Solar Panels Installation Costs in London

A row of houses with solar panels on the roofs

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March 12, 2024

Environmentally friendly and a means of generating your electricity, solar panels are growing in popularity here in the UK. One of the reasons for this is because their costs have reduced. To this extent, there has never been a better time to have solar panels fitted.

The cost of solar panels has fallen by around 82 per cent since 2010. That’s according to figures released by the International Renewable Agency (IRENA). At the same time, energy bills have increased dramatically. Experts reckon having solar panels fitted could reduce your electricity bills by as much as 70 per cent per year.

Average Costs for Solar Panels in London

But exactly how much does it cost to equip your home with solar panels these days? Does the cost of installation vary – and if so, why? To find out whether solar panels could help you reduce your electricity spending and the cost of them breaking even over a decade or so, then read this guide today.

Costs for Solar Panels in London

The cost of installing solar panels to reduce energy consumption – and therefore the size of your home’s carbon footprint – will depend on the type of system you buy and how many panels you will need.

Using a typical size for a 4kW photovoltaic (PV) system the cost usually averages out at around £8,000. That’s to cover roughly 29 square metres of roof. However, the price for the same system could also be as low as £5,000 or as high as £11,000.

Broken down further, the average costs for solar PV panels in relation to the size of property they can equip are:

  • One-bedroom flat with a 3kW system with 12 panels costs an average of £5,500
  • Two-bedroom house with a 4kW system and 16 panels, costs £7,000 on average
  • Three-bedroom house with a 5kW system and 20 panels averages £8,500
  • Four-bedroom house with a 6kW system and 24 panels costs £10,000 on average

Installation Costs

The cost of solar panel installation depends mainly on the size of your property, in the sense that the number of solar panels you will need to make a difference to your energy consumption, is directly related to how big your roof is. Another cost differential is where in the UK you live.

Roughly you can expect to pay an average of £400 per day for labour.

In London you can expect to pay up to £200 more than elsewhere in the UK – and that’s just for daily labour installation costs.

A man fitting solar panels

Factors That Affect Costs

Several factors could mean you paying less or more than you expected for installing solar panels in your home. That’s because the total cost will depend on how much of the roof you’d like covered. Then there is the type of energy-saving system you choose.

System Size

The larger your house and the roof area to cover, the more panels you will need. And, the bigger the size of the solar panel system, then the longer it will take to install. Having said that, the bigger the system, then the lower the cost per kW so it may not be quite as expensive as you had originally thought.

Type of Solar Panels

Typically, domestic solar panel installation here in the UK involves using three different types of systems. These are monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film panels.

Monocrystalline Solar Panels

Monocrystalline panels – also referred to as ‘black’ solar panels – are the most energy-efficient type you can buy. That’s because they get more energy from low light levels and can convert it into energy. Because of this, they are also the most expensive – coming in at £1 to £1.50 per watt. On the plus side though, you will need fewer panels to get a good result.

Polycrystalline Solar Panels

At around £1 per wall, Polycrystalline panels are less expensive. But, that also means they aren’t as efficient as monocrystalline panels. Neither do they last as long. Still, they are a good way to reduce your carbon footprint.

Thin-film Solar Panels

As their name suggests, thin-film solar panels are slimline so less noticeable than the other two types of panels. However, you will need more of them to have the same effect, meaning that although they are initially the cheapest to buy, you do need more of them to generate a similar amount of solar energy saving.

Bifacial Solar Panels

This type of solar PV panel has glass on both sides, allowing it to absorb more sun – up to 30 per cent more than monocrystalline panels, say some experts. Because of their efficiency, fewer panels are needed. The panels weigh more though, which means their installation can be trickier. Because of this, they cost more to install.

Roof Type and Condition

Other factors that affect the cost of installing solar panels include the condition and strength of your roof, how easy it is to access and how difficult the actual installation process proves. A difficult installation will take longer in labour hours, for instance.

Location and Sun Exposure

As well as the size of your roof having a bearing on the cost of any solar panel installation, the direction in which your house faces will also matter.

South-facing roofs are much more efficient at making renewable energy than those which are north-facing. In terms of location, there is also the fact that installation costs will be higher in London and other large cities, simply because the cost of living here is too.

