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What do roof Solar Panels Cost in 2021?

Green energy is the way forward in the 21st century for the homeowner, using your home to generate energy not only reduces household utility bills but also helps the environment, it can even increase the appeal and value of your property.

The best option to generate free energy from nature for most homes is by using solar panels which can be suitable for almost every property unlike mini wind turbines which can only really be used in more rural locations. A single solar roof panel will cost between £300 to £500 but there is a considerable variation depending on the type and size of system. As the technology has become better established and more commonplace, the price has fallen dramatically, boosted by government incentives to encourage more homeowners to take up installation. However, consider that the solar panel is only have the cost - installation is also a cost factor. This article looks at the benefits and cost of solar roof panels to help you decide whether they are the right investment for your home. 

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What is the cost of roof solar panels?

Solar panels are everywhere, this is a bandwagon just about everyone seems to be jumping on including roofing companies, green product suppliers and even energy companies.  The choice can be overwhelming so what should you be expecting to pay for a single roof panel as a benchmark?

A popular domestic choice which is suitable for lots of different types of roofs is a 4kW solar panel system which costs around £6,000 and covers around 29 square metres of the roof.  This consists of 16 roof solar panels and can generate annual electricity bill savings of £270.  A smaller system of 3kw panels totalling 12 in number will provide an average saving of £160 annually on utility costs.  There are also 5kW and 6kW systems available, the latter consisting of 24 panels and producing savings of around £430 annually.

The general rule is that the more electricity the system can generate, the higher the initial installation roof solar panel costs will be.  However, the savings on household costs over the longer term will be higher too.  The lower the kW system then the cheaper it is to install.

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Factors that influence the supply and installation of roof solar panels

Everybody’s situation is unique and so there are several factors which can influence the cost of roof solar panels and some of these include:

  • The number of panels fitted so the size of the roof or how much of the roof you want to utilise
  • The energy generating capacity of the panels which is expressed in kW or kilowatts.  How efficient the roof solar panels are will influence how much you can save.  Monocrystalline panels are more efficient but also more expensive whereas polycrystalline panels are less efficient but cheaper to install. The location will also influence how much energy the panels can generate
  • Access to the roof
  • Where you live in the UK – postcodes in the South East and London will always pay for trades and home projects

Roof solar panel Installation charges

Typically, a quotation given for the cost of roof solar panels will include labour costs.  There are two ways that the labour can be calculated:-

  • On a daily rate which is typically £300-£500 per person per day and the average installation time is usually two people over one day so the final labour charge would be in the region of £600-£1,000. If the installation is larger then this usually takes two days
  • The other way to calculate the installation fee is to allocate £0.20p per watt so for a 4kW system, the charge would be £0.20p for 400 watts making a total of £800

Additional roof solar panel costs

If you want to add a solar battery to the installation then this will impact the cost significantly.  A solar battery can allow you to store electricity to use after the sun has gone down.  The average price for a solar battery is between £1,200 and £6,000 depending on the type of battery, the projected lifespan and quality of the unit.  Solar batteries are useful if you want to store power to use during the night including charging an Electric Vehicle if you have a charge point at home.

How to reduce roof solar panels costs

Installation costs for roof solar panels can be reduced by the use of solar panel grants like the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) which allows you to earn money by exporting surplus solar power that you don’t need back to the National Grid.  However, this is very much after the event; the cost of installation still has to be met up front.

Fortunately, the solar panel industry is booming and there is a lot of competition out there amongst installers for business so householders should shop around for the keenest quote.

Many solar panels companies offer finance subject to status which can help spread the cost or you could consider taking out a Home Improvement Loan or re-mortgage to release equity in your home which you turn into hard cash to fund the project.

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Are there grants available to help with the cost of roof solar panels?

There are no grants for solar panels which will help towards the cost of installation or even cover the whole cost of the panels but where you can generate revenue is from the Feed-In Tariff (FIT) system which allows you to sell surplus energy to the National Grid after the panels have been installed.

The FIT scheme changes every year, usually in a downward direction it must be said.  However, when you install solar roof panels, the FIT system in place at the time will be guaranteed for your installation for 20 years from that date even if the scheme is subsequently adjusted downwards.

Savings on annual energy costs

Many people like to think of the money they will save on their annual electricity costs as a way of putting something towards the cost of roof solar panels.  You can also make money by selling surplus energy to the National Grid.  However, increasingly homeowners want to store surplus energy to use at a time when their solar panels are not very productive - all those grey days in the winter.  If you have off-road parking and can put your car on a driveway beside the house then you could fit a charge point and charge an electric vehicle effectively for nothing.

