Are solar panels worth it in the UK?

Costs
Last updated on 24 July 202411 min read

Here's how much you can save with solar panels, their average break-even point, and all the factors that affect these numbers.

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Written byJosh Jackman
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At a glance

✂️ Solar panels will cut your electricity bills by 103%, on average

A solar & battery system will reduce your electricity bills by 103%, on average, which means you across a year you actually earn more than you spend (we explain this in the article).

This 103% figure is based on a household experiencing average UK irradiance with a 4.4 kilowatt-peak (kWp) solar panel system and a 5.2 kilowatt-hour (kWh) battery, using 3,500kWh of electricity each year and signed up to the Intelligent Octopus Flux export tariff.

The exact amount you'll save will depend on various factors including the size of your system, the location, angle, and direction of your roof, and how much electricity you usually consume per year.

🏡 They'll typically raises your home’s value by 3%

Solar panels will raise your home's value by 3% on average, adding thousands of pounds to its price tag.

A solar panel system typically boosts raise a home’s Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating by 18 points – a whole grade – according to our calculations, which are based on the government’s Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP) guidance. This increases the property's price.

🌍 Going solar can reduce your home's CO2 emissions by 61%

A solar panel system cuts your household's carbon footprint by 1.1 tonnes of CO2 per year, on average.

The average UK home is responsible for 1.8 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year, according to government data – meaning going solar shrinks its carbon footprint by 61%.

💷 You can earn money selling your excess electricity to the grid

Exporting your excess solar electricity to the grid can make you hundreds of pounds per year.

The average system exports around 40% of the solar electricity it generates, as there are plenty of days throughout the year when it produces more than you can use, even with a battery.

🛡️ Protect yourself from rising energy costs

The price of household energy is set to stay high for years to come – but thankfully, solar panels can lessen the impact by providing you with a free source of electricity.

Before you buy solar panels for your home, you’ll want to find out whether they’re worth the investment.

Using the sun to generate free, green energy can benefit you financially and environmentally – but it usually comes with a high upfront cost.

In this guide, we’ll address whether solar panels are worth it in a broad sense, by explaining everything from how much you'll save on your electricity bills and add to your home's value to how going solar will reduce your carbon footprint and protect you against energy price rises.

If you’re wondering how much a solar & battery system could save you, just answer a few quick questions below and we'll generate an estimate for you.

Is it worth getting solar panels?

For the majority of households in the UK, solar panels provide some excellent benefits and gradually pay off their upfront cost.

They can save you hundreds of pounds per year on your electricity bills, and tens of thousands of pounds over their lifespan.

This high level of savings means a solar & battery system will typically break even in less than eight years, and protect you against energy prices rising in the future.

Solar panels also raise your home’s value – and they do all of this while also shrinking your carbon footprint by around a tonne of CO2 per year.

The five reasons to get solar panels

Solar panels aren't the right choice for everyone – but they come with a lot of benefits that are worth investigating.

Here are the best reasons why you should consider getting a solar panel system for your household.

1. They will cut your electricity bills

A solar & battery system will reduce your electricity bills by 103%, on average, which means you across a year you actually earn more than you spend.

This might sound too good to be true, but it’s all because of the high performance of modern solar panels and storage batteries, as well as export income. The panels will dramatically reduce the amount of electricity you buy from the grid, and you’ll also earn money by selling your unused electricity to the grid. Octopus Energy's export tariffs have transformed the financial benefit of solar panels, and it's easy to sign up for one.

This 103% figure is based on a household experiencing average UK irradiance with a 4.4 kilowatt-peak (kWp) solar panel system and a 5.2 kilowatt-hour (kWh) battery, using 3,500kWh of electricity each year and signed up to the Intelligent Octopus Flux export tariff.

The exact amount you'll save will depend on various factors including the size of your system, the location, angle, and direction of your roof, and how much electricity you usually consume per year.

Bar chart showing vast reduction in energy bill savings after someone switches to solar (£783 falling to -£29)

Verified expert

Solar panels produce less electricity in the winter than they do in the summer, but across a 12-month period it balances out and leads to significant energy bill savings. You’ll need to rely on the grid a fair amount in the winter months, but in the summer months you’ll tend to produce more electricity than you need and sell the excess to the grid.

