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How Well Do Solar Panels Work In The UK?

Despite Britain having a reputation for grey and cloudy weather, there is in fact more than enough sunlight on our fair isle to power solar panels.

The UK actually receives the same amount of sunlight (or 'solar radiation') as parts of France and Spain - areas with a supposedly more Mediterranean climate - and even gets 60% of the solar radiation found at the Equator.

But it's not just theory that shows solar panels can work in the UK - it's been proven over the last couple of decades. Solar panels for domestic use may be relatively new, but certain industries have been using them with success for a number of years now.

And while it may seem an odd comparison, think back to the solar powered calculator you may have used at school or work. That didn't stop working on a cloudy day, and it's based on exactly the same solar technology!

Optimum Conditions For Your Solar Panels

It is one of the many myths surrounding solar energy that panels can only be fitted to 100% south facing roofs - this is simply not true.

Admittedly, to get the very best performance from solar panels, they should ideally be situated on a roof that faces due south. But if your roof faces south east or south west, the panels will still function perfectly well.

In fact, panels fitted to an east or west-facing roof will still generate around 80% of the energy (and financial savings) that is achieved in optimum conditions.

For best results - whichever way your roof faces - the panels should be installed at an angle of between 30 and 45 degrees from the ground. On flat roofs, you can use a stand or frame to generate the necessary angle.

Whatever your installation set-up, solar panels in the UK can be expected to provide up to 100% of your hot water requirements in summer time and around 40% in winter.

That averages out to around two thirds (60-70%) of your total requirement throughout the year.

One Word Of Warning: Snow

Over the last few years, British winters have turned a little fiercer, with heavy snow fall affecting large areas of the country. Snow can be a problem for solar panels - almost ironic given that renewable energy is attempting to put an end to climate change!

Solar panels should always be installed at an angle (usually around 30%) to optimise performance, and this means that light snow will often just slide off panels as soon as it hits. Even if not, there can sometimes be enough residue heat in the panel to steadily melt the snow away.

If it sticks though, a coating of snow will obviously prevent the panel from doing its job properly, and needs to be brushed off as quickly as possible.

Should you live in an area where snow is common, then you may also want to consider treating your solar panel with a solution that makes its surface slippier. There is good news for you though - snow lying around can actually BOOST performance of your panels by reflecting the sun's photons back up from the ground.