With the cost of energy rising and concern over climate change growing, more and more UK homeowners are considering solar panels to produce their own electricity. In this handy guide, we explore the benefits of harnessing the sun’s energy and take a look at some of the best solar panels available on the market to help you choose the right fit for your home.
Solar panels provide free, green energy for your home. (Image credit: Adobe)
The UK’s news feeds have been filled with reports about the cost of living crisis, with a particular focus on the rapidly rising price of energy. While the UK Government has announced plans to support the majority of households with their bills, many homeowners are considering installing solar panels as a way to beat increasing costs and reduce their carbon footprint at the same time.
Luckily, the cost of solar panels has decreased dramatically over the last decade, while the technology continues to improve. Manufacturers are forever finding ways of making smaller, more efficient panels to make them an even more attractive investment. And – partially due to the previously mentioned skyrocketing energy prices – the time it takes to break even on a solar panel system is growing shorter all the time, with some systems paying back within around five to seven years.
With so many different products available, it can be difficult to make the right decision for your needs. In this guide, you’ll find our review of some of the best solar panels in the UK to help you on your journey to investing in a system.
Investing in solar panels has many benefits, including:
1. Reduce your electricity bill
Solar panels probably won’t generate enough electricity to power your entire home but they will significantly reduce it, often by as much as half. Even heavy-users, or those with small roofs, will see a significant reduction in their bills.
2. Cut C02 emissions
Solar power is a clean alternative to fossil fuels and by installing solar panels you can lower your carbon footprint.
3. Low maintenance
Solar panels are cheap and easy to maintain, and usually just require a quick clean with a hosepipe once in a while.
While the technology used in solar panels is modern and advanced, the process is actually quite simple:
Sunlight heats the solar cells contained within the panels
This causes electrons move in the cells, creating a current
The current is changed into usable electricity by the system’s converter
Photovoltaic solar panels (PV) use cells made with semiconducting materials – usually silicon – which convert sunlight into electricity. Photons in sunlight heat the cells within a solar panel and the increased temperature causes electrons to start moving around, which generates an electric current (DC or direct current). This process is called the photovoltaic effect. The solar inverter part of the system will then convert the DC into AC (alternating current), which is usable by household appliances.
How much do solar panels cost?
The total price of a solar panel system will vary based on the size of your roof, your location, the number of panels you need to meet your energy needs, and many other factors. Is your roof south-facing? Is your house multi-level or partially covered by shade? There are many variables that can make your system straightforward to assemble, or very complex.
Let’s take a look at the potential cost and savings for a three-bedroom semi in the midlands.
Est install cost
Energy generated /year
Fuel bill saving /year
SEG payment /year
CO2 saving /year
Source: Energy Saving Trust. Data assumes cost of electricity and SEG rate of 5p/kWh remains level for the lifetime of solar panels (25 years).
If your home is further south, then expect these savings to be higher and further north, lower.
Other external factors like supply chains, local availability, government incentives and local electricity rates will also affect the cost of solar panels. How much you get back from your system also depends on these factors, plus whether you finance your solar system or pay cash. By paying cash, you are spending less per watt of energy generated because you’ll have no broker fees to cover. When investing in one of the more expensive solar panel systems, this can make a real difference.
Your local installer can give you a free quote on your bespoke system, but for a ballpark figure, a solar panel system to support the average family of three people would cost around £6,000.
Our experts will take you thorough the best solar panels available in the UK for different use-cases.
Image credit: Project Solar
Best overall: Project Solar Evolution Ultramax
Price: Enquire for bespoke quotes
Warranty: Lifetime product and performance warranty; up to 30-year peak power warranty
Project Solar UK came onto the solar energy scene about 10 years ago and has quickly become one of the largest firms in the UK. The company both designs and installs its solar panel systems, and each sale gets a dedicated project manager who ensures the installation happens within seven to 10 days — and that it’s done to high standards.
Project Solar UK has been aggressive at wooing customers from long-standing brands, offering perks including lifetime warranties on its solar panels and £7,500 in cash to customers who successfully refer a friend that converts to installation. Its Evolution Ultramax 345MB-66 solar panels are some of the best on the market.
Prices vary based on the size of your roof and location.