Alfie Ireland, Head of Operations & Technical at Sunsave

Alfie Ireland

Head of Operations & Technical at Sunsave

Alfie has worked in green tech for over a decade. During his four years at OVO, he helped develop the world’s largest domestic vehicle-to-grid trial.

2. You can sell their excess solar electricity to the grid

Exporting your excess solar electricity to the grid can make you hundreds of pounds per year.

The average system exports around 40% of the solar electricity it generates, as there are plenty of days throughout the year when it produces more than you can use, even with a battery.

If you’re signed up to a time of use export tariff like Intelligent Octopus Flux, your battery will also fill up on grid electricity during off-peak periods, then send this electricity back to the grid when an on-peak time rolls around.

Most suppliers only offer their top export tariffs to their own customers – and sometimes, it's worth switching.

Here's how much you can currently earn on the best export tariffs:

Company
Tariff name
Rate (p/kWh)
Average annual earnings (3.5kWp system)
Octopus
Intelligent Octopus Flux
27*
£340.13
Octopus
Octopus Flux
21*
£261.59
OVO
OVO SEG Tariff
20
£238.00
Good Energy
Solar Savings Exclusive
20
£238.00
So Energy
So Bright
20
£238.00
E.ON
Next Export Exclusive
16.5
£196.35
Octopus
Outgoing Fixed
15
£178.50
OVO
OVO SEG Tariff
15
£178.50
Scottish Power
SmartGen+
15
£178.50
British Gas
Export and Earn Plus
15
£178.50
Good Energy
Solar Savings
15
£178.50

3. They can shrink your carbon footprint

A solar panel system cuts your household's carbon footprint by 1.1 tonnes of CO2 per year, on average.

This estimate is based on the average saving made by 32 different solar & battery system designs from Sunsave’s database, comprising properties from all over England and Wales. Each system in this sample uses 430W solar panels and a 5.8kWh battery.

The average UK home is responsible for 3.5 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year, according to government data that shows the country's 28.4 million households emit 26% of all emissions.

So the 1.1 tonnes of CO2 the average solar home saves every year shrinks its carbon footprint by 61%.

And the larger your system, the more CO2 you can save.

4. They can protect you from rising energy costs

The price of household energy is set to stay high for years to come – but thankfully, solar panels can lessen the impact by providing you with a free source of electricity.

Past data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that between 2000 and 2020, electricity prices rose by 5.5% per year, on average.

Predicting the future is always difficult, but electricity price rises before 2022 were largely driven by inflation and grid upgrades, which are likely to continue being massive influences on your energy bills.

The UK is legally obliged to reach net zero emissions by 2050, which will require us to power energy-intensive processes like heating, lighting, and transport with green electricity – but that means we’ll need more than twice as much electricity as we use now.

That's why industry experts generally expect energy bills to stay high until the late 2030s, at least.

The cost of developing the UK’s grid infrastructure will be passed onto consumers, meaning your energy bills may keep rising well into the foreseeable future.

Thankfully, solar panels can instantly cut your bills by making you less dependent on expensive grid electricity, and your savings are likely to grow over their decades-long lifespan.

Graph showing potential energy price rises

5. Your home's value will increase

Solar panels will raise your home's value by 3% on average, adding thousands of pounds to its price tag.

This is due to their impact on your property’s Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating – an energy efficiency grade between A and G that's visible to everyone, including any potential buyers.

A solar panel system typically boosts raise a home’s EPC rating by 18 points – a whole grade – according to our calculations, which are based on the government’s Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP) guidance.

This will enable you to make as much as £10,000 more from selling your property, according to the Sustainable Homes and Buildings Coalition.

Verified expert

The relationship between solar panels and property value is already very good, and it’s going to keep on improving. As more people switch to heat pumps and electric cars and the demand for electricity rises, the value of solar panels will go up too. In fact, McKinsey estimates that electricity demand in the UK will rise by 50% between 2022 and 2035.

