How much do solar panels cost?
By Sarah Ingrams
Article 2 of 7
Solar panel costs
Find out how much solar PV panels cost, whether prices are coming down and what financial help is available to buy solar panels.
Wondering whether solar panels will pay for themselves? We've crunched the numbers for you.
Solar panels aren't cheap. But if they can help you cut your energy bills, plus earn you money by generating electricity that you can sell back to your energy company, does this mean you'll end up quids in?
Keep reading to learn more about solar panel costs versus how much money they can earn and save you.
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 on which the panels will be installed.
An average PV system of 4kWp (kilowatt peak) costs around £5,000 to £8,000. Solar tiles are more expensive than conventional solar panels.
The more electricity the system can generate, the higher the savings on your energy bill will be – but the bigger the initial cost is.
Members we spoke with who had solar panels installed in 2017 and 2018 said they’d paid as little as £3,000 and as much as £13,000 for their solar panel systems. But the majority paid between £6,000 and £7,000. Costs vary by system size – read on to see the average.
In addition to the savings on your electricity bill, those who installed solar panels before March 2019 could get paid under the Feed-in Tariff (FIT) scheme for generating their own electricity.
Solar panel cost is coming down
The idea behind the Feed-in Tariff (FIT) was that, as solar PV takes off, the cost will drop. This is why the rate of the FIT decreased over time, to compensate for the falling cost of solar systems. In March 2019 the scheme closed to new applicants.
Statistics published by the government Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in May 2018 show the cost per kilowatt of solar PV installed stayed fairly consistent between April 2017 and March 2018. In previous years it fell by more than £100 on average.
When we surveyed 2,163 Which? members who have solar panels, we found that, on average, they paid the following for an installed 3.6-4kWp solar PV system:
As you can see, prices paid for solar panels have come down in recent years.
Solar panel grants
Solar electricity has attracted much interest since the government introduced the FIT scheme in April 2010. The scheme paid owners for every unit of electricity their solar system generated.
However the feed-in tariff closed to new applicants at the end of March 2019. A new scheme, called the Smart Energy Guarantee, is currently being discussed by government.
In the later years of the scheme, the government cut the FIT for small domestic solar PV installations by 65% (from 1 January 2016) and then decreased the rate for new installations every three months.
Since the rate cuts, the numbers of people getting solar panels installed has fallen.
To find out more about what the FIT was, including how much money you can make if you're already signed up, read our guide to the Feed-in Tariff.
Pros and cons of solar PV
Pros of solar PV:
- only daylight is needed to create energy – not sunshine
- can connect panels to the national grid and sell excess electricity to an electricity company
- can cut your electricity bill; once you've paid for the installation your electricity costs will be less
- provides additional income, if you're already registered for the Feed-in Tariff which provides cash payments for producing renewable electricity
Cons of solar PV
- high upfront cost
- more expensive to buy and install than solar water systems or conventional electric and gas heating
- efficiency depends on the number of solar light hours and climate
- unshaded, south-facing location is needed for installation
- solar panels can be heavy, so your roof must be strong enough to take their weight – particularly if they will be installed on top of existing tiles.
Want to know which manufacturers make the highest quality solar panels? See our best solar panel reviews.