You can save even more money if you are at home during the day and use your electrical appliances when the panels are active so in daylight hours.

Finding a roof solar panel installer

It is a buyer’s market at the moment and prices are competitive so if you shop around then you should find the right deal to suit your budget.  Some companies offer incentives and advertise free solar panels but this might be because they will take over the rights to any surplus energy created by using the FIT system.

If you are looking for a recommendation then ask a friend, neighbour or work colleague.  You should expect a visit so that the suitability of the property can be assessed before a quote is issued.  Try and obtain three or four quotes to help you compare.

If you still can’t find a recommendation via word of mouth then try local community and neighbourhood groups on social media or one of the trusted trader platforms which can access lots of suppliers on your behalf.  Make sure that the quote you end up choosing is fully inclusive and always check out the warranties and manufacturers guarantees offered for both the installation and the panels themselves.  There is lots of informative and impartial advice on renewable energy available online.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can roof solar panels be fitted to any property?

Most houses will not have any restriction on roof solar panels but listed properties and houses in conservation areas may need to apply for planning permission and this could be refused based on the change in appearance of the building.  Fortunately, there are now solar roof tiles and slates being produced which will circumvent this problem as they are indistinguishable from natural roofing materials and can be interleaved with them on a conventional roof thus allowing you to harvest green energy for your home.

Do solar panels pay for themselves?

The answer to this is, eventually.  The average time it takes to cover the cost of roof solar panels is between 15 and 25 years depending on the cost of the system and how much electricity it can generate.  Solar panels are a long-term investment not a quick payback.  Of course, if you sell your house then the panels can be very attractive to prospective purchasers who will gain the advantage of lower energy bills without the upfront costs of installing the panels themselves.

Are there free solar panels available?

It used to be the case that companies would offer free solar panels but this service is not available in the UK any longer.  Solar panels have become much more affordable and so the government has hugely reduced the Feed-In Tariff (FIT) scheme.  This has made free solar panels uneconomic and unprofitable for many installers and companies which is why they are no longer offered.

A few years ago, the Feed-In Tariff incentives were much higher to encourage this new technology to gain traction and popularity.  Companies would offer to rent your roof space for a long period and install the solar panels themselves without charge to the householder and maintain them for free.  In return, they collected the revenue from the FIT scheme.  Now that the FIT incentives are lower, it is no longer profitable for companies to do this.

Can I install solar roof panels myself?

It is now possible to buy your own solar panels and ask a roofing company to install them for you.  The panels are attached to rails using especially designed clips which bolt onto the edges.  This allows the panels to be removed quickly and easily for roof maintenance and repair as needed.  Electrical cables behind each panel are connected to the adjoining panel to form a string.

Will roof solar panels affect the value of my house?

Solar roof panels have come a huge way from the ugly and unattractive huge blue panels that you could see jutting out of people’s roofs around 10-15 years ago.  Put together in a mix of landscape and portrait positioning, they caught the eye for all the wrong reasons.  Nowadays, solar roof panels are far more aesthetically pleasing but homeowners still worry that if they fit them, they could have a negative impact on the value of their home.  Some studies suggest conversely that the presence of roof solar panels could increase the value of a house because of the savings to be made on utility costs.  It is really hard to say whether solar panels affect a property’s value or not but they can certainly impact on kerb appeal; some buyers just don’t like them.

If you have an old or period property even if it is unlisted then you may want to think twice before adding solar panels.  Some people in rural areas will put them on outbuildings, garages and barns but not on the main house.  Solar roof panels can be recessed into the roof so they sit flush and are less visible at street level; however, this does significantly increase the cost.  For those with deeper pockets, there is the option of solar roof tiles or slates which can harvest natural energy from the sun and appear as a standard roofing material when in place.  These are about twice the cost of regular solar roof panels but solve the aesthetics problem as well as being suitable for listed homes or properties in a conservation area.

Will I be taxed on the income I generate from the Feed-In Tariff payments?

The payments under FIT are not taxed and they also do not count towards your tax-free personal allowance.

How long do solar panels last?

The latest solar panels on the market are expected to have a lifespan of between 40-50 years with warranties which will last around half that time.  The warranty is important as it guarantees the performance level of the panels and their efficiency. 

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