Alfie Ireland, Head of Operations & Technical at Sunsave

Alfie Ireland

Head of Operations & Technical at Sunsave

Alfie has worked in green tech for over a decade. During his four years at OVO, he helped develop the world’s largest domestic vehicle-to-grid trial.

How long does it take for solar panels to pay for themselves?

It takes just under eight years for a solar panel system to pay for itself, on average.

This estimate is based on an average of 32 different solar & battery system designs from Sunsave’s database, comprising properties from all over England and Wales. Each system in this sample uses 430W solar panels and a 5.8kWh battery, and is signed up to the Octopus Flux export tariff.

Payback periods vary substantially across different installations though, in both directions.

We’ve created designs for households in Bedfordshire and Sheffield which both have a payback period of 6.5 years, and another design for an Exeter property that breaks even in exactly six years.

All these designs are well-sized for how much electricity each household uses, are in locations which receive more daylight than average, and have roofs under limited shade.

On the other hand, we’ve designed systems for homes in Dewsbury and Durham that come with payback periods of 12 and 13 years, respectively.

Solar panel systems in these more northern locations will generally take longer to break even, as they don’t enjoy as much daylight as southern and eastern regions.

These were also slightly oversized systems, which usually pushes the break even point back.

It’s common for a homeowner to request a bigger system than they currently need, because they plan to purchase devices like an electric vehicle or heat pump.

Until they make these additions, their payback period will be longer – unless they’re using Intelligent Octopus Flux, which pays the same amount for the electricity you export as it charges for the electricity you import.

On this tariff, a solar panel system that generates far more electricity per year than your household uses will still break even quickly, while also making massive lifetime savings.

Verified expert

When you get solar panels installed, it’s important to remember that they’ll be generating the most energy during the middle of the day, so that’s the best time to do high-energy tasks. Put simply, if you don't have a home battery, the more of your solar power you use, the less you need to buy from the grid later

Dr. Steve Buckley

Energy Doctor and Head of Data Science at Loop

With a background in statistics and data science, Steve is in charge of product direction at Loop and has worked at multiple successful startups.

What factors affect the payback period of solar panels?

Multiple factors affect the payback period of solar panels.

You can often control a large number of these considerations – and you should take every reasonable step you can to do so.

For instance, you might not be able to affect how much daylight hits your roof, but you can choose one of the best solar panel installers around.

Here are the five main factors that can affect your payback period.

1. Your solar panels’ attributes

The size and efficiency of your solar panels will have a huge impact on how much electricity they produce, which will directly affect your savings and the length of your payback period.

The higher your system's peak power rating, the shorter your payback period, and if your panels are particularly efficient, they'll be able to generate more electricity while taking up less space – which may mean you can fit more panels on your roof.

You should also watch out for your panels' degradation rate, as this will affect how much electricity they produce as the years go by. Check a panel's performance warranty to see the minimum output that the manufacturer guarantees at different points in its lifespan.

The kind of inverter your system uses will have an effect too. Depending on your setup, using string inverters or microinverters may result in higher overall generation.

And of course, any downtime your system suffers will extend your payback period – which is one of the best reasons to get a high-quality set of solar panels.

2. Whether you have a battery

Your payback period will be heavily impacted by whether you have a solar battery or not.

If you do get a battery installed, its capacity and discharge rate will affect your savings. They'll determine how much of your solar electricity you can use, and how much you'll have to export to the grid.

These attributes are also relevant if you choose a solar export tariff like Intelligent Octopus Flux, which gets you more savings with every kWh that your battery can store and then quickly discharge during peak periods.

On the flip side, your battery will have a shorter lifespan if you charge and discharge it too often – and the sooner you have to replace your battery, the longer your payback period.

3. Your system’s location

How much electricity your panels produce is one of the biggest influences on your payback period – and your property's location has a large impact on your system's generation.

Whether you live in one the sunniest places in the UK or not, the amount of daylight that hits your panels will directly impact how long your payback period is.

It's not just geographical location that matters, though. Your system's angle and direction will also affect how much electricity it will generate, along with how much shading it endures.

