How do I know solar panels are right for me?

One of the reasons why people struggle with whether solar panels are right for them is because they lack detailed and impartial information. We aim to solve that with MakeMyHouseGreen. We'll give you an indication of the cost (and carbon) savings you might be able to make from solar panels. We'll also include an estimation of the cost of installation. You can then easily work out whether the savings justify the investment. This guide addresses some things that you might want to keep in mind when working out whether solar panels are right for you.

What is the best direction for solar panels in the UK?

Generally, south-facing solar panels is the best direction for solar panels.

Do solar panels need to face south?

No, east or west-facing roofs can sometimes achieve a high effectiveness rating. In some cases north facing panels can also make sense!

Keep in mind that the savings you can make by switching to solar energy depends not only on the orientation of your roof. You also need to consider the slope of your roof, and where in the country you live, to name a few things. Our handy, impartial, and completely free tool will do this for you. You'll have an estimate in minutes!

Can I put solar panels on a flat roof?

Absolutely, putting solar panels on a flat roof is not a problem! That being said, you will need to do a few adjustments to your solar panel system.

To optimise solar gain, panels are best set up at an angle when mounted to a flat roof.

You will also need to account for extra space when calculating how many solar panels fit on your roof. Any row of solar panels needs to be around 1 metre away from the solar panels in front of them, from the sun’s perspective. This is to avoid shading from the raised profile of the panels.

It is also worth noting that as the panels are angled, they are subject to increased wind exposure. This requires that the roof is structurally sound. If needs be, a structural survey can be arranged to ensure a solar panel system installation is sound.

Lastly, if you wish to install solar panels more than 20cm proud of the roofline of the property you will need planning permission from your local planning authority. That is, planning permission is necessary if the solar panels increase the height of the property by more than 20cm when installed to the roof.

Book a (free!) consultation call with one of our Green Homes Gurus, and they’ll walk you through these adjustments to your solar panel system. Consider them your own money saving expert on everything solar panels! The option to book a call will be presented to you when using our tool.

Will a solar panel system work if shaded?

The short answer is yes, all modern solar panels work with indirect light or if shaded. The longer answer is that you might need to install optimisers to increase the efficiency of electricity production in poor light conditions. Our Gurus are happy to advise you on how to deal with shade, and what the solution might look like for your property, when you book a call with them.

Can birds cause damage to solar panels?

Solar panels provide an attractive environment for birds and other Solar panels provide an attractive environment for birds and other pests to nest. Bird droppings and nests can cause significant damage to solar panel systems and attract other pests, especially in areas that have a particular bird problem.

That being said, protecting your solar panels from bird damage is actually quite easy! We're happy to discuss add-ons such as “pigeon protection” with you. This "pigeon proofing" surrounds your panels and keeps pigeons and other birds from roosting beneath them. This would otherwise damage the electrical wiring of your panels.

As with most things, prevention is better than cure. The cost of pigeon protection may save significant repair costs in the future. It can also reduce the risk of roof fires and zoonotic diseases.

Pigeon proofing solar panels - how much does it cost?

The cost of pigeon proofing is around £300 per 30 metres. For bigger arrays you might need two sets of these, but it also depends on the layout of the array itself.

Do I need lots of space for solar panels?

The space you need for solar panels depends on how much energy you use and how much direct sunlight your roof receives. Our installers offer high quality, monocrystalline panels that provide high efficiency per square foot. This means that they offer more watts than other options, which helps maximise the available space.

How big are solar panels?

There are many different solar panel suppliers, and as a result, exact size can vary slightly. But the dimensions of the average home solar panel setup that we supply is 1765 x 1048 x 40 mm.

In terms of energy, we typically go for 365W panels. There are 410W or 490W in the market but these tend to be quite a bit more expensive. So, you may want to compare the additional energy generation to the additional cost to determine whether it’s worth the investment. We would only recommend increasing wattage if roof space is a real issue.

How many solar panels can I fit on my roof?

Accurate calculations are important to us. When using our free and impartial tool, you’ll be asked to select the size, orientation and slope of your roof. Our advanced system will then measure these factors against your energy needs and recommend a precise number of solar panels that fit on your roof.

Our free, accurate and impartial tool will give you the option to choose the size, slope and orientation of your roof

How many solar panels do I need?

The exact number of solar panels you will need depends on several factors. Some of these are where in the UK you live, how much energy your household uses throughout the day, and how much power your panels can generate from the sunlight.

You can have a play about it yourself, using our free platform, to get an initial understanding of how many solar panels you need. This is also something our Green Homes Gurus can help you understand. Again, you’ll be presented the option to book a (free!) call when using our platform.

