A comprehensive guide to solar panels.

Sun hugging solar panel

Harnessing solar power.

As the world tilts towards sustainable living and renewable energy sources, solar panels have surged to the forefront of this revolution. 

That’s why we’re here to provide you with a detailed overview of solar panels, explain how they work, their benefits, and the steps involved in adopting this technology. Whether you're a homeowner considering a switch to renewable energy, a business looking to reduce operational costs, or simply a curious mind - we want to help you understand solar panels and their role in the move towards a more sustainable future.

Understanding solar energy systems.

The principle behind solar panels is simpler than you think. At the heart of every solar panel lies an array of photovoltaic (PV) cells, made of a semi-conductor like silicon. These PV cells possess the remarkable ability to convert sunlight into usable electricity. The process, known as the photovoltaic effect, is the cornerstone of solar energy production.

When sunlight strikes a PV cell, it interacts with the semiconductor material. The energy from the sunlight (photons) knocks electrons loose from their atoms, creating free electrons. These free electrons are then able to flow through the PV cell, and generate an electric current. This current is direct current (DC) since it flows in one direction only.

However, the electrical grid and most household appliances operate on alternating current (AC), which changes direction 50 times a second. To make the DC electricity from the PV cells compatible with the grid and appliances, it must be converted using an inverter. 

The inverter transforms the DC power into AC power, and allows the electricity generated by the solar panels to be seamlessly integrated into the existing electrical system.

The beauty of solar energy lies in this simple and sustainable power generation. Sunlight, an abundant and renewable resource, is harnessed by solar panels and converted into electricity without producing greenhouse gases in the process. This reduces our reliance on fossil fuels and contributes to a cleaner future.

Why consider solar panels?

There are many compelling reasons for us to shift towards solar energy. We’ve put together some of the top advantages of solar panels.

Environmental benefits:

Solar energy is a clean and renewable source of power that significantly reduces our reliance on fossil fuels. By harnessing the Sun's energy, we can reduce carbon emissions and help combat climate change. What’s more, solar energy helps to improve air quality by reducing the overall amount of pollutants.

Economic advantages:

Installing solar panels can lead to substantial cost savings over the lifetime of the system. The initial investment in solar panels is typically offset by reduced electricity bills, and in many cases, homeowners can also earn money by selling excess energy back to the grid, through the Smart Export Guarantee scheme (SEG). Check out our SEG tariffs.

Enhanced property value:

Properties with solar panels are often more attractive to potential buyers, as they offer energy savings and a reduced carbon footprint. 

Energy independence:

By generating your own electricity with solar panels, you can reduce your reliance on the power grid and become more energy independent. This can be especially beneficial if there are power outages, as you may still be able to generate electricity for your home.

Think solar panels could be right for your home? Check out our latest offers on solar panel installations.

How solar panels are installed.

See how solar panels and battery storage are installed with our customer and colleague, Brian who shares his home installation journey.

Solar panel efficiency factors.

Several factors can affect how well your solar panels work.

Orientation and tilt of installation.

Here in the UK, the ideal orientation for solar panels is facing directly south. This ensures maximum sun exposure throughout the day.

The optimal tilt angle varies depending on your location and the time of year. Generally, a tilt angle equal to your latitude provides the best results.


Even small amounts of shading on your rooftop can reduce solar panel output. When planning your installation, check if there are any obstructions, such as trees, buildings, or chimneys, that could cast shadows on the panels. Don’t panic if you find any, you may still be able to benefit from solar panels with our clever optimise solar package. Our industry leading SolarEdge tech monitors each panel’s performance to help get the most out of your solar array.

Quality and type of panels.

Monocrystalline solar panels are the most efficient type, followed by polycrystalline panels. Thin-film solar panels are the least efficient but are also the most affordable. The efficiency of a solar panel is measured as a percentage of the amount of sunlight that strikes it that is converted into electricity. So you should weigh up the initial outlay against the long term savings when deciding which panels to install. 

Local weather conditions.

The amount of solar radiation (sunlight) your location receives will determine how much electricity your solar panels can produce.

