Solar energy is without a doubt one of the most sustainable alternatives to grid-generated electricity. With solar electricity, you don’t just do your bit for the planet but also see a significant dip in your energy bills.
Installing a solar panel system might be a little pricey at first. Still, eventually, it gives great returns on your investment. Moreover, the process is quite straightforward and doesn’t require much involvement from you.
This solar installation guide will walk you through everything you need to know about how much solar panels cost and the process of installing solar panels.
- 1 Process of Installing Solar Panels
- 1.1 Find An Installer
- 1.2 Home Assessment
- 1.3 Erect The Scaffolding
- 1.4 Attach Roof Anchors
- 1.5 Attach The Frame
- 1.6 Install The Solar Panels
- 1.7 Wiring The Solar Panels
- 1.8 Series Connection
- 1.9 Parallel Connection
- 1.10 Connect To A Solar Inverter
- 1.11 Connect The Solar Inverter To The National Grid And A Solar Battery
- 1.12 Start The Inverter
- 2 Solar Panel Costs
- 3 Factors Affecting The Cost Of Solar PV System
- 4 Financial Incentives
- 5 Closing Thoughts
Process of Installing Solar Panels
The process of installing solar panels begins much before the physical installation. There is a lot of planning and decision making involved in solar panel installation.
Let’s go through the entire step-by-step process of installing solar panels.
Find An Installer
Firstly, you need to look for installers. In the UK, it is crucial to find an installer that is MCS approved.
The MCS certification is supported by the Department of Energy and Climate Change. It ensures that the manufacturers and installers of solar energy or other sustainable energy sources conform to the highest quality and safety standards.
Professional installers send teams to your home to assess the property. This team consists of a qualified surveyor and a salesperson to advise on the offerings.
It is recommended that you reach out to multiple installers and get quotes from them after their assessment to compare the different offerings.
Once you choose the ideal installer for your needs, the physical work can begin.
Erect The Scaffolding
Setting up scaffolding is an important step for the safety of the installation team. You need to ensure beforehand that there’s adequate space outside your house for erecting the scaffolding tower.
Attach Roof Anchors
Roof anchors are installed to hold the frame for fitting the solar panels. There are different kinds of roof anchors, and the type of roof tiles determines which one should be used.
The installers lift certain tiles from your roof and then attach the roof anchors to the rafters. They already check the suitability of the roof and rafters during the home assessment.
Attach The Frame
The solar panel frame is fixed to the anchors that run across the roof vertically and horizontally. The frame usually consists of aluminium bars that get locked into the anchors and screwed in place.
The installers ensure that each bar is straight and all of the bars run parallel to each other.
Install The Solar Panels
Instead of being fitted to the roof, the panels are fixed loosely to the frame using an average of 4 clamps per solar panel. Then, they are tightened once the installing team rightly positions all panels.
During this step, the installers need to be careful about the direction of the panels. In the northern hemisphere, solar panels should be installed in a south-facing position for maximum sunlight.
Wiring The Solar Panels
Once the solar panels are in place, the team will proceed to install electrical wiring. Since MC4 connectors are suited for all types of panels, they are typically used for wiring.
It is important to ensure that you shut down your domestic electricity supply during the wiring. The panels can be connected in two different connections; series and parallel.
In a series connection, the positive wire of a PV module is connected to the negative wire of another. Such an arrangement increases the voltage to match the battery bank.
In such a connection, the positive end of a module is connected to the positive and for another. Likewise, the negative wire of a module is connected to another negative end. In such as arrangement, the wiring voltage of the panel remains unchanged.
Connect To A Solar Inverter
After successful wiring, the installers will connect the solar PV system to a solar inverter. For this purpose, the positive wire of the solar panel is connected to the negative terminal of the solar inverter.
Connect The Solar Inverter To The National Grid And A Solar Battery
You can start producing electricity once your solar inverter is connected to the National Grid and a solar battery.
To connect the inverter with the battery, the positive end of the battery is joined to the positive end of the solar inverter, and the same process is repeated for the negative ends.
For connecting the inverter and the grid, the installers use a normal plug to connect to the main power switchboard. Then, an output wire is connected to the electric board responsible for supplying electricity to the house.
Start The Inverter
After all the steps are done, the installing team performs final checks and confirms that everything is in place. You can then switch on the system and start using cleaner electricity!
Solar Panel Costs
Over the last few years, the cost of solar panels has decreased significantly with the revolution in solar energy technology.
While prices vary across brands and systems, we have outlined the estimated costs for different system sizes below.
- 3kW Panel System: £5,000 – £6,000
- 4kW Panel System: £6,000 – £8,000
- 5kW Panel System: £7,000 – £9,000
- 6kW Panel System: £8,000 – £10,000
These costs have been based on 250W panels and consider the national average household energy consumption to determine the average costs.
