solar power system

Solar Panel Myth-Busting: 5 Common Misconceptions About Solar Power Systems Cleared Up

Solar power systems are growing in popularity across the UK, with around 970,000 homes reportedly having solar panels installed (SOURCE: Advantages are multiple, from lower electricity bills to smaller carbon footprints; ability to store the energy produced to the potential for making money on any unused electricity. However, as with any technology that is making its mark on the world, there are several misconceptions that exist which are causing some people to be cautious. Here, in no particular order, we address five such misconceptions and try to give some reassurances about each one.

There is not enough sunshine in the UK to make installing solar panels worthwhile

In 2021, the UK recorded a staggering 1,387.8 hours of sunshine (SOURCE: Annual sunshine hours 2021 | Statista). The summer of 2022 went down in history as a heatwave with temperatures over 40 degrees C in places, and days of glorious sunshine enjoyed across the country. While it is true that the UK’s weather experiences peaks and troughs when it comes to seeing the sun, there is more than enough sunshine available for a solar power system to be worth its financial outlay in the longer term. Today’s powerful solar power systems are able to extract solar energy from the sun and turn it into electricity on even dull and cloudy days.

Solar panels are not very efficient or effective

There are figures out there that quote solar panel efficiency at around 15% to 22%, which may not sound much at first. However, this is because the sun doesn’t hit all the panel surfaces all the time and some of the energy sourced from the sun turns into heat and not light and so cannot be collected. Never fear though, as the sun produces immense amounts of solar energy – so much so that solar panels really don’t need to be more than 22% efficient to produce enough energy for a typical household’s needs. What’s more, as with any technology of its type, solar power systems and photovoltaic panels are increasing in power, efficiency and performance all the time. The global focus on combating climate change and switching to renewable energy sources makes now a great time to see advances in solar technology.

Living sustainably and ‘going green’ costs a lot of money – not enough to be worth the environmental benefits

At first glance, solar power systems don’t appear to be cheap. Solar panels do come with an initial cost, as do other forms of renewable energy installed as part of a sustainable living drive. However, the savings you can enjoy on your electricity bills after getting solar panels will help offset that cost. As can becoming involved in schemes to sell any unused electricity that you generate back to the National Grid and so help reduce the use of fossil fuels further. Adding a battery to your solar power system can also help you store excess electricity and use it when the sun is not shining. This helps save money on the fuel bills at night or during darker days, as you don’t have to rely on expensive conventional electricity sources to keep the lights and heating on.

Installing photovoltaic panels can damage my roof

Solar panels are normally not attached directly to the roof, and therefore will not damage tiles, chimneys or roofing materials. Rather, they sit on special frames that keep them pointing in the right direction with the right amount of space between and under each panel to ensure their optimum performance. Solar panels are highly durable and can actually do a good job of protecting your roof from damage caused by heavy winds, storms, rain etc. The panels can be taken off the roof easily for maintenance or replacement without harming the surface underneath. You can even remove them temporarily when replacing your roof.

If I don’t own my own house, I can’t benefit from solar power

While the vast majority of tenants will require their landlord’s permission to have solar panels installed on the property in which they live, there are other ways to benefit from the technology. Look into whether there is a community solar programme near you, for example. These allow multiple households to take advantage of a single, shared solar array. The arrays are installed off site and their purchase and installation costs are shared between everyone who signs up to taking part. You can buy into such a scheme at the level that best suits your budget.

solar panel install crew

6 Good Questions Ask the Experts Before You Install Solar Panel

Once you have decided to switch to solar power to provide electricity for your home, there will be a number of decisions to make and preparations to complete before a solar panel install can take place. It is well worth engaging the services of a consultant to make sure that you get the right configuration for your individual property and energy needs. This can help you avoid costly mistakes. It can also speed up the installation process so that you can start saving money on energy bills sooner, rather than later.

Areas to consider when installing solar power

As with any larger-scale project of this nature, there are several aspects to bear in mind. Here are six of the main questions to ask and factors to consider before confirming your final choices for your domestic solar power installation.

How much space do you have?

As a rule, solar panels need at least four to seven inches of space between rows when installed on a roof or flat surface. This is to allow room for the frame to expand and contract with changes in temperature and weather conditions. A further twelve inches is required between the panels and the edge of the roof or surface in order to comply with building regulations and keep the frame secure. A key first step is to measure the available space that you have and work out the size and type of solar panel set-up that will fit and best suit the space.

How much energy do you use?

Energy use in domestic properties can vary depending on the size of the building, how many people live or are based there and the type of appliances and energy usage that are involved. A solar power consultant will be able to tell you how much energy each type and size of solar panel system can produce and the best fit for your individual household’s energy usage. You can also gain useful tips and advice on cutting down on energy usage and choosing the right solar panels to reduce your fuel bills.

When do you need to use energy?

Many homes use more electricity at night, when there is increased demand for lighting and heating. That said, however, since the COVID-19 pandemic, more of us are working from home than before. So, this could affect energy use during the day as well. If you find your household using more energy at night, consider installing a solar power system that connects to a storage battery. That way, you can keep any electricity that is not used in the day in reserve for use at night, when the sun is not out. Or for cloudy or dull days when the solar energy coming from the sun’s rays is not as powerful.

What type of solar power system do you need?

Most solar panels available today produce between 250 and 400 Watts of power. More accurate figures will depend on where you have placed the panels and how much exposure they get to the sun, how long for and how well maintained (or otherwise) the system is. A solar panel consultant can let you know how each type of system performs in terms of amount of energy produced, ease of storing it and whether it will fulfil your electricity needs in full, or only partially.

What type of local building regulations are there?

This question will depend entirely on what documentation is held by your local authority, Land Registry etc. Some types of housing and local areas will be subject to more stringent building regulations and planning permissions than others. For example, listed buildings and conservation areas will have more rules to follow when it comes to projects such as installing solar panels than others. This must be carefully checked to ensure that you do not fall foul of the law and therefore end up with added costs, irritating delays, unhappy neighbours and so on.

What financial incentives are involved?

Finally, installing solar panels might represent a large investment at first, but there are a number of financial advantages in doing so. For a start, most households find that their electricity and gas bills go down as the reliance on the National Grid lessens. There are even schemes to help you sell back any unused energy and so help offset the initial investment in solar panels. Many householders can also find that installing solar panels adds value to their property when it comes to selling it further down the line.