Areas with more sunshine hours will generate more electricity than areas with fewer sunshine hours. But contrary to popular belief, solar panels still work on cloudy days. There is plenty of sunlight in the UK to make solar panels a legitimate electricity source for many.

Still got questions about how solar panels could work for you? Take a look at our helpful solar FAQs.

Residential solar options and solar panel installation.

There are several steps to installing your solar panels.

Assess your energy needs:

Analyse your current electricity bills to understand your average monthly consumption.

Consider future changes that may impact your energy needs, such as adding electric vehicles or other appliances.

Estimate the size of the solar system that would generate enough electricity to meet your needs.

Assess your roof:

Work out your roof's orientation. South-facing roofs are ideal for solar panels because they receive the most sunlight throughout the day.

What condition is your roof in? Make sure that the roof can support the weight of the solar panels.

Check any shading on your roof from trees or other buildings, as this can affect the amount of sunlight the panels receive.

Choose the right installer:

Research different solar installers in your area. Read reviews and compare prices to find a reputable company that offers a warranty.

Ask the installer about their experience and qualifications. Make sure they are certified and have a good track record of successful solar installations. You can always start by speaking to one of our installers.

Get multiple quotes from different installers to compare pricing and services.

Look for incentives and financing:

Remember to research available incentives, or grants in your area. These can significantly reduce the cost of installing solar panels. Whilst the government’s Feed In Tariffs scheme closed in April 2019, the Smart Export Guarantee was introduced in 2020 to help households benefit from the excess solar energy they generate.

There are also financing options, such as solar loans and leases. You could find one to help you pay for your solar system over time.

And don’t forget the long-term financial benefits of solar panels, such as reduced electricity bills and increased property value.

Calculate the costs and annual savings of solar with our helpful guide.

Solar batteries and savings.

When the sun decides to take a break, there’s no need to worry. With solar batteries you can store the solar power you generate and use it to keep the lights on, even at night, giving you even more energy independence. Plus, a solar battery means your setup is working overtime to cut down on carbon emissions. And that's a solid step towards cleaning up our planet and hitting those environmental goals the UK's aiming for. 

So, if you’d like more details about the benefits, why not take a look at our useful guide to solar battery storage?

Maintaining and monitoring your solar panels.

Regular monitoring of solar panels is crucial. Firstly, it allows you to track the energy production of your system. This information is valuable for assessing the performance of your panels and identifying any potential issues that may affect their efficiency. By monitoring your energy production, you can quickly find any deviations from the expected output and take steps to sort it.

Secondly, monitoring can help identify any potential faults or defects that crop up. Solar panels are generally durable and reliable, but problems can occasionally arise. Keeping an eye on your panels can help you detect these problems early on, before they become more serious and expensive to repair. By quickly addressing any faults, you can keep downtime to a minimum and ensure your solar panels are working for you for longer.

In addition to monitoring, occasional cleaning is also essential for maintaining the efficiency of solar panels. Dirt, dust, bird droppings, and other debris can accumulate on the panels over time. These reduce their ability to absorb sunlight and generate electricity. Regular cleaning helps remove these contaminants and keeps the panels in pristine condition.

How often your solar panels need cleaning depends on several factors, including the location, environmental conditions, and the amount of debris in the area. 

In general, it is recommended to clean your panels at least once or twice a year. Cleaning can be done using a soft cloth or brush and mild detergent, avoiding harsh chemicals or abrasive materials that could damage the panels.

By following these simple maintenance practices, you can ensure that your solar panels continue to operate at their best throughout their lifespan, which in turn means making more of your energy savings and contributing to a sustainable future. Regular monitoring and occasional cleaning are essential steps in maintaining the health and longevity of your solar investment. Learn more about solar panel maintenance and aftercare.

Start your solar panel journey.

Embracing solar energy can be your first, huge step towards sustainability, and after the initial outlay it can offer you a range of financial, and personal benefits - as well as helping to secure a more sustainable future for us all. So get ready to reduce your energy bills and take advantage of the most abundant form of energy we have: The Sun.

Get a quote for your solar panel installation.

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Published 30/04/2024