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Over the last few years, the idea of ‘going green’ has gathered far more mainstream appeal than it enjoyed a decade or so ago. Not only does the UK government have a solid commitment to cutting greenhouse gas emissions nationwide, but the growing popularity of technologies like solar panels has prompted significant investment in their development, making them more efficient and less expensive.

Even so, solar panels remain a polarising issue. Some people think they look garish, or complain about the dangerous chemicals used to manufacture them. Others see solar panels as a source of clean energy and believe that the positives far outweigh the negatives.

The truth is that while there are a huge number of benefits to solar energy, there are a few well-known sticking points that leave many unconvinced. At the same time, quite a few of the common negative preconceptions about solar panels can either be disproven or have simply become outdated. So much investment has gone into making solar panels more efficient over the last few years that they can even be installed as part of household windows!

Whether or not solar panels will suit a specific property depend on a few different factors, such as the amount of available space, how much power the property requires on a regular basis and whether the building gets adequate sunlight. You will also find that a property with a low EPC rating will just as easily waste solar energy as it does grid power, making additions like loft insulation or double glazing a far more sensible (and economic) option.

If you are curious about your own home, it will be best to book a site visit with a specialist local electrician. They should be able to assess whether solar panel installation will suit your needs, or if your money would be better spent elsewhere.

With that in mind, just what are the main advantages and disadvantages of solar panels?

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Advantages of solar panels

  1. Reduced energy bills - While some are put off by the initial high cost of solar panel installation, it is important to keep the long term benefits in mind. Solar panels generate electricity for free, decreasing the amount that you need to buy from the grid. You can even earn money with solar panels by selling surplus energy back to the grid, especially during the day when rates are higher.
  2. Remote power - You might surprised to know that there are a great number of homes in the UK which are not connected to the national grid. Many of these properties require their own ways of generating power, hot water and so on. Solar panels are an excellent choice for such properties, particularly in rural areas with ample space.
  3. Low maintenance - As we mentioned previously, it is important to consider the long term benefits of solar panels when faced with the initial high costs. One of the biggest pros is that solar panels, once they are installed, require relatively little maintenance. The panels will need to be cleaned every couple of months (which costs around £35), and certain components may need to be changed every few years. However, most solar panel manufacturers offer warranties of at least 20 years, so even when maintenance is required it is unlikely to make a significant dent in your wallet.

Disadvantages of solar panels

  1. High cost - Unfortunately, there are few ways to get around the fact that solar panels have a high initial cost. In addition to the panels themselves, you will also need to pay for batteries, inverters, wiring and the labour involved in the actual installation. The average domestic solar panel array costs somewhere between £6,000 and £9,000; though they will help to reduce your bills in the long term, it could take a long time for you to get your money back.
  2. Weather dependency - While solar panels will still work even on cloudy or rainy days, there is no question that they are most efficient during the sunnier periods of the year. During winter, they will be far less effective at generating energy. You will also find, as you might expect, that the panels will be incapable of generating energy at night.
  3. Space - The good news is that solar panels can be placed on a roof, in a garden or anywhere else with adequate room. The bad news is that this space needs to have access to ample sunlight. In other words, if you want to enjoy the full benefits of solar panel installation then not only will you need ample space, it will also need to need to be free from shade during the day. Finding this room can be particularly difficult in neighbourhoods with buildings casting shadows everywhere.
  4. Household size - Whether or not solar panels can generate enough energy to suit your property will depend on your specific needs. How many people live in your home? How much energy does everyone use? While solar panels might make a significant reduction in your energy bills, this is not guaranteed, which is why it helps to get a sight visit from a local electrician before committing.