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How many solar panels do I need?

The quick answer:

There is no quick answer. The beauty of solar panel installation is that it can be tailored to your exact requirements.

How many solar panels you need is determined by several factors like the size of your property, your household’s lifestyle, and the time of day that you typically use the most energy. No single household is likely to have the same requirements as the next.

That’s why it’s always best to talk to a solar panel installation expert so they can guide you based on your individual needs.

However, if you’re dipping your toe into the world of solar and are just curious, we’ve highlighted some key questions and considerations below.

Take a closer look at each of the factors so that you can start exploring a solar system that complements your property, maximises energy efficiency and saves you as much of your hard-earned cash as possible.

Can solar panels power a house?

In short, yes. Solar panels can power your house but every property is unique so the type and size of system you need can vary greatly. There are several factors that can make your requirements very different to those of even your closest neighbour.

One important factor that impacts how many solar panels you need is the size of your home. If you live in a large property, it’s likely that your household energy demand will be higher than that of a smaller home. Having lots of people living at home, owning lots of electrical appliances and having more rooms to heat during the winter can all cause high energy consumption. Ofgem suggests a property with 1-2 occupants will have an average annual electricity use of 2,200 kWh, while a household of 4-5 people typically uses 6,700 kWh.

Such a big difference in energy demand from home to home inevitably impacts the number of solar panels you need. Large homes usually require more panels and often have space available on the roof and elsewhere for them to be installed. However, this doesn’t mean that solar systems aren’t available to you if you only have limited space to work with. Systems have been developed that efficiently optimise the use of space so smaller households can rely on solar panels to meet their energy demand.

The efficiency of solar panels themselves is constantly improving. A single standard panel is capable of producing between 546-874 kWh per year, meaning 4 panels could meet the average electricity usage of a small home, although you’re likely to need a few more for your entire energy demand. Even the smallest of properties will usually have enough space for a system of that size.

There will inevitably be times when your panels produce more energy than you need at that very moment. Rather than it going to waste, solar panel battery storage can be installed to store any excess energy for use outside of daylight hours. This means that you don’t necessarily need the number of panels it takes to meet your absolute maximum energy output. Instead, fewer panels can be used to keep your batteries topped up at times when you’re not consuming energy.

Another space-saving benefit of battery storage systems is that they are stackable in series. Each device can be seamlessly connected to the next without the need for external cabling. Not only does this maximise your storage capacity, it also ensures your system is as compact as possible.

Contacting our experts is the best way to understand how many solar panels you need and what type of system your property requires, so don’t hesitate to get in touch.

A large property with a building to the side which has solar panels on the roof.

Can solar panels heat a house in the UK?

It’s safe to say we aren’t always blessed with glorious sunshine here in the UK. The winters are long and the rest of the year is unpredictable at best. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that heating our homes is what we use most of our household energy for. Working out whether solar panels can heat your house depends on the capacity of your system and the amount of energy you use, but they can certainly make a significant contribution.

Thanks to the introduction of battery storage, surplus energy produced during the summer when you don’t have the heating on can be stored and used once the temperature drops. While solar PV output will inevitably decrease in the winter, it never reaches zero so you will always have an incoming supply on top of any energy you’ve already stored. Even if you can’t fully rely on solar panels for heating, the contribution they make reduces your dependence on the grid supply, giving you greater energy independence and making you less susceptible to steep energy price hikes.

Not only does your wallet feel the benefits, but the planet too. Unlike traditional methods, solar panels take advantage of the sun’s infinite supply of renewable energy meaning no harmful greenhouse emissions are produced. By installing solar panels you can play your part in helping the environment even while you’re tucked up at home with the heating on high.

Solar panels on the roof of a brick house.

Will solar panels save me money?

If you purchase the correct solar PV system for your home then you’ll save money regardless of how many solar panels you need. In terms of solar PV cost, our prices for averaged-sized systems typically range from £4,000 to £10,000. Naturally, if you require a lot of solar panels then this will involve a larger upfront cost, but the greater capacity will enable you to produce and store more energy, meaning you’ll make larger savings in less time. These savings will balance out the initial cost and speed up your return on investment.

How long it takes to make your money back will depend on the size, type and how effectively you utilise your solar system. All things considered, we find that customers make their money back in 4-12 years but usually fall within the 6-10 year range. This is largely thanks to the savings you’ll make on your energy bills (between 20%–80%), but also through the Smart Export Guarantee scheme. The SEG presents solar panel users with the opportunity to sell any excess energy they’ve stored back to the grid. Whether you keep your energy for later use outside of daylight hours, or choose to sell it, you’ll still be making great savings.

We understand that you might have come across several factors during your research into solar panels that imply your savings will be far more limited, especially if you invest in a high number of solar panels. Many of these factors either aren’t true or are blown widely out of proportion, so we’ve cleared them up for you.

Firstly, yes, there is some truth to the fact that having your solar panels face directly south will offer maximum efficiency. Not every property offers an absolutely perfect location but you’re only likely to experience a noticeably lower output if your panels are in a very unsuitable position. Improvements in solar panel technology mean they’re now efficient enough to produce an adequate amount of energy even if they aren’t in the prime location. Our trusted experts will work with you to identify a spot that maximises efficiency and complements your property’s layout, regardless of how many solar panels you need.