How big are solar panel batteries?

Solar panel batteries come in different sizes, but they're commonly the size of a small briefcase. These weigh around 25kg. To learn more, check out our helpful guide on everything you need to know about solar panel batteries.

How big are solar panel inverters?

An inverter converts the energy from your solar panels into usable electricity. It is generally about 0.5 x 0.5 x 0.2 metre big but the exact size can vary depending on your solar panel set up. As a tech company, we do a lot of maths to work out the correct inverter size for your property so we are very confident our sizing is correct. Another good reason to book a call with one of our Gurus, isn’t it?

What does a solar panel inverter cost?

The cost of an inverter depends on the size of your system as well as on whether you have a battery. The cost for systems under 3.6kW (around 10 - 12 panel systems) will typically vary between £500 - £1500 depending on whether you have a battery. Systems larger than this can require an inverter that’s a little bit more expensive. Our Green Home Gurus are happy to discuss pricing in more detail when you book a (free!) consultation call.

Are solar panels worth it in the UK?

Solar panels can help minimise both your energy bills and carbon footprint, despite the weather in the UK. The exact savings will depend on your energy needs and where in the country you live.

The cost of set-up has dropped in recent years. And with energy prices on the rise, there’s a high chance that the savings you can make by getting solar panels will continue to increase. To make your solar savings go further, installers offer solar batteries to store the energy surplus.

Simply spend 5 minutes on our data-driven platform and it will give you an estimate of how productive your solar system can be, as well as of the solar installation cost.

Do solar panels produce enough electricity in winter in the UK?

Solar panels generate electricity even in winter as they absorb energy from the sun’s light, not its heat. That's why a sunny winter’s day can produce more electricity than a cloudy summer’s day. Heavy snow and shorter daylight hours tend to be why solar systems generate less power in winter.

Do solar panels work on cloudy days?

British weather can be unpredictable, but the good news is that any form of light is suitable for solar panels! This means that even on a cloudy day, solar energy is a reliable source of renewable energy. Although the output will not be as high as on a sunny day.

Do solar panels need direct sunlight?

No. As mentioned, any form of light is suitable for solar panels. Therefore, solar panel systems are not dependent on direct sunlight.

Might my solar panels blow off the roof during a storm?

It is normal to wonder how safe solar panel systems are in severe weather conditions. Rest assured, manufacturers produce them in such a way that the inner workings of the solar systems are protected. This enables your panels to withhold heavy winds, hail or even a storm.

If installed correctly, your solar panels add strength to your roof. They also rarely get struck by lightning. To ensure panels are installed correctly, you should ensure your installer or solar company is registered with MCS *If installed correctly, your solar panels add strength to your roof. They also rarely get struck by lightning. To ensure panels are installed correctly, you should ensure your installer or solar company is registered with MCS (as MakeMyHouseGreen is), the leading solar trade body.

Do solar panels work during a power cut?

No. Unfortunately you can't use solar power during a power cut.

Do you need planning permission for solar panels?

Permitted development rights allow you to perform certain types of work without applying for planning permission. When it comes to solar panel systems, you’ll need planning permission for ground-mounted solar panels, or if you live in a conservation area or listed building. As mentioned above, you’ll also need planning permission for installing solar panels if they increase the height of the property by more than 20cm.

The quickest way to find out if you live in a conservation area is by searching for “my local planning authority” on Google. This will tell you the name of your local council. You can then search for “conservation areas", either on your local council’s website or for "conservation areas in X" on Google.

If you live in a conservation area, get in touch with your local council to ask about their policy on solar panel system installations. It can vary between councils!

When are solar panels not right for me?

Our mission is to empower consumers to make the right green home decisions by recommending the most appropriate solar panel system above any financial incentive. This means being honest about some factors that could make solar panel installations uneconomical.

  • There isn’t a suitable structure available for a successful solar panel installation. This may be the case for properties that have an old roof, or where there is too much shade.
  • Your electricity costs are already low. This can significantly increase the solar system payback period. The MakeMyHouseGreen tool will do the calculations for you. You can also book a call with one of our Green Homes Gurus, who will be happy to discuss detailed options for you and your home.
  • You plan to move or sell your home in the near future. Whilst it is possible to remove and reinstall solar panels, your new property may have a different roof layout, or the planning requirements could be more restrictive. On the other hand, solar panels can often increase home value. So you'd have to weigh the pros and cons.

Now that you know of some things to keep in mind when working out whether home solar panels make sense for you, it should be easier for you to make the right decision for your home. To learn more about solar panels, check out our Green Guides or drop us an email via team@makemyhousegreen.com.

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