Besides the solar panel costs, you will also incur installation charges. The average solar panel installation cost is around £2,000 to £3,000. Additionally, you will have to invest in other devices such as solar batteries.
Luckily, there are incentives available to households that use renewable sources of energy. They are entitled to receive monetary benefits under schemes like the Feed-in Tariff or the Smart Exchange Guarantee.
Factors Affecting The Cost Of Solar PV System
Multiple factors come into play to determine the cost of installing solar panels.
Types Of Solar Panels
You are likely to find one of three types of solar panels; monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film. The type of solar panel you select will affect the final price of your solar PV system.
Monocrystalline Solar Panels
These panels are made with monocrystalline solar cells and are the oldest kinds of solar panels. The cells used here are made of pure silicon and appear black because of the interaction between sunlight and silicon.
Polycrystalline Solar Panels
These panels consist of polycrystalline solar cells, which are a more recent development. They are also made of silicon and are pretty efficient.
Thin-Film Solar Panels
Thin-film solar panels are the latest entrants to the solar panel industry. They have become extremely famous to the credit of their panels, which are 350 times thinner than regular ones.
These solar panels are not always made of silicon and can be made of substances such as cadmium telluride or copper indium gallium selenide.
Number Of Panels
The number of panels in a solar PV system determines the system size. The larger your solar panel systems are, the more you’ll end up paying.
Solar Panel Installation Process
The ease of installation also impacts the cost of solar panel systems. The effort required varies depending on the size and strength of your roof, angling of panels, and similar factors.
The higher the effort required for installing solar panels, the higher is the solar panel installation cost.
Cost Of Labour
Your solar installation company may or may not include the labour costs in their quote detailing the solar panel costs. The cost of labour will vary based on your region.
In general, it costs around £300 to £500 for a person each day of the project.
Additional Components To The Solar System
Your cost of equipment rises if you install additional components to the solar panel system. Additional components could include things like a solar battery storage system or pigeon-proofing equipment.
It is better to club these costs during installation so that the overall cost of the process reduces.
The United Kingdom is putting in conscious efforts to net off its carbon emissions. Earlier the government offered financial incentives under the Feed-in Tariff (FiT). There are benefits under the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) scheme.
The primary purpose of initiatives is to encourage homeowners to switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, such as solar power, wind power, hydropower, and other options, to power your home. While installing such systems, like a solar PV system, can be slightly expensive, these schemes help you earn your money back.
Although both the incentives are similar, the SEG essentially aims to replace the FiT. However, if you’re on the FiT program, it doesn’t make much sense to move to SEG before your term expires.
Let us learn more about both of the incentives.
Smart Exchange Guarantee (SEG)
The SEG is a government-backed incentive that provides export tariffs for small-scale low carbon energy generation to UK homeowners. You can leverage the scheme for various sources of energy, such as solar energy and wind energy.
Under the incentive, you receive an export tariff for the excess renewable energy that you generate and export to the National Grid. If your unused solar energy goes into solar battery storage, even that is covered under the SEG in some cases.
Remember that you only get paid for the amount of energy you export back to the grid. You can either opt for receiving a fixed rate or a rate that fluctuates based on demand and supply.
If you want to hop on to the SEG, you first need to ensure that your solar panel system is MCS certified and then look for an SEG licensee. You even need a smart export meter that sends half-hourly readings to the licensee.
However, you are not eligible for receiving the SEG export tariff if you’re already receiving the FiT payments.
Feed-in Tariff (FiT)
The UK government introduced the FiT scheme in 2010 to encourage renewable low-carbon energy generation in domestic settings. Much like SEG, this incentive also covered multiple sources of renewable energy. However, the initiative closed for new applicants in early 2019.
The FiT includes two components; a generation tariff and an export tariff. The generation tariff is the amount paid to the homeowners for the total amount of electricity generated. This amount is calculated on a per-unit basis.
The export tariff is the amount paid for units of electricity exported back to the grid. However, it does not depend on the actual amount of electricity you export. Instead, the number of units is automatically assumed to be 50% of the total amount generated by your system.
The tariff is payable for up to 20 years and is typically paid quarter by quarter. The best part, perhaps, is that these payments are tax-free.
People prefer staying on the FiT over the SEG. It happens because the SEG only pays you for the actual amount of electricity exported. At the same time, the FiT automatically assumes the export to be half of the total energy produced.
The number of people switching to clean energy sources, such as solar power, increases daily. As an increasing chunk of the population debates whether they should make the switch or not, there are bound to be questions about the installation process and panel costs.
In this guide, we have tried to address all the information necessary for deciding on installing solar panels in your home, along with the estimated costs.
It is best to keep in mind that while the one-time process may be pricey, it ends up paying for itself in the long run!