Solar Panels in Ireland: What Solar Panels Types Are There?
Solar panels have been touted as a green alternative to traditional energy sources for decades, but how do they work? Amongst all the hype it can be difficult to know if solar panels are right for your home, and which type would be better suited to your property and the needs of your household. We cover all this and more in our complete guide to solar energy in Ireland.
How Do Solar Panels Work?
Solar panels in Ireland can not only help you save on your electricity bills and can even potentially earn you some extra income, but are they effective?
What Are the Main Types of Solar Panels in Ireland
All three systems capture the sun’s rays and transform this energy either into electricity (PV solar panels) or heat (thermal solar panels). The keyword here is sun ‘rays’! This means, your panels will still harvest energy in the winter, on cloudy, or rainy days; something we have a lot of in Ireland! The only time they will not work is at night.
Did you know?The sunnier the day, the more efficient or more energy you will receive from your solar panels. They will still work on rainy days, and even without direct sunlight, just not as efficiently.
What Are Photovoltaic Solar Panels?
PV (photovoltaic solar panels), convert light into electricity by using material that exhibits the photovoltaic effect. PV solar panels produce electricity via solar cells, although this electricity can also be diverted to heat hot water cylinders. The main difference between PV solar panels, thermodynamic, and solar thermal panels is that PV panels run on light, while thermodynamic and solar panels run on heat.
In Ireland, PV solar panels can cost upwards of €4,000 for a quality system including panels, batteries, and installation, before taking into account any government grants or tax incentives. The more panels you buy, the cheaper each panel is. Electric Ireland’s solar cells offering is priced at €5,200 to install 6 solar panels (covering 10 square metres) with a diverter to heat hot water costing €510 (all prices quoted are inclusive of VAT).
What is the photovoltaic effect?The photovoltaic effect is a well-studied phenomenon in physics and chemistry where electric current is created by exposing solar cells to light. When enough light is absorbed by the cells, they become “excited” and electrons move around inside the material, releasing energy.
Financial Advantages of PV Solar Panels
- Bill Reductions
Solar power can reduce, and depending on your setup, even eliminate your electricity bill (as long as you’re not connected to the grid).
- Export Energy
Solar energy can even make you money if you feed your excess electricity to the grid.
- Not Much Maintenance Required
Maintenance of solar panels is minimal, just ensure they are kept free of debris and that nearby or overhanging trees are trimmed back to keep them from shading the panels.
- Improve House Value
A solar panel system should increase the resale value of your house, as home buyers become more aware of BER (Building Energy Rating).
- Return on Investment
The cost of installing a solar panel system could be recovered within 5 - 10 years, or less if grants and incentives have been applied.
Financial Disadvantages of PV Solar Panels
- High Upfront Cost
Initial installation of solar PV panels is extremely expensive and can range from €4,000 up to €10,000.
- Don't Work at Night
Solar panels cannot produce energy at night time.
Batteries for storing solar energy are expensive but will usually make your solar energy much more efficient. Unfortunately, these batteries are not included in the SEAI grants system.
- Insurance Needed
Considering the size of the initial financial outlay, this makes it imperative to get insurance, further increasing the costs of your PV solar system.
Environmental Advantages of PV Solar Panels
- Genuinely Renewable
We will never run out of solar energy in our lifetime.
- Green Energy
Solar power is a renewable, green, clean energy which doesn't contribute to a country's carbon emissions.
- Long Lifespan
Solar panels can last for up to 40 years without needing fixed, meaning they are much longer lasting than other sources of energy producing less waste.
- Energy Independence
Switching to solar energy will help make Ireland more independent and reduce the need to import fossil fuels.
- Diverters Available
If you don’t have a battery to store surplus energy and are unable, or unwilling, to divert it to the electricity grid, never fear. You can also install a diverter that will send excess electricity to heat your hot water cylinder.
Environmental Disadvantages of PV Solar Panels
- Not Always Reliable
Solar energy is inconsistent and intemperate weather and long winter nights can mean that being connected to the electricity grid, or having a backup generator, is necessary for when demand is greater than supply.
- Low Efficiency
PV Solar panels only manage to convert about 20% of the sunlight that falls on them to electricity, so there is room for improvement regarding their efficiency.
- Still Carbon Intensive
Solar power is clean energy but the process used to make solar panels still emits greenhouse gases.
- Not Recyclable
Older solar panels are not recyclable, although this may change in the future as they become more commonly used.
Other Advantages of PV Solar Panels
Solar power can be harnessed anywhere in Ireland and doesn’t depend on a connection to an existing network (such as the electricity and gas networks).
