Busting solar panel myths
From reducing carbon footprints to avoiding skyrocketing energy prices, there are plenty of reasons to consider adding solar panels to a home. But many people are still unsure whether solar is a good choice for their property – and their uncertainty is often due to common misconceptions about solar panels, how they are installed, how they work and their efficiency.
Let’s look at some of the common myths around solar panels, bring some clarity to those misconceptions and demonstrate the benefits of solar tiles.
Myth 1: It’s not sunny enough in the UK for solar panels
The UK may not be known for its warm climate and sunny skies, but when generating electricity with solar panels, the Great British Weather is not a problem. First of all, it’s important to remember that it’s not heat that makes photovoltaic panels work, but UV light and, even in the winter, British homes get several hours of daylight every day.
Myth 2: Installing solar panels is complicated and expensive
The complexity and expense of a solar panel installation will depend on the system being installed. Marley SolarTile®, for example, is an integrated solar system that is attached to the underlying roof structure and replaces roof tiles, saving both time and money. Professional roofers require no special tools or additional skills to install Marley SolarTile®, and installation is both quick and inexpensive.
Often, the real expense of solar installation comes from putting up scaffolding and preparing the roof surface. That’s why the best time to install solar panels is when other roof work is already being carried out. And, if your roof doesn’t need refurbishment or repair, a solar system will still save you money in the long run.
The average cost of a 4kW solar PV system including installation, is around £5,000. Up until the recent price increases, the average cost of electricity from the National Grid was 23p per kWh, while solar has been calculated to cost around 9p per kWh (calculated over a 25-year period). With energy price caps going up in April 2022, and then again in October 2022 – homeowners will see more and more savings when using solar energy.
If you generate electricity that doesn’t get used, it can also be sold back to the grid through the Smart Export Guarantee. The rates vary but are typically around 5.5p per kWh. However, it’s important to note that it’s more cost-effective to store the low-cost solar energy in a battery system, rather than to export it to the grid.
Our next myth will look at pay-back periods, giving you an even better idea of the cost benefits of a solar installation. You can also try the Solar Energy Calculator on the Energy Savings Trust website. This tool estimates how much you could save by installing solar panels, based on your specific information, such as location, roof orientation and solar installation size.
Myth 3: It takes too long to recoup the cost of a solar installation
It’s difficult to predict an exact payback period for a solar installation because there are many factors to consider, including:
- Location and orientation of solar panels – These play a part in how much electricity the system generates.
- Household size and amount of electricity used – Households that use more electricity will see their return on investment much more quickly.
- Current energy costs – As energy prices continue to rise, the value provided by a solar system becomes more evident.
- Cost of solar system and installation – While solar technology is becoming more affordable, the cost of labour is going up. Both of these will play a role in the overall cost of a system and its payback period.
Research from SolarEnergy UK suggests that the average solar system is likely to pay itself back within ten years. This is for the “home all day” behavioural category, under optimal conditions such as a south-facing roof. However, this research was carried out before the 2022 energy price increases so, depending on what happens with energy prices in the medium- to long-term, homeowners may see that the payback period shorten significantly.
It’s also important to note that solar arrays are often installed as part of a re-roofing project. In these situations, solar panels can speed up installation times and lead to savings on roof coverings, as fewer roof tiles will be required. These savings will also play a role in the solar system’s payback period.
Myth 4: Solar panels require a lot of maintenance
Again, this depends on the type of system being installed. On-roof solar systems, which were the most common type of solar system a few years ago, required a significant amount of maintenance. They were installed above the roof surface, so debris often built-up underneath. The gap between the roof surface and the solar panels can also provide an inviting place for birds and other animals to seek shelter and set up homes. So, regular cleaning was a must.
Integrated solar panels, such as Marley SolarTile®, mitigate these problems, as there is no space under the solar panels for debris to accumulate.
Solar panels may suffer from decreased efficiency during dry spells, as dust can build up on the surface, blocking some light. However, the panels are self-cleaning, and a rain shower can reset a panel’s efficiency in just a few minutes.
Myth 5: Solar panels may damage the roof
Solar panels are designed to be installed on a roof, so are unlikely to cause damage. As mentioned above, on-roof systems can trap debris or attract pests, leading to roof damage.
Improper installation can also be a problem with on-roof systems. And, since on-roof systems are installed on completed roofs, the footfalls of installers can damage the roof tiles, leading to damage that may not become evident for 9–12 months due to capillary action and weathering. There is an additional threat that when securing bolt-on panels you are potentially voiding the tile manufacturer’s warranty.
Since Marley SolarTile® is an integrated system, it is installed before the roof tiles go in place, avoiding any chance of roof damage during installation.