Project Solar Evolution Ultramax pros and cons
Project Solar Evolution Ultramax Pros
Project Solar Evolution Ultramax Cons
Relatively new brand
85% power output guarantee after 30 years
Maximum output isn’t as high as other brands
Project Solar Evolution Ultramax technical specs
Project Solar’s monocrystalline solar modules employ a high-efficiency cell technology called passivated emitter and rear contact, or PERC. It promises to improve cell voltage and current and generate up to 10% more power per square metre compared to standard solar panel modules. Interestingly, it also promises better low-light performance to help you generate more energy in darker months of the year.
In addition to Project Solar’s PERC cell technology, the Evolution Ultramax features an ultra-reflective backing sheet that helps increase the absorption of sunlight. Meanwhile, an array of five wiring configurations along the back helps decrease natural energy loss.
The Evolution Ultramax promises 19.34% maximum efficiency, which is about the standard for solar panels in this class. But, impressively, Project Solar’s peak power warranty guarantees these panels will output no less than 80% of their original output capability after 30 years.
Project Solar UK add-ons
Project Solar UK offers a number of options to enhance your solar panel system. Its range of Blackline mounting brackets provides both durability and a discreet appearance. You can also upgrade to a Tigo Optimizer, which helps you harvest energy more efficiently from panels in shady areas of your roof and get more out of your system. This is ideal if you have a more complex roof or if it’s partially shaded by trees.
Project Solar also offers devices for monitoring your solar panel system’s energy performance, zone heating controls for your radiators, an EV charger that draws power from your solar panels and a wide range of smart home energy-saving devices.
Our opinion of Project Solar UK
A lifetime warranty is a very attractive feature when investing in something as costly and permanent as solar panels for your home. And with a promise of 80% performance after 30 years, Project Solar UK’s solar panels seem a safe investment you can count on. If you’re living in your forever home and don’t plan to move, the Evolution Ultramax 345MB-66 could be the best solar panel in the UK for you.
If, however, you can anticipate having to move within the next decade — if you’re in your first home, or you anticipate your family growing — a less expensive option with a shorter warranty could be preferable.
Image credit: Panasonic
Best for small roofs: Panasonic HIT N 245
Price: From £250-295
Warranty: 25 years
Most people know Panasonic as a longstanding brand in the electronics industry, but it has been developing solar panel technology for over 40 years. Thanks to this, Panasonic has many types of solar panels to suit all sorts of needs, and the HIT N 245W model is a solar panel that can take green energy to the masses.
In the past, solar panels for homes in the UK were only realistic options for larger suburban and rural homes. But the Panasonic HIT N 245W’s compact design — just under 160 cm in length and less than 80 cm wide — can adapt to roofs of many shapes and sizes. Its flexibility for landscape or portrait orientation makes it one of the best options for homeowners in urban environments. It’s also lightweight at just 15 kg and provides a 19.4% maximum efficiency.
It’s also worth considering the Panasonic HIT N 295W. It’s ever-so-slightly smaller than the 245 at 150 cm long and offers more power at 295 watts. The downside is it’s more square in shape, so there’s less flexibility in terms of installation design.
Panasonic HIT N 245W pros and cons
Panasonic HIT N 245W Pros
Panasonic HIT N 245W Cons
Flexible design options for any roof shape
At the lower end in terms of power
Not cost-effective if you have a larger roof
Panasonic HIT N 245W technical specs
Panasonic’s HIT solar cell technology realizes 18% more power than other types of monocrystalline panels (namely, mono-PERC panels). This means you need fewer modules to achieve the energy performance you need — another reason it’s great for small houses or homes with complicated roofs.
Another great feature is the drainage lines built into the frame. These help channel water and keep it from accumulating.
Each panel weighs just 15kg and offers a 19.4% module efficiency, with a cell conversion efficiency rating of 22%, making it one of the most efficient solar panels on the market.
Panasonic recently unveiled its EverVolt 2.0 battery storage system, which is designed to fully integrate with its solar panels. Solar batteries store excess energy your panels produce during the day for use at night or during bad weather. For those seeking broader sustainability goals or simply want to avoid peak energy rates, Panasonic’s integrated solar power system can be a great investment.
Our opinion of Panasonic
If you live in an urban area, have a small home, outbuilding or just have a house with a complex roof structure, the HIT N 245W modules may be the best solar panels in the UK. The flexibility of their installation options, the energy potential per square metre, their robust build quality, slow degradation and 25-year warranty make these panels hard to beat.
