How Do Solar Panels Work in the Home? (2023)

Solar panels are becoming more and more popular in the UK – and for good reason too! They’re one of the greenest energy sources a home can use, and can help save major money on electricity bills in the long run. But how exactly do solar panels work in the home? Keep reading this post to find out!

How do solar panels work?

Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems turn sunlight into electricity. These systems use solar panels to capture sunlight which is then converted into electricity by an inverter. This electricity can then be used to directly power home appliances or be stored in a solar battery for later use. Solar PV systems are made of several panels that each generate around 355W of energy in ideal conditions. The energy created from these panels is direct current (DC) electricity. However, since home appliances need alternating currents (AC), an inverter is used to convert the DC electricity into AC.

How effective are solar panels?

The effectiveness of solar panels in the UK greatly depends on a range of factors, such as material, size and weather conditions. However, solar panels in UK homes can usually process around 10-20% of solar energy into usable electricity. In perfect conditions, this figure could rise to 25%. To discover more about solar panel efficiency, read our guide on how effective solar panels are in the UK.

The benefits of solar energy

There’s a lot to love about solar energy, and with more incentives making solar PV system installation a more viable option for UK homes, it’s no surprise that solar energy is becoming an increasingly popular choice. Below are the eight key benefits of solar energy in 2023:

1) Clean, renewable energy

Let’s get the most obvious one out of the way first. Solar energy is one of the most effective methods of creating clean, renewable energy because of how much sunlight the world is exposed to.  As solar technology continues to develop, solar energy will evolve into an even easier and cheaper energy source. Better yet, solar panels have a naturally small carbon footprint, and because their materials are constantly being recycled, this footprint will only continue to shrink.

2) Invest and save money

Although on average a 4.2 kilowatt-peak solar panel system costs about £6,500, UK homes could see their money back much sooner than they may realise. Some homes could see savings of £610 a year if they were to utilise the Smart Export Guarantee, meaning that they could make their money back in as little as 11 years. However, Money Saving Expert estimates that it would take 15 years for the average UK home to break even on a solar panel investment.

3) 0% VAT on green energy

If you’re looking to save even more money on solar energy, you’re in luck! Homes in the UK now pay 0% VAT on green energy installation up until 2027, thanks to a temporary Government tax measure. This 5% VAT cut means homes could save an additional tax savings of £1,000.

4) Low maintenance

A major benefit of solar panels is that once they’re installed, they require very little maintenance. After you have found the best position for solar panels in the UK, they will be set at such an angle that will allow rain to run freely off its surface, cleaning any dust or dirt that has collected on it. If you are able to keep your solar panels dirt-free, they could last for well over 25 years.

5) Energy independence

Installing a solar PV system means that you become less reliant on the National Grid and that you can better protect your home during power shortages. You could even sell your energy back to the National Grid through the Smart Export Guarantee!

6) No permit needed

In most cases, you don’t need a permit to install solar panels on your roof since they are considered ‘permitted development’. However, we recommend you look at other potential limitations you could face from their installation – more on that later on!

7) Highly efficient

We’ve already established that solar energy is one of the most efficient methods of creating energy. But one of the major issues with transmitting energy from a power plant across an extensive network is how much energy is lost in its transmission. Luckily, with the energy from solar panels coming directly from your rooftop, the energy loss is greatly minimised.

8) Increased property value

The last benefit of solar panels on our list is that they can help greatly increase your property’s value by up to 14%, highlighting them as a great investment for your home.

Can I store solar energy?

As mentioned earlier, if you want to save solar energy in a residential photovoltaic system, you will need to install a solar battery. But how does a solar battery work? Well, solar batteries work by storing the energy your solar panel system generates during peak sunlight hours and then discharging it when the sun isn’t out – for example, on a cloudy day or in the evening.

What to know before getting solar panels

Although installing solar panels is a great way to lower your energy bills and carbon footprint, installing them may not be for every UK home. That’s why we’ve listed four key things to consider before installing a solar PV system:

1) Having a south-facing roof is ideal

To get the most out of your solar energy, you need to ensure that your solar panels are in the best position. In the UK, this means having a south-facing roof is ideal for capturing as much sunlight as possible as it will receive sunlight all day long. However, if you have an east and west-facing roof you could still have a relatively effective solar PV system by installing panels on either side, although west-facing roofs are the most effective of the two. North-facing roofs, on the other hand, are not suitable.

2) It doesn’t matter if you live in Britain, solar panels are still effective

Although constant sunshine is great (for both solar panels and those who want to catch a tan), it’s not an absolute necessity for solar panels to work. Great news for those living in the cloudy UK!

3) Consider the Smart Export Guarantee tariff

We’ve already mentioned this tariff a few times in this post, but we thought it deserves its own section. This is because the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) tariff can help you make additional savings by allowing you to sell excess energy back to the National Grid. The SEG is especially helpful if your solar PV system produces more energy than your household needs. This way you’ll get paid for that extra energy rather than seeing it go to waste.

Can I get free solar panels?

Solar PV systems don’t come cheap. But what if we told you there was a way to install solar panels for free – or, at least at a discounted price? Meet the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) scheme, a government-backed initiative that helps UK households install solar PV systems at a reduced cost (or free) if you meet certain criteria. There are two versions of the ECO scheme: ECO4 and the Great British Insulation Scheme (formally the ECO+ Scheme). To learn more about each scheme and its eligibility criteria, read our detailed guides. Alternatively, you could contact So Eco today and a member of our team can help check your eligibility for the ECO Scheme or the Great British Insulation Scheme. Alternatively, use our online eligibility checker to find out if you could be eligible for a government-backed grant.

We hope this post has answered some of your questions about how solar panels work in the home and how they can help benefit you.

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