Considering buying solar panels? Watch our video to see what happens when solar panels are installed and learn whether your home is suitable for solar.
Getting solar panels installed isn't as disruptive as you might think. In fact 94% of the solar panel owners in our survey said they didn't find getting their solar panels disruptive.*
Prepare for your solar panel installation by checking your home is suitable, including whether you need planning permission.
To get a better idea of what you can expect when installing solar PV, watch our video below to see a solar panel installation (on a concrete tiled roof) from start to finish, and find out what's involved.
If the solar panels are being installed on your roof, you're probably going to need scaffolding.
Once the scaffolding is up, the panels could be installed in less than a day. Roofers will attach the fixing brackets on to the rafters of your roof – this is why a proper surveyor should go into your loft to check the integrity of the roof and the rafters. The solar panels will then be clamped on to the fixing brackets.
The size and complexity of your system will affect how long installation takes. Ask your installer for an estimate of timings so you're prepared.
If scaffolding is needed, check with the surveyor that there is space for it and that the cost is included in your quote.
Solar PV panels are worth considering if you have a mainly south-facing roof with little or no shade and you're not thinking of moving home in the near future.
Although a south-facing roof will give the best power output, a south-west or south-east-facing roof should also be fine.
But you would get less power out of the system, and be able to save less on your electricity bill.
How much energy you could produce with solar panels – and therefore how much money you could make – will depend on:
Six in 10 solar panel owners in rural areas generated more than 2,500kWh per year.* In urban areas, fewer solar panel owners (approaching half of those surveyed in urban areas) generated this amount.
But the size of the system is a big factor affecting electricity generation. Those in rural areas were also most likely to have larger solar panel systems.
The table below shows the percentage of the maximum output you will get from a solar PV system, depending on your roof orientation (west, south, east) and tilt angle (source: the Energy Saving Trust).
Most UK roofs are angled at between 30 degrees and 45 degrees. Solar PV panels are not recommended for roofs that face north.
You also need to consider both the age of your roof and how strong it is, as PV panels are heavy.
Shade could be a big problem for solar panels, so no panels should be installed where there is shade from trees, chimneys, walls or other obstructions. Consider whether nearby trees are likely to grow and overshadow your roof.
Contact your council to see whether you need to apply for planning permission for your solar panels. You won’t need planning permission for most domestic solar panels, as long as they're below a certain size.
However, exceptions apply for listed buildings, buildings in conservation areas and World Heritage Sites.
Solar panels are pretty much maintenance-free and should last for at least 25 years.
Solar PV systems are relatively simple and have no moving parts, so they don't need much maintenance.
However, within 25 years, you’ll need to replace the inverter – 14% had a problem with their inverter, when we asked solar panel owners.*
Once you’ve had solar panels installed, your installer should give you written details of any maintenance checks you need to carry out occasionally to check your system is working properly.
Use our Trusted Traders search tool to find a solar panel installer in your area.
Make sure you don't end up with panels overhanging the roof. Where panels are fitted just above the existing roof, it's good practice to leave at least 30-40cm between the last panel and the roof edge to allow for access and to minimise the risk of strong wind blowing the panels off.
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*Online survey of 1,116 Which? Connect members with solar panels on their home in June 2021.