Category - Solar
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Ryan Gill, Engineer

18 Feb : Updated 26 Mar ● 7 min read

The advantages and disadvantages of solar energy

Solar power has grown increasingly popular over the past decade, holding onto its spot as the UK's third-largest source of renewable energy.

And with good reason, too. As a nation, we’re all on a journey towards achieving net zero emissions by 2050, and cleaner, greener energy sources will play a huge part in getting us there.

Thanks to investments in developing solar technologies, solar panel systems are now widely available for domestic and commercial use. But, if you’re considering switching from more traditional, fossil fuel-based energy sources, you’ll want to know whether it’s the right move for you.

In this guide, we cut through the noise and explain the main advantages and disadvantages of solar energy so you can make an informed decision about what’s best for your home or business. 

Want answers at a glance? Don't worry; we've got it covered. Here's an infographic showing the main benefits and limitations of solar.

Infographic summarising the benefits and limitations of solar energy, covering the environmental and cost-saving pros and the upfront investment and reliability cons.

The advantages of solar energy

There are many advantages to harnessing solar energy beyond the obvious environmental benefits we read and hear about so often in the news. Here is a list of the main ways in which solar power can prove beneficial to us in practice. 

Solar is a renewable energy source

Fossil fuels are non-renewable energy sources, meaning that once our reserves are gone, they’re gone! The likes of coal, oil and natural gas take millions (yes, millions) of years to form, so we won’t be able to replenish our supplies within our lifetimes.

This simple fact makes fossil fuels an unsustainable way of powering our homes, businesses and cars long term.

By contrast, solar power is a renewable source of energy. The sun isn’t going to stop shining any time soon, meaning we can continue generating electricity using solar panels indefinitely.

As the world transitions away from non-renewable to renewable energy, sources like solar, wind, hydro and geothermal power will become mission-critical to ensure we’re able to carry on living our lives as normal. 

Solar is more environmentally friendly than fossil fuels

There’s no getting away from the fact that protecting the environment is at the top of pretty much every government’s priority list.

As global warming and the impacts of climate change run riot on nations worldwide, politicians and activists are putting ever-increasing emphasis on the need for us all to take decisive steps before it’s too late.

Using cleaner energy sources such as solar plays a part in making this possible. Producing and using solar energy doesn’t generate nearly as many greenhouse gas emissions as fossil fuels, which, in turn, helps us to reduce our carbon footprints and contribute less to air pollution.

Explore more green ways to heat your home on our blog.

Solar panels provide homes with independent energy

Solar panels can be installed on rooftops in urban, suburban and remote rural areas, enabling off-grid energy production. This makes solar panel systems an excellent option for people who want or need to become less reliant on centralised power grids and fossil fuel imports.

Solar panel systems reduce energy costs from other sources

Unlike oil and gas companies, the sun doesn’t charge us for the energy it provides. This means that once we have accounted for the upfront cost of installing solar panels, the electrical energy they generate is free!

In the long term, relying on solar power rather than fossil fuels can help reduce our energy bills and protect us from wholesale oil and gas price fluctuations.

Solar panels can increase the value of your property

Beyond the immediate cost-saving benefits of generating your own electricity, solar energy can also increase the value of your home. Our research found that, on average, installing solar panels can increase the value of a property by an incredible 14%, which equates to an additional £29,300 in Manchester and £90,000 in London. 

Read more about how switching to solar could save or even earn you money in our Energy Report.

Solar is a long-term investment

As the cost of solar technology decreases and electricity prices rise over time, the return on investment improves. Solar panels can increase property value and be a great source of electricity for years to come, making them a worthwhile long-term investment.

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Disadvantages of solar energy

Of course, it can't all be sunshine and rainbows (pun intended). Solar power systems are a welcomed and integral part of modern energy solutions, but they are not without drawbacks. Here is a list of the main drawbacks of using solar energy to power your home. 

Solar energy supplies can be inconsistent 

Since solar energy relies on sunlight, its availability largely depends on weather conditions and time of day. On days with thick cloud cover, at nighttime, and in areas with limited sunlight, you can expect to see a reduction in the amount of energy your panels produce.

Depending on location, this infrequency may mean your system requires solar energy storage systems or backup power sources to ensure the electricity supply remains consistent.

As a compromise, you could consider a hybrid heating system which uses a renewable power source, such as solar panels of a heat pump, and a traditional source, such as a gas boiler. In a hybrid system, the two work together to provide a balance between environmentally friendly and reliable home heating.

Solar panels have high upfront costs

Whilst the price of solar panel systems has decreased over the past decade, they still require quite a significant upfront investment.

You’ll need to consider several expense factors when weighing up the pros and cons of solar panels, including the price of the panels themselves, the labour required to install them and any additional energy storage solutions.

So, although solar panel systems do end up paying for themselves through the money you’ll save on your energy bills, the upfront investment may be too great for some. If parting with one lump sum feels unmanageable, there are other ways to cover the cost of installing solar panels on your home.

At BOXT, we offer monthly repayment plans to make going green as easy and affordable as possible (subject to status, T&Cs apply). Fill in our easy online form to get a no-obligation quote and find a payment plan that’s right for you.  

Installing solar panels can require a lot of space

Solar panels will take up a significant amount of space on your roof or other surface to generate a worthwhile amount of electricity.

While rooftop solar installations are the most common way for people to power their homes, not all houses have sufficient suitable space. If you’re tight on roof space, you could explore installing solar panels in your garden or mounting them onto the walls of your property. 

Solar panels can lose efficiency over time

While solar panel efficiency has improved significantly in recent years, not all sunlight that reaches the panels is converted into electricity and efficiency rates also vary from model to model. 

Additionally, natural factors like dust, dirt, shading, or even prolonged exposure to high temperatures can reduce panel efficiency over time if you don’t maintain them properly.

To maximise the efficiency of your solar panel system, ensure that your installer mounts them to your property’s roof at the correct angle and that they're kept clean of debris.

Read our expert's guide to learn how to clean your solar panels.

Storage solar energy can be challenging

Solar energy systems produce electricity during the day, but energy demand can be highest during the evening or nighttime when everyone is home from work or school.

You can manage this effectively, though, with the addition of solar battery storage. These cells store any excess energy generated during the day so that it's available for use during periods of low or no sunlight.

Solar panels with BOXT

Making the big switch over to greener energy sources is no easy task, but don’t worry; help is at hand.

At BOXT, we’re on a mission to make the home heating industry fairer, more affordable and easier to understand for all. For expert, no-obligation advice on whether solar panels are suitable for your home, contact our team using the live chat button in the bottom right of your screen. 

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