How to buy solar panels Solar PV prices and savings

Solar panel on roof

Solar panels installed on a roof

In this guide you will find out how much solar PV panels cost, whether solar panel prices are coming down and what financial help is available to buy them. 

Plus we also tell you all about the pros and cons of buying solar PV panels.

Solar panel prices

Prices for solar PV systems vary depending on the size and type of the system, as well as the structure of the building where the panels will be installed. 

An average PV system of 4kWp (kilowatt peak) costs about £5,000 to £8,000, with solar tiles working out more expensive than conventional solar panels.

The more electricity the system can generate, the higher the savings – but the bigger the initial cost. In addition to the savings on your bill, you'll get paid under the Feed-in Tariff (FIT) scheme for generating your own electricity.

Cost of solar PV is coming down

The idea behind the FIT is that as solar PV takes off, the cost will drop. And this is why the rate of the FIT is decreasing over time to compensate for the falling cost of solar systems. 

The Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) has said that there has been a rapid fall in the global module costs of solar PV since the introduction of the FIT in April 2010. The former minister of state at the DECC, Greg Barker, also said: 'As solar PV technology has developed, its costs have reduced and are now believed to be around 30% lower than originally projected.' 

When we surveyed 1,530 Which? members who have solar panels in July 2015, we found that, on average, they paid the following for an installed 3.6-4kWp solar PV system:

Solar PV cost infographic 2015

 This shows that prices have been coming down, especially in the past three years.

Solar panels grants

Solar electricity has attracted much interest since the government introduced the FIT in April 2010. This pays the consumer for every unit of electricity the solar system generates. 

To qualify for the scheme, you have to use products and installers certified under the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS).

But the Government has cut the feed-in-tariff for small domestic solar PV installations by 65% from 1 January 2016. That means you will now only get 4.39p for electricity generated instead of 12.92p. 

Find out more about the FIT, including how much money you could make, in our dedicated guide to the Feed-in Tariff.

solar PV panel array

The cost of solar photovoltaic panels is coming down

Pros and cons of solar PV

Pros of solar PV

  • Only daylight is needed to create energy – not sunshine
  • Can be connected to the national grid and any excess electricity sold back to an electricity company
  • Can cut an average household electricity bill by about 40%
  • Provides additional income, as the Feed-in Tariff provides cash payments to households that produce their own electricity using a renewable technology.

Cons of solar PV

  • More expensive to buy and install than solar water systems
  • High initial outlay: typically £5,000 to £8,000 for a 4kWp system
  • Efficiency depends on the number of solar light hours and climate
  • Initial costs are higher than for conventional electric and gas-heater systems
  • Unshaded, south-facing location is needed for installation
  • Solar panels can be heavy, so your roof must be strong enough to take their weight. This is especially the case if the solar panel is to be installed on top of existing tiles.

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