Energy prices are surging across the world. In April 2022, the UK energy price cap increased by 54% for the average household – and is set to increase by a further 80% in October. Cornwall Insight has also predicted that the country will see more increases throughout 2023, and even 2024.
Unlike a few years ago, sticking another jumper on or turning your TV off standby will no longer help you avoid these sky-high prices.
To help lower the burden – or completely avoid the increasing energy prices – thousands of people are turning to solar panels. But how much can they really help? Let’s find out…
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Are more people buying solar panels?
Yes, more people are investing in solar panels – especially during the recent heat waves and energy bill increases.
The Eco Experts have revealed that UK-based Google searches for ‘solar panels’ broke records during the summer heat waves in 2022.
The green tech company looked at Google Trends data on 11 August – one of the hottest days in the UK summer heatwave – and found that the UK user search interest for solar panels hit a score of 100.
This is the first time ‘solar panels’ has hit this score on Google Trends, and is double the previous two months’ average score (49.5).
Solar panel sales have also been soaring during the summer heatwave, with trade association Solar Energy UK reporting that over 3,000 solar installations were being carried out every week – up from 1,000 a week in July 2020.
Why are people buying solar panels?
There is a clear correlation between the influx of Google searches for the term ‘solar panels’ and the UK’s unusually hot weather during summer 2022. But we can also expect this level of interest to continue throughout the year and in the near future, because of the UK’s rising energy bills.
The previous peak Google search for ‘solar panels’ is a good indication of this; the score of 91 came in March 2022, the same month the last energy price cap was announced.
By investing in solar panels, homeowners can avoid these costly bills, and can even sell any excess energy back to the grid.
Solar has also become more accessible to people recently, with the cost of solar panels falling by 88% in the past decade. The Eco Experts also state that homeowners will be able to break even on their panels after just seven years, once the October energy price cap comes into place.
There’s also a growing interest in protecting the environment at the moment, and investing in solar panels is an excellent way to do this.
Charlie Clissitt, Editor of The Eco Experts, said: “’Obviously the rising energy bills and the unusually hot weather are extremely bleak situations, but it’s encouraging to see so many people in the UK turning to this green alternative. Solar panels are quick to install, easy to maintain, and are looking increasingly sensible. The average three-bedroom property would break even on a solar panel system in about 11 years, but after the October rise in the price cap, you’ll break even in just seven years.”
How can solar panels benefit you?
Solar panels can benefit homeowners in a number of ways – but the savings on energy bills is one of the main things drawing people in at the moment.
The Energy Saving Trust states that a set of solar panels typically costs between £2,900 and £6,700, though they can cost as much as £9,000. The average three-bedroom house usually requires a £5,420 system, comprising 10 panels.
Although this is a pricey upfront cost, it’s decreasing year-on-year, with the price of solar panels plummeting by 80% in the past decade. And with the UK’s energy price cap increasing in October, homeowners in an average three-bedroom house could save £784 a year on energy bills – meaning you’d break even in just seven years.
Worried about how solar panels will impact the price of your property? Thankfully, research shows that solar panels actually add around 4.1% to a home’s value – which means you could make tens of thousands of pounds.
Solar panels are also becoming more common in the UK because of the increased number of climate-conscious people. The average person could reduce their carbon footprint by 11% with solar panels.
Five things to consider before installing solar panels
1. The property type
Not all properties are suitable for solar panels. If your home is either a listed property or is located in a conservation area, then you probably won’t be able to install solar panels.
It’s a legal requirement for homeowners in these types of properties to preserve the building’s historical aesthetics – so a set of sleek, modern solar panels won’t get the go-ahead.
If your property doesn’t fall under this category, you’ll just need to check whether your roof has enough space for the number of panels you’ll need.
2. Energy usage
Before investing in solar panels, you should figure out how much energy your household actually gets through. Once you’ve figured this out, you’ll have a better idea of the number of solar panels you’ll need to cover your bills – or at least make a dent in them.
3. Angle and direction of the panels
Your solar panels will need to be positioned in a certain way for them to get as much sun exposure as possible.
If you live in the UK, your panels will need to be facing south, tilted at a vertical angle between 30° and 45°. This way, they’ll be able to absorb as much sunshine as possible. However, other places around the world might need to install panels facing north, at a different angle – it all depends on the latitude of your location.
4. Type of solar panel
There are three main types of residential solar panels available for homeowners – monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin film – and each has its own set of advantages:
- Monocrystalline – These tend to be the most expensive option, but that doesn’t stop them from being one of the most popular types of panels. One of the main selling points for monocrystalline panels is their high-efficiency rating of between 15% and 20%
- Polycrystalline – Since very little silicon is wasted whilst manufacturing polycrystalline cells, these panels tend to be more affordable and eco-friendly than monocrystalline panels. However, polycrystalline panels are less efficient, with an average efficiency rating between 13–16%
- Thin film – This panel is totally different from monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels because it acts more like a flexible sheet. Thin film panels are particularly useful for any homes with limited roof space, as they can be wrapped around objects. However, what you gain in flexibility, you lose in efficiency, since they only have an efficiency rating of 7%–13%
Each supplier offers different prices on solar panels and installation, so it’s best to check at least three different quotes before accepting an offer.
The UK public has cottoned onto how beneficial solar panels can be – especially with the ongoing energy crisis. With the cost of electricity now at 52p per kilowatt hour (kWh), solar panel owners can make more savings than ever and have a short break-even point of just seven years – not to mention they can cut their carbon footprint by 11%.
And as the planet continues to warm up, and energy prices carry on creeping up, it’s just a matter of time before solar panels become more of a common sight across the UK.
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Millie is a perfectionist with a passion for property and writing articles. You’ll find her researching the latest housing trends and the newest up and coming areas worth investing in. Read more about Millie here.