There is no interest rate and once you’ve paid off the panels, they’re yours forever.
Your roof type can affect your solar panel installation. For example, the installation for a flat roof could be slightly different to an installation on a normal angled roof.
It’s important to check that your roof is in good condition. If you’re planning on replacing your roof or making changes to your roof, we recommend making adjustments before installing panels.
Another thing to consider when looking into solar panels is the material of your roof. Did you know that metal roofs are the easiest to install solar panels on?
Bird Proofing your roof.
Although the majority of solar panel owners don’t have to birdproof their panels; if you live in a particularly wildlife-ridden area or have a gap under your panels for whatever reason (possibly due to tilt racks), you may need to consider bird proofing your roof.
Bird proofing is the act of using wire mesh to protect your panels from pests such as pigeons and squirrels nesting. Underneath the panels is a warm, rainproof space perfect for pests to nest and raise their babies, which as cute as it may be, can affect the performance of your panels.
Not having pests disturb your panel output is relevant to how much money you can make back off your system once you’ve broken even on your payments. These pests affect your panel performance by creating a mess on them. The dried droppings can cover up the cells and prevent UV rays from reaching them properly, meaning less energy is produced for your home, meaning less profit for you if you do sell your energy back to the grid.
If you choose to add bird proofing after your panels have been installed, ensure that the person installing the proofing is a qualified professional so that you don’t invalidate your warranty.
Do panels need direct sunlight?
Don't worry about cloudy days in the UK. Next generation solar panels can work even in ambient sunlight. Remember, solar energy is generated from sunlight, not heat, so panels will work all year round, as long as the sun is up.
If you have parts of shade on your roof, you can solve this by adding optimisers to your system.
If your have too much shade, you may be advised that solar isn't the solution for you.
A solar inverter is a necessary part of your solar system. An inverter allows you to change the DC current generated by the panels into AC current, which can be used by your home. Without an inverter, you wouldn’t be able to use the power generated from your system.
An inverter is also used to store power in a battery. There are different types of inverters available, such as AC, DC, hybrid and micro-inverter.
After your installation is complete, you should receive a copy of all of the important information that comes with your solar system. This should include copies of warranties for each part of your system, manuals, and your MCS certificate.
You’ll receive a handover pack from Smart Energy with all of these details in one place.
Ensure you keep your warranties in a safe place so that if you ever have a problem with your system, they can be to hand for any solar technician to look over.
Warranties for solar panels generally are valid for around 25 years. Should you ever run into a problem with your panels while your warranty is valid, you will be able to replace or fix your panels, free of charge.
To safely export energy to the national grid, you first need DNO approval from the grid.
DNO stands for Distribution Network Operator. Your Distribution Network Operator will vary, depending on where you live in the UK.
DNO approval is the simple process of letting the grid know that you have installed a solar system and that it meets safety requirements.
At Smart Energy, we take care of all DNO approval applications, meaning we will apply on your behalf so you don’t have to worry.
EPC stands for energy performance certification. It is a measure of how energy efficient your home or property is. Because solar panels make your home more energy efficient, they can increase your EPC rating by up to 15 points, or two grades.
The amount of points your EPC will increase depends on the size of the system you have.
A high EPC rating can add value to your home. A low EPC rating could mean you are unable to rent your home to other people. Solar is a great way to increase your EPC rating, as you will also receive the extra benefits of lowered electricity bills.
A solar immersion heater can use your excess solar energy to heat up water. With a solar immersion heater, you can save extra money on your bills, as much as £800 a year.
The most popular brands are the iBoost, the Eddi from Myenergi, the Immersion, and the SolarEdge diverter.
Our solar team in Hampshire
Too often, people choose a solar installer with limited experience and without the proper qualifications.
They spend their investment on someone unreliable and often find complications down the line. We are MCS accredited and have over 6 years of experience. Based in Hampshire, Australia, and the USA, Smart Energy has weathered all sorts of challenges and is still here for our customers. We plan to be here for our customers for many years to come.Meet the team
We'll look at your past energy bills and chat with you about your general electricity usage.
We'll try to design a system so that your average daily energy usage is taken care of by solar panels. (Or as close to as possible.)
We'll create a bespoke plan that takes into account your unique roof space, type, and layout.
We’ll only recommend that you go solar if it makes sense for you financially.
Once you’re happy with your recommended system, we’ll start scheduling your installation, apply for DNO approval, and get things started behind the scenes.
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