Secondly, that ideal location doesn’t need to be a huge roof. Of course, space on your house’s roof will often be used if it’s available and you require a high number of panels, but most properties have plenty of other options, whether it’s on the ground or on other buildings like sheds and garages. Again, our experts inspect properties both large and small to find the best solar solution for you.

And finally, solar panels aren’t only effective in the blazing sun. Sunny days present the opportunity for maximum efficiency but panels still absorb light when it’s overcast or rainy, so don’t let the UK climate put you off. The only time panels don’t produce energy is during the night but storage batteries ensure you can use renewable solar energy at any hour of the day.

Solar PV offers numerous benefits, including 20–80% savings on your energy bills and more energy independence from the grid.

For those of you curious about how solar panels work, in this article, we shine (ahem) sunlight on how solar PV captures solar rays and converts them to energy to power your home. And, in turn, how it converts to more cash in your wallet.

Let’s dive in.

First things first, how do solar panels actually work?

In short, solar panels work by absorbing energy from the sun and converting it into power. There are a few different types of panels but Solar PV panels, the type you’re likely to be most familiar with, can be used to produce the electricity you use on a daily basis. The process of how that happens involves several stages.

Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels consist of cells that incorporate layers of semiconducting material. When light shines on these cells, electricity flows across the layers. Sunny conditions are ideal for solar power generation — the greater the intensity of light, the greater the flow of electricity.

The materials and processes that go into creating solar panels are constantly changing to allow for constant efficiency improvement. For example, researchers at NASA are currently developing a solar cell that could reach over 40% efficiency. This comes less than a year after the 30% threshold was crossed. Improvements like this ensure that while blazing sunlight provides optimal conditions, solar panels are now more than capable of sufficiently meeting energy demand when it’s overcast or even raining. So don’t panic, your solar panels will still work well during the 75% of the year that it isn’t sunny here in the UK (at least we have good pubs).

Slanted solar panels on top of a building.

How are solar panels connected to my home electrics?

Solar panel installation is quick and simple. Once our experts have inspected your property, identified how many panels and the type of system you need, and finalised any additional requirements with you, our VAT-free installation can typically be completed in 6–8 hours. This includes both positioning your panels and connecting them to your electrics so that you can start benefitting from renewable, infinite energy as soon as possible.

Solar panels are connected to your home through an inverter that converts DC power sent from your panels to AC power that can be safely used around the property. Every converter has a maximum capacity so it’s essential you have one that’s capable of handling the output from your solar panels. If they’re producing too much energy, then your supply will be capped by the inverter and your solar system won’t perform to its full potential, wasting energy and increasing the length of time it takes for you to make your money back.

Our trusted advisors will help you find the inverter you need to get the very best out of your solar PV system, so don’t hesitate to get in touch.

A man using an electrical device during a solar panel installation.

What are solar batteries and how do they work?

Another key component of how solar panels work is storage batteries. As well as being connected to your home so you can use solar energy as it’s being absorbed, we also highly recommend connecting your panels to a series of batteries that can store excess energy for use when you need it. Perhaps you’re away from home or enjoying a long summer’s day in the garden. In either case, there isn’t much need for energy such as heating your home. Rather than the energy absorbed by your solar panels being wasted, it can be stored in batteries until you’re ready to use it outside of daylight hours. This might be that very evening, or if you want to save it until the winter when you have the heating on for most of the day, then you can do that too.

Each individual battery can be connected in series without the need for external wiring. This keeps the system as compact as possible, ensuring it can still be installed on properties that have limited space. One factor you’ll need to consider is how many batteries you need in relation to the number of panels you have. Too many batteries and you’ll never come close to producing the amount of energy needed to fill them. Conversely, having too many solar panels will cause you to produce more energy than you have the capacity to store, meaning energy would be wasted. Again, our trusted advisors can help to achieve the best panel-to-battery ratio for you.

The way solar panels and batteries work also involves them being connected to the national grid. You’re probably wondering how and why that’s the case when one of the main benefits of installing solar panels is the greater energy independence you receive from the grid. Well, there’s a very good reason. If you’ve managed to store more energy in your batteries than you could ever possibly use, the Smart Export Guarantee scheme (SEG) gives you the option to sell that energy back to the grid, presenting another great way to speed up your return on investment.

Green hills and trees with leaves in the foreground.

I understand how solar panels work, but why do I need them?

Solar panels harness the infinite power of the sun and offer several fantastic benefits, both financial and environmental. On top of money received through the SEG, installing a solar system reduces your reliance on the grid supply. As of January 2024, around 4 in 10 adults in the UK said it was very or somewhat difficult for them to afford their energy bills. Even if you don’t produce enough energy to fully meet your household demand, you’ll still make huge savings on your energy bills and limit your susceptibility to price hikes. Savings can be so great that we find our customers usually make their money back on their initial solar panel investment within 6–10 years.

If the financial advantages of solar panels alone haven’t swayed you, then consider how they can help the environment too. Solar energy is clean and renewable as the process doesn’t produce any of the harmful greenhouse emissions that come with other traditional methods. Once solar panels have been installed, you can reduce your carbon footprint without making any drastic changes to your lifestyle, all to the benefit of our planet.