Additional Components Required

In addition to having the solar PV panels fitted, it makes sense to get other components added at the same time. This could, for instance, involve adding pigeon-proofing.

It could also be to have a solar battery added so that you can store unused energy and use it when you need it. Although a typical 4kW battery costs around £5,000 it allows you to use your solar panels to maximum capacity. In other words, solar batteries pay for themselves over time.

Labour Costs

The bill for installing energy-saving solar PV panels will already have factored in labour hours. But if you want to break it down you can factor in the number of people working on the installation and the cost per day. You can typically factor in a cost of £400 on average for an individual’s daily rate. It’s usually carried out in twos so expect the total labour rate to come in at around £800.

A more complicated way to calculate labour costs is in terms of wattage. For instance, if the installation costs are 20 pence per watt then a 4kW system will be 20 x 4000, which equals £800.

Permitting and Regulatory Costs

As a rule, you don’t need planning permission to install solar panels for renewable energy on your roof. That is unless your property is a listed building or in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

For this reason, it is always important to ensure that the company that fits your solar panels are MCS-approved. That way you will know that all the necessary regulations have been checked.

For a listed building you will be required to ask for permission to install solar panels. This is initially via the local authority in whose area the house sits. The council will then approach Historic England for final approval. Even if it is granted, the solar panel installation will probably come with a number of restrictions.

The regulations mainly include both height – and sight–restrictions. For instance, your solar panels should not be erected any higher than the apex of the roof itself. Nor should they overhang the ridge tiles or the side of the roof. Current stipulations are that there should be a distance of at least 15cm between the edge of the roof and a solar panel.

Incentives and Rebates

It is possible to reduce the cost of your solar panels with Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) payments. This is where the government pays you for excess electricity that your panels have generated but that you haven’t got around to using. That renewable solar energy is sent back to the National Grid and used to provide energy for other households.

To do this you need to find an electricity supplier who offers this SEG payments tariff. Rates differ between suppliers so it is always worth doing a bit of research before signing up with one particular electricity company. The savings roughly work out at 6.4p per kW.

Other UK incentives to encourage householders to reduce the size of their carbon footprint and install solar panels include the ECO4 Scheme and the Zero VAT policy.

The ECO4 scheme provides funding for energy-poor Scottish households on benefits to buy solar panels. The Zero VAT policy cut out the added costs of VAT on panels so made them less expensive to buy upfront.

The Home Upgrade Grant gives solar panel funding to low-income families in England, including those who are off-grid. A similar grant scheme in Wales is called Nest.

Savings You Can Make with Solar Panels

It’s possible to save anything from £500 to £1,000 on your energy bills every year when you invest in solar energy.

Last summer, producing excess electricity meant saving anything from £200 up to £500 per year with a 4kW system.

Long-term savings on the SEG scheme could be as much as £13,000 to £29,000 after 25 years.

Those who don’t have a battery attached to their solar panels can save money by using electrical appliances such as a washing machine or dishwasher on a sunny day – that way they are directly using the renewable energy being generated at that time. The solar panels are unable to generate electricity at nightfall, which is when the system is reliant on electricity from the grid.

How Long to Break Even?

It takes anything from nine to 12 years to break even for the cost of your solar PV panels. Although it is not that straightforward in terms of a universal figure. It depends on how big your solar panel system is, how much renewable energy you use, what the electricity costs are and what your export tariff works out at.

The bigger your solar panel system, the more energy you will generate and the more money you will save. On that note then, typically a large 6kW solar panel system can break even quicker than a smaller 3kW system.

Ongoing Costs to Consider

Like many large household items known for their high electrical consumption, there are ongoing costs connected to installing solar panels.

However, these aren’t much in comparison to, for example, a washing machine or dishwasher. Both can break down and require fixing whereas you can expect your solar panels to continue producing renewable energy for you and your family for at least a decade or more.

Solar Panel Inverter

A key component of your solar panel system is the solar panel inverter. This is the item that converts the electricity from a direct current (DC) to an alternative current (AC).

In other words, it allows the solar power to be used inside the home as a normal electrical current. An inverter lasts for around a decade so this will need to be replaced at least once and probably twice in 25 years. The cost of an inverter ranges from £500 up to £1000.