But they are expensive. If you have a larger home, this might not be the best solar panel for you. We recommend considering investing in some of the larger solar panels listed in this guide instead.
If you fit the criteria listed above, the HIT N 245W or HIT Compact 295W is exactly what you need.
Image credit: SunPower
Most efficient: SunPower Maxeon 3
Price: From £350
Output: Max 400W
Warranty: 25 years
SunPower launched in 1985 and quickly became one of the more respected solar panel manufacturers, with more than 1,000 solar technology patents under its belt. Offering panels for both commercial and residential customers, SunPower solar panels had generated more than 18,000,000 MWh of solar energy as of 2019.
SunPower has carved out a niche for developing the highest-efficiency solar panels on the market, launching the current reigning champ, the Maxeon 3, in 2019. SunPower’s Maxeon range has also regularly shown some of the lowest degradation rates in the industry. With 25-year warranties on its modules and a robust build, SunPower’s high-quality panels are sold with an expectation of lasting 40 years.
SunPower Maxeon 3 pros and cons
SunPower Maxeon 3 Pros
SunPower Maxeon 3 Cons
Panels must be installed by a SunPower-certified company
40 years of useful product life
Some of the most expensive systems on the market
SunPower Maxeon 3 technical specs
SunPower’s innovative design for the Maxeon 3 range of solar panels includes no grid lines. The all-black modules have back-contact conductivity, which allows them to absorb more sunlight. SunPower’s Maxeon 3 panels also degrade at a rate of just 0.25% per year for 24 years, meaning after that period of time, they can still reach efficiency levels of 92%.
SunPower has released an alternating current (AC) solar panel version called the Maxeon 5. This panel includes integrated microinverters that convert the generated electricity from direct current (DC) to AC. You then have the option to either use this AC energy in your home or export it to the national grid.
Our opinion of SunPower
SunPower’s Maxeon 3 panels are a great choice for homeowners with limited roof space. But while there is no doubting SunPower’s impressive specifications and metrics, there are other brands on this list that offer better value if you’re on a tight budget. Yes, that 25-year warranty is impressive, but more and more solar panel brands are matching this warranty length. If you have a large home with an equally large roof, you might want to consider a less-expensive system.
Sharp has been trading for nearly 110 years and is known for making very efficient solar PV panels that stand the test of time. While other companies on our list of the best solar panels in the UK may have overtaken Sharp for efficiency, the brand’s offerings remain high-end favourites for many homeowners and perennial best-sellers.
The Sunsnap ND-F2Q235 is one of the top-selling solar panels in the world, thanks to its ultra-sleek appearance. Its rail-free mounting system sits flush with your roof, almost blending in completely. For those seeking residential solar panels with a low profile, the Sharp Sunsnap ND-F2Q235 is a great option.
Sharp Sunsnap ND-F2Q235 pros and cons
Sharp Sunsnap ND-F2Q235 Pros
Sharp Sunsnap ND-F2Q235 Cons
Discreet, rail-free mounting
Heritage brand with great customer support
Not the most powerful option on the market, with 14.4% efficiency
Sharp Sunsnap ND-F2Q235 technical specs
As well as its sleek, rail-free mounting system, the Sharp Sunsnap ND-F2Q235 provides 14.4% efficiency with 235-watt production in its 60-cell panel design.
Sharp doesn’t directly offer any add-ons for its solar panels. However, when quoting you for your system, your local installer can likely suggest a range of enhancements, from smart immersion tank heaters to electric car chargers.
Our opinion of Sharp
Sharp is another long-standing brand in the solar and consumer electronics markets, and this reputation coupled with its 25-year warranty makes it a safe bet. You know what you’re getting with Sharp, and its discreet, rail-free mounting system is perfect for anyone in an urban area – and those living in a listed home or in a neighbourhood with strict home aesthetic requirements.
However, at 235W of maximum power output and 14.4% efficiency, it’s one of the least powerful and efficient options on our list. You will get value out of it, but if a discreet solar panel installation isn’t vital for you, it is worth considering other options.
