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Solar Panel Installation

Looking to install solar panels? Learn about the solar panel installation process with SpotDif and find top-rated installers near you. 

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All you need to know about solar panel installation

Solar panel installation has exploded in the UK in recent years, with both homeowners and business owners aiming to reduce their carbon footprints. In 2023, over 190,000 solar panels were installed across the country, and this number continued to increase. In fact, the government has set the goal of achieving 40GW of installed solar capacity by 2030 — and that equates to a lot of solar panels. 


To help encourage more people to install solar panels, the government has also introduced a range of grants and financial incentives. Combined with solar power’s potential to lower your energy bills, these schemes are making solar panel installation more viable for households and businesses.


But who carries out solar panel installation? Our solar panel installation guide covers everything from planning permission and costs to finding a reliable fitter near you. Read on for all you need to know, then use our handy comparison tool to find solar panel providers and installation companies you can trust. 


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Solar panel 101: A recap

Solar panels (photovoltaic or PV panels) work by using the sun's energy to generate electricity. The electrons in your solar PV panels are activated by sunlight, generating an electric current. The energy flow then passes through an inverter to power your home or office. 

The three most commonly used solar panel types are:  


Monocrystalline panels


Created from a single piece of silicon, these are the most expensive yet efficient solar PV panels.  


Polycrystalline panels


These panels are cheaper because they use multiple pieces of silicon. However, their affordability comes with a caveat — they’re also less efficient than their monocrystalline counterparts and you’ll need more panels to generate the same amount of electricity. 


Thin-film solar panels


Versatile and lightweight, thin-film solar panels feature a thin layer of photovoltaic material on a substrate (often glass or plastic). They offer flexibility, making them great for curved rooftops. However, they also need more space than monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels to be effective.


Wondering which type of solar panel is best for you? Take a look at our guide to solar panels and check out our recommendations on the building type each PV panel is best suited to. 


It’s important to note that most solar panel providers do not offer installation, so you’ll need to find a dedicated fitter to install your PV panels. Let’s look more closely at what installation involves, how much it costs, and how to find a top-quality solar panel installer in the UK. 

Domestic vs commercial solar panel installation

Firstly, is there a significant difference between the installation process for domestic solar panels and a commercial solar system?


Installing residential solar panels


Homeowners across the UK are making the switch to solar. If you’re interested in joining the solar revolution, we recommend taking note of the following key facts and figures:


Best type of solar panels


In most cases, monocrystalline or polycrystalline solar panels are best for residential applications.


Scale and capacity


Homeowners generally need a smaller solar panel installation than commercial spaces. The aim is to generate enough power for a single household and, although the number of PV panels needed will vary depending on the property size and energy usage, it will usually be far lower than that of a business.


Did you know?

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The average two to three-bedroom house in the UK will need 8 to 13 solar panels to meet their annual household consumption. 

Installation complexity


Residential solar panels tend to be quite straightforward and it is possible to install them yourself — we’ll explore this in more detail later on.


Price


The exact price of domestic solar panels will vary depending on factors such as the PV panel type, the number of panels you need, and your location. However, as a general guide, you can expect to pay around £4,000 to £6,000 for a 3-4kW system, ideal for a medium-sized house with two to four bedrooms.


Grants available


The UK government is keen for more homeowners to install solar panels. As such, it has launched several incentives, including the Home Upgrade Grant (HUG 2) and ECO4 (Energy Company Obligation Scheme). 


Take a look at our solar grants page for more details on how much you could save and each scheme’s eligibility requirements. 


Installing commercial solar panels


As well as homeowners, businesses stand to save thousands on their energy bills by investing in solar panels. What’s more, recent government updates have reduced the amount of red tape around commercial planning permission, making business solar panel installation more straightforward.


Best type of solar panels


Commercial buildings can use monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film solar panels. However, polycrystalline panels are ideal for larger rooftops. Thin-film panels can also be a good choice for commercial spaces with curved or irregular rooftops. It’s also worth noting that some businesses can benefit from freestanding solar panels on the ground as well as instead of rooftop PV panels. 


Scale and capacity


As they need to supply power to businesses housed in large buildings, commercial solar panel installations tend to be larger than residential ones. 


Installation complexity


The larger system size and higher energy demands also mean that commercial projects may require more complex planning, permitting, and engineering.


Price


As with domestic solar panels, commercial solar panel systems vary in price depending on an array of factors. For a ballpark figure, a commercial 10kW system is likely to cost from £13,000 - £15,000 while a 50kW system may cost between £33,000 and £60,000.


Grants available


Many businesses can benefit from the Smart Energy Guarantee, which pays you to export energy back to the grid. They may also benefit from interest-free funding to invest in energy-efficient technologies. Tax relief and 0% VAT are added sweeteners for adopting a commercial solar PV system. 

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DIY or professional solar panel installation?

