Contrary to popular belief, solar panels are more than suitable for the UK’s climate. They can generate significant amounts of electricity even on overcast days, and exceedingly high temperatures in other countries interfere with the chemical process inside the solar cells, reducing the electric output.
Solar panels don’t need much to operate beyond plenty of natural light. That being said, you’ll want to check your home meets the following requirements to make sure that they’re suitable.
Size: The size of your solar array (several solar panels set up in one installation) will depend on your electricity consumption, so it’s a good idea to find this out first by having a look at your electricity bills.
A current 250-Watt (W) solar panel is roughly 1.75m x 0.9m x 50mm in size and can weigh between 15-30 kilograms. As a typical 25-inch TV needs roughly 150W, you’ll need several solar panels working together to cut your electricity bills.
This table should give you an idea of how much roof space is needed to meet various electricity demands.
|Size of Installation||No. of panels||Approximate total weight||Space required on roof||
Space in the loft: There should be a small amount of room made available in your attic for the inverter, which is roughly the size of a microwave.
Structure: Depending on how old your house is, you may also want to check that your roof is structurally sound before fitting 500 kilograms of solar panels onto it! Most installers will have access to a structural engineer for calculating the wind load should your roof show any signs of distress.
Aspect: Ideally, your roof would be facing true south to generate the most electricity, but it’s still worth installing solar panels on east or west-facing roofs, as the loss in output is only minor (around 15%). Solar panels may not be the best choice for those with a north-facing roof, or if your house is largely shaded from the sun.
Pitch: The ideal angle of your roof would be between 35o and 40o, however anywhere from 10 – 60o is suitable. For those with a flat roof, it’s possible to fit the solar panels onto an angled mount to improve efficiency.
There are options for those who can’t afford solar panels to rent their roof space to energy companies, such as the Rent-a-Roof scheme.
This arrangement was designed to benefit both parties – the energy company would receive payments from the Feed-in Tariff, and homeowners would get electricity generated from their free solar panels. Since then, the cost of solar panels has fallen drastically, so it’s much more beneficial nowadays to buy them outright and receive money from the Feed-in Tariff yourselves.
The Rent-a-Roof initiative also throws ownership of the roof into question, can make life difficult for homeowners trying to sell their house, and may cause issues regarding roof maintenance.
Planning permission isn’t required in most cases, providing your home isn’t a listed building, isn’t located within a conservation area, and the solar panels don’t hang off the side of your roof. Your installer can help you with this if you are unsure.