The NeON R LG440QAC-A6 is LG’s flagship, high-performance, high-efficiency solar panel. Its 66-cell design generates nearly 4% more electricity than competitors’ modules. This is due to the panel’s design: The wiring is integrated onto the back of the panel, so there’s no incidental shading of the cells at certain times of day. As a result, you’ll need to install fewer panels to meet your energy needs. LG also improved the cells in the R model to generate more energy at higher temperatures.
At 25 years, LG’s warranty is among the longest you’ll find. Plus, improvements to the build quality and silicon used in the panels are meant to slow the degradation process. In fact, LG claims that after the 25-year warranty expires, NeON R solar panels should still generate 92% of their power capacity. It’s worth pointing out that this lower rate of degradation, combined with the increased power output, adds up to a significant amount of extra energy that you’ll be getting over the long life of the NeON R.
If the R isn’t for you — it’s pricey — there are other panels in LG’s NeON series that offer similarly high power output and efficiency. The NeON H, for instance, offers many of the same features as the R for a bit less money.
With more than five decades in the electronics and semiconductor industries, LG is one of the top solar panels brands you can invest in.
NeON R pros and cons
LG NeON R Pros
LG NeON R Cons
Superb build quality from a trusted brand
One of the most efficient solar panels you can buy
LG NeON R technical specs
LG’s NeON R LG440QAC-A6 has a durable design that includes 2.8-mm tempered glass with an anti-reflection (AR) coating, plus a frame made from anodised aluminium. Its 66-cell photovoltaic configuration is designed for better efficiency, and it provides one of the most robust power outputs on the market at 440W. LG also offers one of the longest warranties at 25 years, and once this period is up, LG promises that your solar panels will still produce at 92.5% output.
LG NeON R add-ons
LG doesn’t currently offer any add-ons to its solar panels. However, most local dealers and solar energy suppliers will offer a range of add-ons when building your system. These typically include options for indoor zone heating, electric car chargers and other smart devices that draw energy from your LG solar panels.
Our opinion of LG
LG is one of the most trusted brands in consumer electronics, and its energy solutions maintain the brand’s standard of quality and reliability. We like that its solar panels are manufactured in an environmentally sustainable way. LG has been eliminating harmful substances from its manufacturing process and has a commitment to reducing greenhouse gases generated during production.
LG’s solar panels are efficient in most weather conditions. The company has refined its cell technology to improve power outputs per square metre while lowering system costs and offering some of the longest warranties on the market. Plus, they’re some of the best solar panels in the UK if you have limited roof space.
Even though they are on the more expensive end, LG solar panels represent the best value for money when you take all of these things into consideration. Some of the newer brands in the industry might be offering similar specs at lower prices and much shorter warranties. Remember, this is a long-term investment in your home. It’s worth stretching your budget for the best solar panels you can afford.
Are there grants for solar panels in the UK?
Yes, if you’re looking to reduce the cost of installing solar panels, there are plenty of incentives, schemes, and grants available to UK homeowners.
Zero VAT on solar panels
The Government’s Spring Statement 2022, announced that people would pay 0% VAT for new solar panels until March 2027 – an average saving of £240.
Image credit: Efficient Energy Homes
Energy Company Obligation (ECO4) scheme
ECO4 is the latest phase of a government scheme designed to help low-income homeowners make their homes more sustainable and energy-efficient. Solar panels grants are available for the next four years and, depending on your situation, it’s possible to get solar panels, fully-funded by the government.
The LA Flex scheme
LA Flex is an extension of the ECO4 – run by local authorities – with which homeowners can qualify for free funding to cover the cost of various energy-saving measures, including solar panels. Contact your local authority for more information.
The Smart Export Guarantee (SEG)
Under the SEG you can sell any unused units of electricity back to the National Grid, via your electricity provider. You won’t get any money up front, but this will help offset the cost of installing solar panels over time.
Best add-ons for your solar panels
There is a growing number of smaller firms out there developing accessories you can use to get enhanced performance from your solar panels in other areas of your home life. For instance, if you drive an electric car, the Zappi V2 Car Charger can divert energy from your solar panels into your car’s battery. Or the Solar iBoost can divert excess solar energy to your immersion tank to heat your hot water.
There are voltage optimisers that help reduce the power consumption of your electrical appliances and systems to divert energy to a battery system in the event of a power cut.
