The advantages and disadvantages of solar energy
As technologies evolve and households across the country continue to become more conscious of the environmental impact they’re having, solar power grows as a viable alternative to traditional energy methods.
With an increasing number of homes taking this greener form of energy seriously, it’s not unlikely that you may be considering making the shift yourself. But, in order to understand if solar energy really is right for you, it’s important to understand every aspect of it – the good and the not-so-good.
In this short guide, we’re going to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of solar energy, looking at how the average home would be transformed by introducing this green form of power.
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How does solar power work?
First, let’s explore in more detail exactly how solar panels can be used to power a home. While everyone knows that energy is drawn from the sun itself, how those rays are converted into the power needed to keep your home running may not be as obvious.
Here’s a step-by-guide to help you better understand how sunlight is converted into energy in your home:
- Panels installed. Any home which is powered by solar energy starts with a series of photovoltaic panels being attached to the roof or side of a property. These are the tools which will help turn light from the sun into the power needed to keep your appliances working.
- Power inverted. In order for that to happen, a solar inverter is required. This all-important aspect of any array works by converting direct current (DC) electricity to alternate current (AC). The DC flows into the inverter, which is able to lower its voltage and transform it to AC. This is the current which gets sent out to your home to keep it operational.
- Excess sent to the grid. If you’re still connected to the grid, any excess energy which you don’t use can be sold back to it. This ensures that nothing goes to waste, while also seeing you earn a little more money.
- Battery or grid lets you use power over night. Depending on your needs, you’ll be able to use excess power you’ve stored in your in-built battery, or draw from the grid (if you’re still connected). This can be very handy when you experience long periods without sunlight.
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The advantages of using solar energy
As you might expect given its popularity, there are a wide variety of advantages to converting a home either fully or partially to solar power. Some of the most beneficial for the average household include:
- It’s a renewable source of energy. Perhaps most importantly for those wanting to switch to this greener form of power, the ethical benefits of using solar power can’t be ignored. Unlike more traditional forms of power, the renewable nature of drawing energy from the sun means we’ll never run out of it – at least not for the next five billion years, anyway.
- Maintenance costs are low. Once your setup is fully installed, the cost of maintaining it will be minimal. Most manufacturers offer a very generous warranty, which means you won’t need to pay for the cost of panel replacement for years. All you’ll need to worry about is cleaning the face of the panels themselves. This can be done yourself, or at a very low cost using specialised cleaning companies.
- You’ll save money over time. For those who are more frugally-minded, you’ll see a big return if you stick with solar energy over time. If you’re patient enough to play the long game, you could start to save hundreds every year when compared to conventional energy suppliers.
- A diverse range of applications. While we associate the use of solar power with electricity and heating in the home, it actually has an even more wide array of uses. Solar energy can be used to distil water in areas with limited clean supplies, used as part of the construction process for new buildings, and even serve as the source of power for satellites in space.
- Mitigating against the rising cost of energy. As anyone who’s paid an energy bill in the last few years could tell you, the price of energy is constantly on the rise. The same price hikes don’t apply to solar power.
- You can sell surplus power back to the grid or store it. Perhaps most enticingly of all, if you generate more power than you need, it’s possible to sell surplus energy that you aren’t using back to the grid. On average you could get 6p–9p per kWh of power which you sell back. You could also invest in a battery to store this excess electricity.
The disadvantages of using solar energy
Despite the many positives associated with solar energy, it would be wrong to totally overlook some of the potential drawbacks. While these shouldn’t put you off converting to solar altogether, they’re important factors which need to be weighed up when considering your options.
- The installation costs can be a challenge. Usually cited as the main detractor when it comes to converting to solar, the cost of installation can reach into the thousands. And while this is definitely money which you’ll earn back over time, it’s hard to remember that when you’re confronted with the initial sum. Thankfully, the cost of installation can be reduced when using reliable platforms like Otovo.
- You may need to rely on a battery. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with using a battery to turn to when sunlight is lower, having one attached to your system will be an additional cost. This is quite common for solar users in the UK though, so don’t let it put you off. It means you can continue to use stored green energy once the sun has gone down.
- Environmental impact of the manufacturing process. While you’ll be having a big impact on the environment by using solar, it’s important to remember that the manufacturing process for individual components isn’t totally emission-free. Keep in mind your overall effect though is positive; you’re ultimately reducing your carbon footprint by transitioning away from more harmful energy sources over a long period of time.
- Solar arrays need a lot of space. To have an array which works efficiently you’ll need a sufficient unshaded roof space. If you don’t, never fear. You can now use optimisers to take away the negative effects of shading and panels can be attached to the side of your house, or even in the garden if it gets enough sunlight.
Pros and cons of solar energy
That’s quite a lot of information to process, so let’s take a look at what those pros and cons look like in a more bitesize form. Here’s a breakdown of what you need to know about the advantages and disadvantages of using solar energy in your home.
|Advantages of solar energy||Disadvantages of solar energy|
|You’ll save money over time||High installation costs|
|You can sell power back to the grid||Need to rely on a battery or the grid during low periods of sunlight|
|Solar energy has a wide range of uses which help the planet||The manufacturing process can be harmful to the environment|
|Solar power is a totally renewable form of energy||You need a lot of space for your array|
|You won’t be impacted by continued energy rate price hikes|
|The costs of annual maintenance is very low|
|The panels are completely recyclable|
How much could you save using solar energy to power your home?
As we’ve discussed, the initial upfront costs of installing a solar array to your roof or the side of your home might seem eye-opening – but the long-term benefits of utilising this kind of energy can’t be overlooked. Over a period of many years, you’ll end up saving money when compared to traditional methods.
Looking at figures from one of the sunniest parts of the UK, Kent, our research shows that by your ninth year of using solar energy you’ll be operating at a profit.
Even without using government grants and support, the figures show that on an annual basis you’ll save the following when using solar power:
- £529.29 – without a battery
- £1,060.02 – when paired with a battery
While that upfront hit might be hard to swallow, you’ll quickly begin to see the difference on your energy bills. And with suppliers likely to raise tariffs again in the future, you may find yourself in the black even sooner than that nine-year mark.
Are you interested in converting to solar energy? Make sure to get in touch with a member of the Otovo team today to find out how you can help to preserve the world around you, while saving money on your household bills.