For many contemplating solar panels, there are various questions that need answering before making the investment. So, we’ve decided to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about solar panels.
Solar panel FAQs
How does a solar PV system work?
Solar PV systems feature an array of cells which contain a solar PV material that can convert radiation from the sun into direct current (DC) electricity. The electricity that is generated can be used to provide power for lighting and electrical equipment around the home.
How do solar panels work to generate electricity?
Each PV cell is essentially a sandwich made up of two slices of semiconducting material such as silicon. When light interacts with a silicon cell, it prompts electrons to be set in motion which initiates a flow of electric current known as the photovoltaic effect.
How it works:
• Solar cells absorb incoming energy in the form of sunlight.
• Electrons begin to flow, generating an electrical current.
• Wiring captures the electrical current and combines it with power from other solar cells.
Do solar panels still work on cloudy days?
Absolutely! It’s the radiation from the sun, rather than direct sunlight that enables solar PV panels to generate electricity.
Solar panels in hot sunny countries do collect more energy but don’t be fooled into thinking that they won’t work well in the UK. They don’t need constant direct sunlight to work and can still generate electricity when the weather is cloudy. Don’t forget either that Germany is currently the world leader in solar energy generation – which isn’t renowned for its sunny weather!
Do I need a South-facing roof for Solar Panels?
For a solar panel to generate the most power, it should ideally be facing true south. Roofs that face south-west and south-east are also considered highly efficient, but properties with east or west-facing roof will lose roughly 15% efficiency compared to a south-facing roof.
How much roof space do I need for Solar Panels?
Not all roofs are made to the same size or specifications, and some homes have roofs with steeper pitches, while others have roofs with more faces or strange shapes.
We’d love to tell you about a simple formula for the exact amount of square footage that is required for a certain number of panels, but it’s not quite that simple. Each residential solar panel array is custom designed to match the homeowner’s needs and the unique size, shape, and dimensions of their roof, so the square footage that’s needed is going to depend on several factors.
What’s the difference between solar PV and solar thermal?
Solar PV panels are used to generate electricity, whereas solar thermal – also known as a solar hot water system – is used to provide domestic hot water around the home. Check out our guide on Solar Thermal Systems.
How many solar panels are needed to power a typical house?
The average one-bedroom house needs six solar panels, a typical three-bedroom house requires 10 panels, and a five-bedroom house will usually need 14 panels.
How long does a solar panel last?
The latest solar panel models on the market have an expected lifespan of 40-50 years, and warranties that will keep them protected for at least half of that time.
The warranties also act to guarantee the performance levels of the solar panels over the course of the first half of their lives. Most warranties will guarantee that the performance will not drop below 80% before the warranty ends. In fact, some panels have been known to remain over 80% efficient even past the end of their lives.
If you take good care of your solar panels, then they could easily last over 40 years after being installed.
How long does it take for a solar panel to pay for itself?
Based on the Energy Saving Trust’s figures, it could take someone living in the middle of the country anywhere between 13 and 24 years to recoup the costs of installing panels, based on current energy prices, for a typical home – depending on how much electricity you use and when you use it, and what you’re paid under the smart export guarantee.
Does hail damage solar panels?
Solar panels are designed to withstand weather, including hail and thunderstorms. However, just like your car windscreen can sometimes get damaged by extreme hail, the same can happen to your panels. Poor quality solar panels are particularly susceptible to damage.
Do I need planning permission for solar panels?
You generally don’t need planning consent for solar panels. However, if you live in a conservation area or a listed building you should check first. Also, if you’re your solar panels would be visible from the roadside of the property you made need to apply for planning permission.
It’s best to check with your local council planning officer if you’re not sure.
Get in touch
If you’re looking to install solar panels in your housing stock we’d love to hear from you!