The location of your property will also determine how much dust and debris lands on your panels, which can slightly reduce the amount of electricity they produce, especially if you live on the coast.

4. Your financial choices

Your payback period will be largely shaped by the amount you pay for your system. The less you pay, the sooner you'll reach your break-even point, everything else being equal.

The price you pay for grid electricity will also affect the length of your payback period, so make sure you choose a supplier and tariff that work for your household.

And the amount you receive for the electricity your system exports to the grid will also impact your timeline, which is a great reason to pick one of the best export tariffs.

5. Your electricity usage

The more electricity you currently use, the more you can save by getting solar panels – and the shorter your payback period should be.

Since solar panels can last up to 40 years, make sure you take your future electricity consumption into account too. For instance, If you're planning on getting a heat pump or electric vehicle charger at some point, a bigger system may be more profitable – though it could change your payback period.

Your daily and annual usage patterns will also have an impact, as they'll dictate how much of your solar electricity you use, and how much you send to the grid.

For example, if you consume more electricity in the summer, this should benefit you, as your panels will generate more electricity during this period.

If you would like to see the savings you could get from a solar & battery system, answer a few quick questions below and we’ll provide an estimate.

About half of UK households have less than £5,000 in savings, according to the FCA, which puts solar panels out of reach for millions.

Things to consider before you get solar panels

Like any other home improvement or piece of technology, there are a few issues you should take into account before you purchase a solar panel system.

Here are the more important things to consider.

There are certain roof requirements

A minority of roofs aren't right for solar panels.

Some are too small to fit panels. A 3kWp system requires about 23m² of roof space, while a a 5.2kWp array takes up around 38m².

Other are too shady. You can also get away with some shade on your panels, but excessive amounts will severely limit your system's output.

If you have any lower roofs, such as the ones on a conservatory or extension, your installer may also find it hard to construct the scaffolding they need to put panels on the roof.

So it's worth making sure that your roof is suitable for solar panels, then getting a professional installer to do the same.

Thankfully, most domestic roofs in this country will have no trouble meeting these requirements. They're usually strong enough and pitched at a good enough angle, and most other issues are manageable.

There’s a high upfront cost

Solar panels usually cost thousands of pounds upfront – for instance, a 3kW system will typically set you back around £9,000.

About half of UK households have less than £5,000 in savings, according to the FCA, which puts solar panels out of reach for millions.

Thankfully, you can use Sunsave Plus to completely remove the upfront cost.

Our solar subscription offers 24/7 monitoring and maintenance, free replacements for your battery and inverter, insurance against damage, fire, and theft, and downtime cover – all for a fixed monthly fee.

It also comes with the best-in-class kit that will work seamlessly, look excellent, and save you money from day one.

You’ll still need to use the grid

Solar panels won't cover your entire electricity usage, unfortunately.

They don't generate electricity at night, and their output drops during colder months, when there are fewer daylight hours.

Roughly speaking, solar panels in the UK will generate about 70% of their annual output in spring and summer, and the other 30% in autumn and winter.

A solar battery can enable you to use more of the electricity that your panels do produce, but you won't be able to store enough energy for long enough to fulfil all your electrical needs.

You'll therefore have to rely on the grid at times – though you'll generally reduce your dependence by more than half, according to our calculations.

Solar panel output by season

They require maintenance

Any piece of hardware will require maintenance at some point, and solar panels are no different.

Industry experts generally estimate that every year across a 20-year period, a solar & battery system in the UK has a 15% chance of needing to undergo maintenance, with three call-outs required on average.

The battery and inverter will usually last 10-12 years before needing to be replaced, which means additional costs are inevitable – that is, unless you sign up for Sunsave Plus.

Our subscription service comes with the Sunsave Guarantee, which means that for a fixed monthly fee and no upfront cost, we'll ensure your solar & battery system remains in superb condition for 20 years.

A bird's-eye view of black solar panels on a terracotta roof of a detached house, near other houses and trees, under a pale blue sky

Next steps

Solar panels are the best, most cost-effective way to generate green energy that you can use to cut your electricity bills.