Are you wondering if you can install solar panels at home yourself? In our experience, it’s very possible — and it can certainly save you a significant amount of money. Before we look at the other benefits and potential drawbacks of DIY solar panel installation, let’s first explore labour and fitting costs. 


Solar panel installation cost


If we take away the cost of the solar panels themselves, you’re usually looking at around £900 to £2,200 for labour and installation costs from a professional fitter. Meanwhile, complex electrical set-ups could cost as much as £3,000.


Your best bet for an accurate quote is to contact solar panel installation companies. We recommend comparing offers to find the best service at a great price.


How long does installing a solar system take?


Installation costs will also depend on how long the project takes as many solar panel fitters charge day rates (often £300 - £500 per day).


Generally, you can expect a high-quality 4kW system to be installed in two days. Larger systems or complex installations, e.g. flat roofs, will take longer. 


For large-scale commercial solar installation, allow between one month and 12 weeks for project delivery.


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How to install solar panels

Whether you’re planning to install your solar panels yourself or hire a professional solar PV installer, the process itself will be the same. Let’s look at the materials and tools required and the steps involved.


What tools do you need to install solar panels?


Before we look at the step-by-step approach to solar installation, it’s helpful to know what sort of equipment will be necessary.


  • Toolbelt: Handy for keeping all your tools and equipment within easy reach, a toolbelt allows you to move around more freely.

  • Hard hat: Working at height for any amount of time requires a hard hat for safety.

  • Ladder: Essential for reaching the roof, a ladder must be strong and stable. Depending on the roof height and layout, you may also need scaffolding.

  • Battery-powered drill: This power tool is essential for drilling holes to attach solar panels to the roof.

  • Screwdrivers: Flathead and Phillips-head screwdrivers are vital for screwing in mounting hardware.

  • Hacksaw: The rails the solar panels will sit on need to be cut to size with a hacksaw.

  • Measuring tools: A measuring tape and spirit level are key for placing your PV panels in the right location and ensuring they are straight and level.

  • Caulk gun: You may need to seal gaps after drilling holes to make sure there are no roof leaks — a caulk gun is ideal for this.

  • Wire strippers and cutters: As you connect different solar panel leads, you’ll need to cut the wires to different lengths.

  • Conduit bender: A conduit bender can help protect and route your solar panel wiring. It’s also useful for fitting conduits around obstacles, ensuring a secure path.

  • Digital multimeter: This tool will help you measure the resistance of electrical components as well as the voltage of a power cell. It can provide assurance that your solar panel circuits have continuity.


    Solar panel installation step-by-step


    So, what happens during the installation of solar panels?


    Step 1: Put up the scaffolding:


    When installing solar panels on a rooftop, you’ll need robust scaffolding to ensure any workers can reach the roof safely.


    Step 2: Fit the mounts 


    Next, it’s time to fit a mount (a system of hooks and rails) to your roof timbers. This frame holds your solar panels in place.


    Step 3: Attach the solar PV panels


    Your solar panels are ready to be clipped into the frame and wired up to the inverter.


    Step 4: Connect to inverter and grid


     The inverter converts DC input from your solar panels to AC current suitable for your home and the national grid. Your system will also be fitted with an Ofgem-approved generation meter. You can expect your electricity to be switched off briefly while this is carried out.


    Step 5: System checks and documentation


    Finally, it’s essential to conduct safety checks and power up the system. When they’re satisfied everything works correctly, they’ll hand over all relevant documentation, including warranties and manuals.


Do you need planning permission for solar panels?

Planning permission is often unnecessary as solar panels fall under permitted development. It’s worth remembering, however, that your solar panel installation must meet building regulations and satisfy the following conditions:


  • The effect on the appearance of the building should be minimal.

  • Any unused equipment must be removed as quickly as possible.

  • The system must not exceed the highest part of the roof.

  • The system mustn’t protrude more than 0.2m beyond the roof slope.


There are occasions when planning permission is required, such as:


  • You have a flat roof

  • You live in a listed building

  • You live in a conservation area


If you’re unsure whether or not you need planning permission, we recommend visiting the Planning Portal and speaking with a professional solar panel fitter for more advice.

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Compare solar providers and installers with SpotDif

Solar installation is a significant home improvement, so we always recommend taking a bit of time to find the right fitter. Hiring a professional solar panel fitter is a great way to ensure the best results from your PV system. 


But where to start? Compare your options with SpotDif. We only work with trusted solar panel suppliers and installers in your area — the kinds of businesses that rely on word of mouth and their good reputation. As a result, you’ll get great solar panel installation quotes on your doorstep. And because we take the time and effort out of unearthing the best quotes, you can compare at your leisure to make an informed decision. 


Ready to switch to solar power and slash your energy bills? Let SpotDif find you the best quotes on solar panel installation near you.

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Anna Dearden
Home Sector Specialist
Combining in-depth research with an interest in all things home improvement, I aim to keep SpotDif readers up to date with interior design trends, renewable energy options, and more.
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