Maintenance and Repair

Solar panels don’t, as a rule, require a lot of maintenance – or repair, for that matter. The glass can get broken by a freak accident, such as a heavy branch falling on the panel, or it being hit by a stray cricket ball. Storms and birds pecking can also cause them to break down. The latter can be avoided by getting birdproofing at the time of installation.

Cleaning

A man cleaning solar panels

As a rule, cleaning your solar panels isn’t usually necessary since, happily, the rain is famous for washing any dirt away. Only if there has been a season of drought will dust and dirt build up. This can be cleaned off using a professional solar panel cleaner and should only cost around £100. It’s possible to do a DIY cleaning version too, using a hose and ladder, of course.

The Installation Process

Unless the property is particularly large, it will usually take just one day to install a solar panel system. This will involve clearing the roof of tiles and fixing the panels with aluminium brackets.

Erecting Scaffolding

The first job your solar panel installers will do is to put up the scaffolding. It might be an idea to check that the actual cost of the scaffolding is included in the overall cost and isn’t an add-on.

Attaching Anchors

Roof anchors are needed to make sure your solar panels are stable on their frame. This involves lifting certain roof tiles and attaching the roof anchors to rafters. The type of roof anchors used depends on the existing roof tiles.

Fitting the Frame

Solar panel rails in the form of an aluminium frame will then be attached to the roof anchors. The rails are placed in both a vertical and horizontal fashion so that the solar panels are easy to move onto the roof. Once the panels are attached to the frame the installer will work out the best angle to get the sun. They will then secure them to the frame.

Wiring Panels

The solar panels are already wired during manufacture. Now it’s a case of attaching that wiring to an inverter. An electrician is needed to get the inverter working. They will usually set it up in the loft area of your home. Once this is set up you should be able to use the free electricity generated by the sun, reducing your energy bills.

Double Checking

At this point, your electricity will be switched off so that the electrician can double-check that all wires and connections are working. For instance, the consumer unit is wired up and the energy generation meter is in sight of the fuse box. Switching the electricity back on allows them to check that the solar panel installations are indeed working as they should.

Issuing Certification

Your installer will now go and register your solar panel installation with the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS). Within a few days, you’ll receive the certificate to show your panels are working as they should.

And on that note, recent figures from the MCS show that more than 1.4 million UK householders have gone down the solar panel route to cut back on their bills and live a guilt-free and eco-friendly existence.

DIY Vs Hiring a Professional

It is possible to install solar panels on a DIY basis, but only if you have a very good idea of what you are doing. That’s mainly in terms of ensuring the panels are angled correctly to get the most out of the sun’s rays.

As for how many panels you will need, that involves calculating the size of your roof. It also depends on the type of solar panels you plan on using for your energy-saving installation. For instance, your roof would have to be strong enough to cope with the heavier solar panels and if not, then you don’t have any choice but to use a thinner version.

Even if you were capable of installing the solar panels to a high degree, you will still need to get a professional installer to certify that the system is put up correctly. That’s if you want to take advantage of the tariff system for selling unused energy to the electricity grid (ie the Smart Export Guarantee scheme).

Finding Someone to Install Solar Panels in London

If you live in the capital and you are set on installing solar panels then it always pays (quite literally) to do your research first. Does the company you like sell the kind of solar panels you will need for your size of house? If not, then it’s time to look for another firm.

A tradesmen inspecting solar panels

Will they be able to attach a solar battery so that you can store electricity and start claiming back from the grid when you put extra in? This is a great way to recoup some of the initial expense of your solar panel installation so it’s something that should be looked into.

Ask around your work colleagues, neighbours, friends and family to find out if any of them have solar panels. If so, enquire how much the cost was and find out if the savings are as good up front as they were told. Different companies have different energy tariffs, after all.

But it’s not just about the money (although this is important, of course). No, there is also the question of warranty for the solar panel system and the installation itself. It’s not unheard of for companies to offer up to 30 years warranty on solar panels and a decade for the work involved in the installation.

Once you’ve been given the names of certain solar power panel installation companies then take a look at online reviews to see what experience others had with the installers. You should be able to find out whether they were punctual, completed the job when they said they did and if they tidied up afterwards.

The Page

Considering installing solar panels in your home? If you can afford the upfront costs then it certainly seems a wise decision – especially with the astronomical cost of electricity these days. And there is no guarantee it’s going to come down in price any time soon.

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