A decade ago a typical solar panel system cost around £20,000 and would take around a decade to cover those set-up costs.
But prices for solar panel systems have fallen by more than 60% since then, meaning it takes between four and five years for a system to pay for itself and this has resulted in a huge increase in the volume of sales in the past 2 years.
The price includes installation and the number of panels will depend on how much space you have on a roof. A typical 20sq m roof could hold 12 panels.
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors suggests a standard solar panel system costs between £9,000 to £11,700, while Solar Energy UK lists the cost of a “typical” 3.1kWp system for a three-bed house as £3,925.
What you’ll end up paying will depend on the size of the system, the type of panel you choose, the quality of components, the accessibility and state of repair of your roof, and the individual installer, says Which?
What types of properties are suitable?
Not everyone will own a home that can benefit from solar energy, especially if you own a north-facing property, or your home is largely shaded.
“Solar panels are perfect for residential properties with a south, east or west-facing roof, preferably without any shading,” says Mandip Bhamra, head of renewables at SaveMoneyCutCarbon.
“Depending on how old your house is, you may want to check your roof is structurally sound before fitting the solar panels onto it,” says Brian Davenport, owner of The Solar Centre .
He says most installers will have access to a structural engineer for calculating the wind-load should a roof show any signs of distress.
“There should also be a small amount of room made available in your loft for the inverter, which is roughly the size of a microwave,” he adds.
If you live in a flat you’d need to discuss the issue of installing solar panels with other residents and the freeholder.
“For a block of flats, most roofing should be fine, and with some flats where there is excess land, these can be placed in the ground too,” says Mandip Bhamra.
How much could solar power help reduce your bills?
The amount of electricity solar panels generate depends on the type and size of system and home.
A report for Solar Energy UK earlier in 2022 suggests that a typical home could cut electricity bills by more than £300 a year. Households with electric heating could be more than £900 a year better off, the report said, although most UK households remain on gas central heating.
If energy bills rise as predicted this winter, then the value of electricity generated through solar panels could almost double, says Kevin Holland, managing director of The Solar Shed, a Norfolk-based renewable energy business.
He says a typical solar panel system could generate £1,200 worth of electricity in a year at current prices.
If energy bills rise by 80% in October plus a further 50% in January, as forecast, then the value of electricity generated by a typical system could climb to around £3,240.
Also, if you don’t actually use all the electricity you generate, you can sell that surplus to an energy firm.
It’s a big investment so there are several things to consider.
“Well-chosen solar panel systems can provide a reliable source of renewable electricity for decades, helping to cut your carbon footprint, but buying an inappropriate system could leave you out of pocket,” says Which?
In other words it’s important to do thorough research and get a variety of quotes.
It is also worth considering that however much you splash out, it may not add an equal value to your home. Ageing, unattractive old solar panels could well put some potential buyers off.
“As long as you can’t see them, solar panels are a great idea,” says Charlie Wells, managing director of estate agency Prime Purchase.
“Estate agents are unlikely to offer a higher valuation if a property already has solar panels installed,” says Brian Davenport.
But some buyers will be attracted by renewable energy and the chance to save cash on energy bills, says Kevin Holland.
“If there are two houses in the street for sale, one has no solar and a £4,000 energy bill, the other has solar and a £1,500 energy bill, which one are you buying?” he says.