Solar energy is very 'in' at the moment, particularly in the UK, where solar panel adoption has reached over 1 million homes. It's easy to see why. Solar energy is easy to set up, relatively low cost and very low maintenance.
It is not, however, without its faults, which is why you should be aware of both the benefits and the drawbacks of solar power if you're thinking of investing in solar panels for your roof.
Solar energy is naturally occurring and will never run out, so it doesn't detract from existing resources and is potentially limitless. It's created by harnessing the natural energy of the sun, which is sent through conductors to generate an electric current. Solar panels are also available in a number of options when it comes to style and size - as well as power.
As far as environmental impact is concerned, solar power is responsible for more than 75% less carbon per kWh than electricity drawn from the grid, which works out as a carbon offset of the amount produced during a standard transatlantic flight.
Perhaps the major incentive when it comes to installing solar panels on your roof is the reduction in energy bills. On average, you'll save up to 30% on your typical electricity bills, which works out to an annual saving of over '100.
As far as a return on investment goes, you'll earn around a 4.8% return on average, which is a pretty substantial return for an investment that is also helping the environment.
It should only take a single day or afternoon to install your solar panels, so while it might mean a major change to the way you live your life, it won't disrupt your life in a significant way. Of course, you'll also have to schedule some inspections prior to installation to make sure your home is suitable, but the job itself should take no more than a few hours. It's also doubtful that you'll need to apply for planning permission.
While you might have to semi-regularly clean the panels and it's recommended you give them a minor inspection every few months to make sure everything is in working order, residential solar panels require very little maintenance, generally speaking.
The vast majority of solar panels also come with at least a 25-year warranty and can be covered by insurance, so in the event of an accident you'll be covered either way.
Solar panels create no major noise when operating, which is a major benefit when compared to the other major renewable energy source - wind turbines.
The Upfront Cost
On average, a homeowner can expect to pay upwards of '2,000 for each kilowatt of energy generation. With most systems averaging around 4Kw, you'll be looking at an absolute minimum of '4000.
Solar panel grant systems do exist in the UK, but not in all areas, so you will also probably have to dip into your savings or take out a loan. In some situations, you might also have to pay to prepare your roof for solar panels.
If you're trying to go for the greenest option possible, note that while they do offset carbon production, solar panels do still produce a trace amount of carbon during the creation of the metal frames that house the panels themselves and the actual glass of the panels.
Solar panels, by their very nature, will only produce energy during daylight hours. This means that during the night and when it's particularly overcast, you will have to switch back to using electricity from the grid.
There's no avoiding the fact that for many people, solar panels are an eyesore. This means you might be potentially harming the retail value of your home, despite the energy saving and environmental incentives. Of course, you might actually quite like the look of your solar panels - but not everyone will share that view.
Finally, solar panels won't be suitable for all roof installations, simply due to a lack of space. Note that the average solar panel installation will require around 1.4 square metres per panel, with the typical system containing a minimum of 14 panels. Your roof might also be unsuitable if the pitch is facing away from the sun.