Solar Panel Frequently Asked Questions

17 June 2024 | OVO

As the days get longer, you might be wondering how much energy you could generate from those rays shining on your roof. Our head of solar, Scott Duncan, answers all the important questions you might have before deciding to install solar panels.

1. How do solar panels work?

Solar power uses a process called the photovoltaic effect, which turns the sun’s radiation into electricity.

Solar panels are made up of lots of photovoltaic cells containing silicon. When sunlight hits the silicon, it makes the electrons in them start moving around. This creates electricity that can be used to power our homes.

2. Does it matter what direction my roof faces?

Solar panels generate most electricity when they're on a south-facing roof that's sloped at 41º, and isn't shaded. It’s one of the first things our surveyors look at when checking your home’s right for solar. A good surveyor can talk you through how the panels’ position on your roof will affect their performance.

Solar systems that face southwest and southeast are only about 15% less efficient than ones on a south-facing roof. Systems on east and west-facing roofs still work, but they’re less effective. This is because they don’t get as much sunlight throughout the day.

3. What about feed-in tariffs?

Feed-in tariffs (also called FiT) were a government scheme. They paid people to generate their own green energy, and export it back to the National Grid. FiT closed in 2019, so it’s no longer available. But anyone who signed up before then should still get their 20 years of FiT payments.

The scheme has since been replaced by the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) tariff. This rewards homes with solar based on how much renewable energy they export back to the grid. The rates vary depending on your electricity supplier. At OVO, we offer SEG rates of up to 20p per kWh.

4. Has solar technology improved in recent years?

Since 2010, average solar cell efficiency has increased from 15% to 22% – meaning a big jump in potential energy bill savings. There’s a few reasons for this improvement, including:

  • Improved cell design that’s better at turning sunlight into electricity
  • New, more efficient materials
  • Better manufacturing processes

And then there’s batteries

More and more customers get a battery with their solar panels. Without one, you either use electricity as you generate it, or you export it back to the grid.

Getting a battery will add to the cost of your installation. But it means you can store energy, and use it later when you have more need for it. So if you’re out at work during the day, you can benefit from your panels when you’re home in the evening.

The financial case for batteries has improved for customers recently, too. Prices came down by 14% last year. OVO’s data shows that adding a battery can roughly double how much of your self-generated energy you can use.

5. Can I pay for my solar panels in instalments?

OVO has recently launched a 0% solar financing plan.1 This helps customers spread the cost of solar over 3 years with no interest. Prices for our solar packages start from £4,999, or £7,499 with a battery. They’re available for both OVO and non-OVO customers.

6. Are there any grants available?

Various energy efficiency schemes, like ECO4 funding, are available for some lower income households. You can check if you’re eligible on our website.

7. Can solar panels really cut my energy bills?

Customers could save up to £1,200 a year on their bills with OVO’s full solar package. This includes panels, batteries, inverters, and OVO’s Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) rate. Solar customers can cut their electricity use by up to 85% with solar panels and a battery.2

We’ve heard lots of success stories from our customers. Like Robin Clapp from Wiltshire, who expects to make almost £1,200 back on his solar investment this year. This is through exporting extra energy back to the grid with our 20p per kWh SEG rate. Plus the savings he’s making through our Demand Flexibility Scheme (DFS) events.

8. Do I need a smart meter with solar panels?

You don’t have to have a smart meter to install solar panels. But you’ll need one if you want to take advantage of our 20p per kWh SEG rate.

If you get solar panels and a battery from OVO, and we supply your energy, you'll be eligible for this rate. To access it, you'll need to sign up to our SEG tariff and have a smart meter installed.

9. Will solar panels add value to my home?

According to Rightmove’s Greener Homes report, it’s worth installing green tech that increases your home's Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating – like solar panels. Boosting your rating from F to C, for example, can increase the value of your home by up to 15%. Our Energy Experts also found that installing 10 solar panels can increase your EPC rating by 1 band.

For a 3-bedroom semi detached house, installing 10 solar panels would cost approximately £6,300. But they could add much more value than they cost. OVO’s data also shows that 66% of property buyers are prioritising green tech in their search for a home.3 Meaning there’s never been a better time to invest in things like solar panels.

10. Can I still sell power back to the grid?

According to our research, 45% of people don't know you can earn money by selling solar energy back to the National Grid.4 With solar panels and OVO’s SEG rate, you can save up to £1,200 off your electricity bills by doing this.2

11. Is it worth getting solar panels?

The average home uses around 2,700 kWh of electricity a year. With 12 solar panels, you could generate up to 3,180 kWh of electricity a year – more than enough to run your home.

Installation costs are continuing to come down. And there are more and more ways to make the upfront cost more manageable (including finance options like OVO’s 0% solar financing).1 So rooftop solar panels are a better option than ever before as a renewable energy solution in the UK.

Interested in solar?

Get solar panels and a battery through OVO.

Find out more

Sources and references:

1 Finance is subject to eligibility, terms and a £500 deposit. 0% APR fixed over 36 months.

2 These annual energy savings are dependent on your property type and location, roof type, slope, and size. If your roof is shaded or isn't south facing, figures are likely to be lower.

We based the figure on the following:

a) You have 12 (430W) solar panels and a 9.5 kWh battery installed.

b) You’re home all day with an annual electricity consumption of 2,700 kWh (Ofgem). You currently pay our Standard Variable Rate of 23.33p (correct at 1 April 2024) and will use 42% of what you generate.

c) You sign up for our exclusive SEG rate (20p kWh) for customers who purchase solar and a battery from us, and you sell back the remaining 58% of energy generated.

You’ll get a more accurate savings estimation once we’ve surveyed your property.

3 Data from a consumer survey conducted by OnePoll, commissioned by OVO, with 2,000 UK nationally representative adults from 12 to 18 January 2024.

4 Data from a consumer survey conducted by OnePoll, commissioned by OVO, with 2,000 UK nationally representative adults from 7 to 13 July 2023.