On average, they come with a break-even point of just under eight years, hundreds of pounds in annual savings, and a 3% boost to your home’s value.

And with energy prices staying high even as the UK moves towards a greener, more electricity-heavy future, they can soften the impact of any price rises.

If you’re interested in how much you could save with a solar & battery system, enter a few details below and we’ll generate a quick estimate.

FAQs

Is it worth getting solar panels in the UK?

It’s definitely worth getting solar panels in the UK.

The UK isn’t especially sunny, but it receives more than enough daylight to save households hundreds of pounds per year on their electricity bills – and what you don’t use, you can sell to the grid.

With an average break-even point of seven years and a typical lifetime savings amount in the tens of thousands of pounds, solar panels are a no-brainer, as long as you can afford the upfront cost.

What is the main disadvantage of solar panels?

The main disadvantage of solar panels is the upfront cost, which is around £9,000 for a 3kW system.

If you add a solar battery to this installation, it’ll increase the cost to £11,000 – and most households don’t have that kind of money just lying around.

Fortunately, you can pay zero upfront with Sunsave Plus, the UK’s first solar subscription. For a monthly fee, you can access all the benefits of solar panels alongside 24/7 monitoring, free replacement parts, and a 20-year Sunsave Guarantee.

How many solar panels does it take to power a house?

The average three-bedroom household will need eight solar panels, all with a peak power rating of 400 watts.

How many solar panels you need will depend on a number of factors, including your annual electricity consumption, location, roof angle and direction, shading, which panels you choose, and whether or not you’re getting a solar battery installed too.

Are there any alternatives to solar panels?

There are alternatives to solar panels, but they're usually difficult to install, expensive to purchase, not nearly as effective, or all of the above.

Wind turbines function best in conjunction with solar panels, as they generate the most electricity during winter, when the wind is blowing and daylight hours are more limited. They usually cost tens of thousands of pounds.

If you have a flowing body of water near your home, you could use hydropower to produce energy, by installing a turbine to power a generator with the kinetic energy created by the water’s movement.

You’ll need planning permission, and it can be expensive.

Another option is anaerobic digestion, where you put your food and animal waste in a sealed, oxygen-free container that breaks down organic matter into biogas, which you can use to provide some power to your home.

How long does it take to make your money back on solar panels?

It takes just under eight years to make your money back on a solar panel system, on average.

This figure is based on an average of 32 different solar & battery system designs from Sunsave’s database, including properties from all over England and Wales. Each system in this sample is signed up to the Octopus Flux export tariff.

Payback periods vary substantially, though. Yours will mainly depend on the quality and size of your system, whether you have a battery, your system's location, how much you pay for your system, your current and future electricity consumption, and which export tariff you choose.

How much do solar panels cost for a three-bedroom house?

Solar panels typically cost around £9,000 for a three-bedroom house, including installation. For this outlay, you'll usually get a 3kWp solar panel system.

If you want to add a solar battery at the same time, you'll usually pay around £2,000 more, for a total cost of £11,000.

Of course, this amount is just an estimate, and can vary widely on a whole range of factors, including the size of your system and the complexity of the installation.

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Written byJosh Jackman

Josh has written about the rapid rise of home solar for the past five years. His data-driven work has been featured in United Nations and World Health Organisation documents, as well as publications including The Eco Experts, Financial Times, The Independent, The Telegraph, The Times, and The Sun. Josh has also been interviewed as a renewables expert on BBC One’s Rip-Off Britain, ITV1’s Tonight show, and BBC Radio 4 and 5.

Copyright © 2024 Sunsave

Sunsave Group Limited (company number: 13741813) and its affiliates, Sunsave UK Limited (company number: 13941186) and Sunsave Energy Limited (company number: 13952135), together trading as “Sunsave”, provide renewable energy systems and finance and are registered at 71-75 Shelton Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2H 9JQ. Sunsave UK Limited (FRN: 1008450) is a credit broker and can introduce you to a panel of lenders for the purpose of arranging finance. Sunsave Energy Limited (FRN: 979494) is a lender. Both Sunsave UK Limited and Sunsave Energy Limited are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.