Solar power is energy from the sun that is converted into thermal or electrical energy. Solar energy is the cleanest and most abundant renewable energy source and is becoming an increasingly popular choice for Irish homeowners and businesses. Solar energy is free and it can be utilised anywhere the sun shines. With the progression in solar technology over the last number of years it has become a viable option for the year-round Irish climate.
While Ireland has a relatively damp and somewhat cloudy climate, a solar system is a very viable option for Irish homeowners – even on the dampest, rainiest days, solar panels will still operate sufficiently. Clouds may filter out some of the brightness which can sometimes reduce efficiency but fear not, your solar panels are still working. Even with the shorter darker days in Winter, solar panels will still work albeit with a reduced output than Summer months. Although your home may not benefit from direct sunlight during daytime hours, solar panels can operate with indirect sunlight so the benefits are abundant.
Overall, solar panels are an excellent option for homeowners who wish to reduce their electricity bills and lower their carbon footprint at the same time.
First things first, what are solar panels?
Solar PV panels, also known as photovoltaics (PV), capture the sun’s energy and convert it into electricity that you can use in your home. By installing solar panels, you can generate your own renewable electricity.
Solar Thermals on the other hand are a different type of solar panel. They use the suns energy to heat water in your homes. Solar thermals can help provide free heated water, which can help you save on your overall electricity bill.
How do solar panels work?
When the sun hits a solar panel, it creates electricity - however this electricity is known as Direct Current (DC) and homes run on Alternative Current (AC) so it needs to be put through a device called an inverter. Once the power has passed through the inverter it becomes AC and is ready to be used to power your home.
This newly generated electricity runs through your homes electricity meter as your standard electricity does from your utility provider (but without any of the negative side effects that come with electricity generated from fossil fuels) and you’ll still be connected to the local grid so you can automatically use traditional power should the need arise.
What types of solar panels are available to me?
There are two types of solar panels available – Solar PV and Solar Thermals.
- Solar PV converts sunlight into electricity with the help of solar panels.
- Solar Thermals use the suns energy to heat water in your homes. Solar thermals can help provide free heated water, which can help you save on your overall electricity bill.
Benefits of Solar PV vs Solar Thermals
|Provide clean and sustainable energy across the lifespan of the panel
||Best option for heating water
|Grants available for installation
||Minimal maintenance required
|Excess power generated can be sent back to the grid
||Reduce carbon footprint
|Increase the overall value of your home
|In the event of grid power outages, you will be totally reliant on your solar system energy source
How much does it cost to install solar panels on my home?
There are a number of factors to consider when considering installing solar panels. The type of solar system you need for your home will ultimately depend on the amount of power you need for your home, how many people there are living in the property and how much hot water they use, the roof area of your property and the aspect. Professional installers will assess your property to look at how many solar panels you will need and if your current roof structure can accommodate the solar system. The average cost of solar panel installation in Ireland is between €6,000 and €18,000.
What types of grants are available to me if I want to install solar panels?
The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) offer two grant options for homeowners who want to install solar energy panels on their homes.
- The assessor insured and registered
- The price quoted is inclusive of the SEAI registration charge
Solar Electricity/Solar PV Grants
This grant will help you install Solar PV panels in your home to generate renewable electricity. Solar energy will help to substantially reduce your energy needs and in turn electricity bills. Having your own installed solar energy system will significantly improve the energy efficiency of your home and deliver a significantly improved BER Rating. The Solar PV grant is capped at €2,400.
Solar Water Heating/Solar Thermal Grants
Solar thermal hot water systems use the sun’s energy to generate heat for the water in your home. They are designed to meet about 50 to 60 percent of your overall annual hot water requirements. The Solar Hot Water grant is €1,200.
Everything you need to know about SEAI Grants
What does the solar system installation process look like?
Solar panel installation can be done either by a professional or can be self-installed but it is always recommended to use professional suppliers. The process is typically done within a day and once installed your solar panels can start generating electricity straight away.
There are 4 key steps to the installation process:
- The solar panels themselves are installed first on the roof of your home
- The inverter is next which can be installed indoors and outdoors but it is recommended that they are installed indoors, in a cool and well ventilated area. In order to generate electricity, the solar inverter must be connected to the household unit. A meter is also installed to monitor and record the amount of electricity production and usage.
- The solar battery is next; this stores excess solar energy that can be used in less favourable weather conditions
- The final step is diagnostics testing which is performed to ensure the solar panels are operating as they should be.
What type of home can have solar panels fitted?
Solar panels are suitable for all different types of homes, however the type of roof you have will be a key consideration as they are not suitable for all types of rooves, particularly older ones. Your installer will guide you during the assessment phase as to whether your roof is suitable or not. In the event that your roof is not suitable, you will be given options as to what changes you can make to improve it.
Will my solar panels last forever?
Solar panels are guaranteed to last between 20-30 years. After the time period, solar panels will operate at about 80% efficiency on average. New technologies advances mean upgraded models are currently coming on-stream for the market that have longer life-spans but rest assured that even if a solar panel has a lifespan of 25 years, that is more than enough time to recoup the cost of installation and cheaper electricity.