Depending on which renewable energy company you go with, you’ll also have different mounting options for your panels. Some people mount panels on a rack system, while most choose a flat-roof mount for a lower profile.
Frequently Asked Questions about solar panels
Sunlight hits the solar cells, and the increased temperature causes electrons to move, creating a current. Then plates and wires in the solar panel turn the current into usable electricity. The electricity generated is in the form of DC (direct current) and an inverter is required to convert this to AC (alternating current). The electricity can then be used to power household appliances, as well as sold to the National Grid via your energy supplier.
Of course any reduction in sunlight will affect the amount of power produced by solar panels – so cloudy or rainy days will result in lower power output. That said, if it’s light enough to see, then solar panels will continue to produce electricity. One misconception is that solar panels work best in summer because it’s hot, however, excessive heat can actually reduce the efficiency of a solar panel and result in a lower output. And, while the efficiency of solar panels goes up in winter, the shorter days (and generally cloudier conditions) mean that power output is less than in the summer.
Basically, yes. Of course any reduction in the sunshine reaching a panel will result in reduced output when compared to a clear, sunny day. Ideally you would avoid any potentially shady spots when fitting your panels, and install them on a south-facing roof.
Solar inverters convert the direct current (DC) electricity that’s produced by solar cells into usable alternating current (AC) electricity that you can use in your home. Any unused AC electricity can also be sold back to the National Grid through your energy supplier.
Solar panels generally have a lifespan of around 30 years. After this point, their efficiency starts to wane and they generate less electricity from their cells. Most solar panels these days claim to be able to generate 85-90% of their output potential after 25-30 years.
There are many factors that make it hard to define a “typical” house, such as geographic location, but as a rule of thumb, it takes about four solar panels to support the annual electricity needs of one person. So, if there are three people in your household, expect to need about 12 panels. Of course, if your roof is shaded or any number of other factors are at play, this could be slightly more or less.
While it has myriad advantages, there are some downsides to solar energy. First and foremost is the weather. We cannot control the weather, and solar panels are wholly dependent on the sun. If you live somewhere like California or Spain, this isn’t much of an issue for you. But in the UK, dark winter months and long periods of rain reduce how much energy you create.
What’s more, storing the solar energy you generate is difficult. While there are indeed battery storage systems that you can buy to store your solar energy, these are quite costly and won’t be an option for everyone.
The answer to this question depends on a number of factors, including the number and type of panels installed, as well as the installation fee, which will vary on the type of house and location. However, a good rule of thumb is that solar panels take 11-14 years to pay for themselves. Well, that was before the cost of living crisis which has seen extraordinary increases in our energy bills. According so some calculations, that estimate has come down to as low as four years.
When you install solar panels on your roof, your roof warranty will indeed be voided for the section of your roof that is housing the panels. However, your solar energy installer should provide you with a new warranty covering this section of your roof. It’s important to ask about this when you seek a free quote for your local supplier. Likewise, you should also check the details of your existing roof warranty before making any decision.
Probably more than ever, one of the best ways to add value to your home is to install solar panels. Some people may not like how they look but, when you consider that they can reduce energy bills by up to half, most people will look past any reservations about the aesthetic and consider them a big benefit. In fact, according to research carried out by The Eco Experts in the first half of 2022, solar panels will add around 4% to the value of your home.
Best UK solar panels: verdict and recommendation
When choosing the best solar panels in the UK, we were focused on finding the highest value for your money. There are plenty of cheap solar panels out there. You could spend less than you would on some of the options on this list, but solar panels are such a large and long-term investment, you want to get it right.
As well as price, we also took into consideration power output and panel efficiency, as well as build quality and the degradation of cell performance over time. We looked for solar panels that offer a long warranty but will still have a high performance at the end of the warranty period.
LG’s NeON R panels ticked many boxes. With a long warranty, huge 440-W power output, above-20% module efficiency and strong performance rate after 25 years, these panels are hands-down the best solar panels in the UK. And LG is a company that is still going to be around at the end of your system’s warranty.
Of course, everyone has different home energy needs and different priorities for their solar panel system. This is why we ranked runners-up according to the best warranty, best efficiency, best for small roofs and lowest-profile design.
All of the solar panels on this list will serve you well. Whichever you choose, make sure you get several quotes from different suppliers before making a choice. Prices can vary, and it’s best to be fully informed of your options.