How solar panels can elevate a luxury home
For most home buyers, a new home is an investment in their future; a step towards the type of life they want to build for themselves.
Many discerning homebuyers associate solar panels with lower-value housing, not the modern, sophisticated properties they prefer.
But in reality, solar panels are a valuable investment for homebuyers who want to reduce their environmental impact and energy costs, while still reaping all the benefits of a luxury home.
In this blog, we’ll explore the world of solar panels and show how they can be a valuable addition to even the most sophisticated property — including the luxury homes in The Hamptons, our new development in semi-rural Surrey.
What are solar panels?
Solar panels (or, to call them by their technical name, photovoltaics) are sheets of semi-conductive material that capture the sun’s rays and convert them into electricity. This electricity can then be used in your home to power everything from your lights to your teakettle.
A collection of solar panels (one panel is rarely enough to power an entire home) is called a solar panel system or solar array. In the UK solar panel systems are most commonly installed on rooftops, where they can catch the most sunlight.
How do solar panels work?
Each solar panel is made up of many small photovoltaic cells, each around the thickness of four human hairs. These photovoltaic cells are made of a semi-conducting material — usually silicon — sandwiched in between either glass or plastic to protect it from being damaged.
Solar panels generate electricity in the following way:
Sunlight hits the semiconducting material, creating a flow of direct current (DC) electricity.
Most household appliances run on alternating current (AC) electricity, so the DC power is run through a device called an inverter to convert it to AC.
The power is then either funnelled directly into the home, stored in a battery for later use, or returned to the National Grid.
What are the benefits of solar panels?
Whether you install solar panels in your current home or invest in a new property that is already equipped with a solar array, making the switch to solar can have a powerful impact on you and your property.
Reduce your environmental impact
Let’s begin with the most obvious benefit: solar panels are an excellent way of reducing your carbon footprint. Solar panels don’t produce greenhouse gases or release pollutants, and it doesn’t take very much water to keep them clean.
In fact, the Energy Saving Trust estimates that a typical home solar installation could save around 1.3 to 1.6 tonnes of carbon per year, depending on where you are in the UK. If you are looking for ways to do your part in the worldwide drive to reduce the impact of climate change, solar panels are a very good place to start.
Lower the cost of energy
If you are anything like most UK residents, the rising cost of utilities is likely to be on your mind at the moment, with prices shooting up 21% in the first half of 2021.
Once installation costs have been paid, solar power gives homeowners the chance to access a new source of free electrical power, so it makes good financial sense to make the most of it.
Whether you install a solar panel array yourself or buy a house with solar panels already in place, making the switch to solar power is a one-off cost. While you might need to pay for occasional cleaning and maintenance of your panels, that’s a relatively small expense compared to paying a monthly electric bill that keeps climbing and climbing.
While solar panels in the UK don’t always generate enough energy to power an entire home, many homeowners benefit from a hybrid solution, ‘topping up’ their solar power with electricity from the National Grid.
By reducing your reliance on utility providers, MoneySavingExpert estimates that a typical household with a system that generates up to 3.5 kilowatts per hour could save between £170 and £440 a year on bills. Even if your solar panel system falls at the lower end of the spectrum, it certainly makes good financial sense to take advantage of these kinds of savings.
Open up a new source of income
If you have a more spacious home with plenty of room to install solar panels, you may find that on particularly sunny days you generate more energy than your house is using. If you have a battery installed, you can save some of this energy to use in the evenings or when the sun is obscured.
But many UK homeowners transform this unused energy into another source of income. A Government initiative called the ‘Smart Export Guarantee’ mandates that homeowners can sell any solar energy that they do not need back to electricity suppliers.
Energy suppliers with more than 150,000 customers must offer a minimum of one ‘export tariff’ for buying solar power back from homeowners. As a result, you can browse through a wide range of suppliers and choose the one that provides the best price for your energy.
Depending on the tariff, the Energy Saving Trust estimates that a typical household could make between £75/year and £110/year from the scheme. When combined with the savings we discussed in the previous section, this extra boost makes solar power an even more financially sound prospect.
Elevate the value of your property with an improved EPC rating
It’s strange that solar panels are so often associated with lower-value housing when in reality they can actively increase the value of your home by improving its EPC rating.
‘EPC’ stands for ‘Energy Performance Certificate’, and you will need one whenever you build, sell or rent your property.
We won’t delve deeper into EPCs here, as the Government website provides a comprehensive overview of what they are, why they are important and how you can get one.
The most important thing to know is that your EPC is determined by two things:
The amount of energy your house uses per metre-squared
How many tonnes of CO2 the house emits each year
By switching to a renewable energy source like solar power, you can significantly reduce your home’s CO2 emissions. In turn, this can have an enormous impact on your overall EPC rating — in some cases having a much larger impact than more drastic measures like replacing windows and installing insulation.
Because EPC ratings are often directly linked to house prices, solar panels can therefore provide a significant boost to the value of your home.
The path to more sustainable, more cost-effective luxury living
Once installed, a solar array can have a profound positive financial impact — while at the same time helping you reduce your carbon footprint.
It’s clear that solar panels should never be confined to low-cost housing. When installed appropriately — with the overall appearance of the property and the comfort of homeowners in mind — they can even actively elevate the value of even the most sophisticated home.