Demand for solar panels in the UK is growing, as energy prices continue to go up, as more people work from home, and as sustainable energy becomes a greater imperative.
The latest change to the regulator’s cap on default tariffs means that from spring the average annual fuel bill will go up to just shy of £2000, an increase of 54% on current levels.
Installing solar panels helps to cut costs, and even lets you earn money from the energy they generate. They can also be ideal for those with an electric car.
Currently the average price to install solar panels at home in the UK is about £5000. This tends to be for about 12 panels. However, the price depends on the panels you use, and the size of the system. This price does not include the cost of a battery, which allows solar energy to be stored for use at a later time.
The ideal roof for solar panels is south facing. While east or west facing roofs yield about 20% less energy, and north facing is impractical.
Solar panels are classed as permitted developments so in most cases will not require planning permission. However, if you live in a listed building or a conservation area, there may be restrictions.
Here are the top panels from major industry brands, to help you choose the right ones for your home. We will also follow-up with a guide on companies and comparison sites to use when looking to install solar panels.
SunPower Maxeon 3
Rated by many as the most efficient solar panels available. They offer 40 years of useful product life, with an exceptionally good 25-year warranty. While the downside is, that as such they are some of the most expensive systems on the market.
SunPower was launched in 1985 and has become one of the most respected solar panel manufacturers. They create solar panels for both commercial and residential customers, and have more than 1,000 solar technology patents to their name.
They developed the most efficient solar panels on the market, and their latest hero product is the Maxeon 3, which provides on average 35% more energy during the first 25 years, and more so after this point (e.g. 45% more energy than average at 25 years and beyond) due to the robust and efficient design of the solar panels. Indeed they show the lowest degradation rates in the industry.
SunPower’s innovative design for the Maxeon 3 range of solar panels also includes no grid lines, which makes them look good too. The all-black modules have back-contact conductivity, which allows them to absorb more sunlight.
The high efficiency of these solar panels also makes them good for those with limited roof space.
SunPower solar panels must be installed by a SunPower-certified company. On their site you can find your nearest installer.
Project Solar Evolution Ultramax
Project Solar Evolution Ultramax is the best choice for warranty. These solar panels come with a lifetime product and performance warranty; up to 30-year peak power warranty.
Project Solar UK have only been around for a decade but are now one of the largest firms in the UK. They design and install their solar panel systems, and stand out for offering lifetime warranties and impressive ‘refer a friend’ incentives.
The Evolution Ultramax 345MB-66 solar panels are some of the best on the market. The maximum output isn’t as high as some other brands (e.g. SunPower Maxeon 3 offers 400W), however, they are exceptionally good nonetheless, and offer 85% power output guarantee after 30 years, and an industry-leading warranty.
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.
They also offer an EV charger that draws power from your solar panels and a wide range of smart home energy-saving devices.
If you’re living in your forever home, these could be the best panels for you. However, if you think you might move within the next ten years, then a less expensive option with a shorter warranty could be preferable.
Sharp Sunsnap ND-F2Q235
These are the best low-profile solar panels i.e. the ones that easily blend in. Other brands on this list, like those listed above, have overtaken in terms of efficiency. However, Sharp solar panels, which have been on the market for years and years, and refined over time, remain as high-end favourites for many households, and perennial best-sellers.
The Sunsnap ND-F2Q235 is one of the best selling solar panels in the world, thanks to its sleek and subtle look. Its rail-free mounting system sits flush with the roof, allowing it to blend in completely. As such, for those who don’t want their panels to stand out, Sharp Sunsnap ND-F2Q235 solar panels are a great option.
They aren’t the cheapest, or most efficient, but they are very good, very discreet, from a long-standing brand with great customer support, and also have a great warranty of 25 years.
Sharp don’t have their own electric car charger add-on to go with the system, but their sales team and installers will be able to make suggestions for this, or smart immersion tank heaters etc.
Sharp is a safe bet, and discreet solar panels are particularly good for anyone in a listed building, or neighbourhood with strict aesthetics. However, if looks don’t matter to you as much, then as these have a maximum power of 235W and 14.4% efficiency, then you could look at other options on this list instead. Or look at the Sharp Mono NU-JC360B instead, which has a higher maximum power output of 360W, with 19.46% efficiency, for a more efficient option from a solid brand.
Solaria PowerXT Pure Black 400W
Solaria PowerXT Pure Black 400W is the best option for power output. Offering 400W, which means you can install less solar panels, and save space, if that is a benefit or necessity for you.
Instead of having to install 13 panels of 300 watts each, for example, with Solaria you could install just 10. This means less time on installation and less space.
These solar panels offer 20.2% efficiency, 25 year warranty, and 86% performance warranty after 25 years.
This California-based company has been a hugely innovative member of the solar industry since it began in 2000, and these solar panels also offer a discreet low-profile, that looks great on a roof in LA, London, or Llandudno.
Canadian Solar has produced over 70 million solar panels since it began in 2001, and works in 20 countries worldwide.
The best thing about Canadian solar is that it leads the way in solar panel efficiency, with its BiKu CS3U-365PB-FG panels offering a sensational 23.8% efficiency.
Canadian Solar offer a range of solar panels, up to an incredible power range of 420W. At the same time Canadian Solar offers real value for it’s high-quality and high-efficiency solar panels.
They offer 25-30 years output warranty, and while being Canadian (yep, the clue is in the brand name) they are worldwide, but with UK based support and offices in London, which helps for UK buyers.
Two brands that would definitely feature highly in this list are Panasonic and LG. In particular the Panasonic HIT N 245W solar panels, which are good for small roofs, and LG NeON R, which is simply a great overall solar panel. However they are not featured in full above simply because they have now stopped their operations.
Panasonic has closed it’s photovoltaic modules in Europe. However, these are still offered by third party suppliers, and Panasonic will still cover the warranty as stated, so these solar panels are not to be avoided. The Japanese tech giant has been a major player in solar panels since the 70s, and their technology offers highly efficient solar panels.
Equally LG has been a real pioneer of solar technology, winning the coveted Intersolar award in 2013, 2015, and 2016. However, they have now decided to close their solar panel business (perhaps due to raw materials shortages etc.) but will honour warranties, so again, these are excellent choices from a third party supplier.
Other good options for solar panels are the Chinese brands Yingli Solar and Trina Solar, which both sell solar panels to countries all over the world, but don’t quite make our top choices compared to the above, but are nonetheless very good.
You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to solar panels. Efficiency and aesthetics are personal choices vs. cost and size of system. Healthy competition means better products and lower prices. You can explore the options listed here, and get quotes for the panels that most appeal.
The simple suggestion would be if you are planning to stay in your house for decades, then invest well in high efficiency, as energy prices are likely to keep rising, so you want to future-proof your installation. However, if you plan to move within a decade or less, for example, then cheaper options might suit better for a shorter-term return-on-investment.