- No Noise Pollution
Solar panels are quiet, unlike generators.
- Easy To Install
Solar panels are easy to install and unobtrusive without causing structural damage to houses.
- Easy To Add To
Solar panel systems can be easily scaled up as energy requirements increase or decrease, by adding additional panels.
- Homeowner Freedom
No planning permission is necessary to install PV solar panels unless your house is a listed property.
Other Disadvantages of PV Solar Panels
If too much of Ireland’s energy production came from solar power, which by nature fluctuates, a means would need to be found to resolve any instability of supply to the electricity grid.
- Still Need the Grid
Additional equipment, such as inverters, is required to connect residential solar panels to the electricity grid.
PV panels are relatively fragile and could be damaged, for example by debris during a storm.
What Are Thermodynamic Solar Panels?
Thermodynamic panels, also known as Solar Assisted Heat Pumps, are designed to produce hot water, unlike PV panels which produce electricity. Thermodynamic panels work by circulating extremely cold (-22°C) liquid refrigerant through the panel. This liquid absorbs ambient heat from the air outside the panel and from the infrared rays emitted by the sun.
The heating element distributes the transferred heat energy into the water in a storage tank. After the heat energy has been transferred, the gas cools and becomes liquid again, and the cycle repeats. Thermodynamic solar panel system installation can cost approximately €4,500 upwards for panels and installation.
Pros of Thermodynamic Solar Panels
Thermodynamic systems tend to come with large storage tanks for hot water and can provide up to 100% of hot water needs.
- Can Be Placed Anywhere
Because thermodynamic solar panels can absorb heat from the environment, they can be placed anywhere, even in the shade, although for optimal performance they should be in direct sunlight.
- Work at Night
Thermodynamic panels can continue to heat water even at night, as long as the temperature outside is above -15°C.
- Low Maintenance
Thermodynamic solar systems require no maintenance and can last for up to 25 years.
- Can Be Moved About
In some cases, thermodynamic heating systems can also be uninstalled and moved to a new house.
- No Planning Permission
No planning permission is necessary to install thermodynamic solar panels unless your house is a listed property.
Cons of Thermodynamic Solar Panels
- Take Up Space
Unlike combi boilers, which heat on demand, thermodynamic panels require large tanks to store heated water in, which can be quite tricky if space is at a premium.
- Slow To Heat
It can take approximately 3-4 hours for the water to be heated sufficiently from when the unit is turned on. However once achieved, the optimal temperature is then maintained, for a constant supply of hot water.
- Sometimes More Expensive
In cases where a pump is needed, these hot water systems will require a small amount of electricity and will cost a household approximately €45-75 a year to run.
- Short Warranty
Warranties usually only run up to 5 years so insurance is a must, given the large initial financial outlay.
What Are Solar Thermal Panels?
Solar thermal panels directly collect heat from the sun, working on the principle that black surfaces attract heat. Somewhat similar to a dark car, where the heat inside the car can far surpass the temperature outside upon significant exposure to sunlight.
The heat generated in the solar “collector” panel is then transferred to a hot water cylinder. There are two types of these solar energy collector-type panels, evacuated tube solar panels, and flat plate panels. Evacuated tube solar panels are up to 20% more efficient than flat panels due to less heat loss and greater efficiency at collecting heat from the sun at different times of the day Flat plate thermal solar panels start from around €3,000 while the more efficient evacuated tube panels can be had for around €2,800.
Pros of Thermal Solar Panels
- No Electricity Use
Thermal solar panels use no electricity to run a compressor, unlike thermodynamic panels, and as such have much lower running costs.
- Bill Reducing
Your water heating bills could be reduced by 70%.
- Long Warranty
Some thermal solar panel suppliers provide warranties on parts and labour of up to 20 years.
Cons of Thermal Solar Panels
Must be installed on a south-facing roof.
- Needs Space
Much like with thermodynamic panels you need space for the solar hot water cylinder.
- Less Hot Water in Winter
Thermal solar panels provide much more hot water in summer than in winter.
- Not Always Efficient
Normally cannot meet 100% of a household’s hot water needs.
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How Much Do Solar Panels Cost in Ireland?
With all their complex solar components, how much solar panels are will vary greatly depending on whether you buy them used, new with the installation, without installation, etc.
We have divided the solar panel prices into the following three categories:
- Grants for solar panels in Ireland
- Average cost of solar panels in Ireland
- Best solar panels in Ireland
We examine each one of these solar panel price categories in detail below.
Are There Grants for Solar Panels in Ireland?
There is plenty of help available if you’re looking to hop on the solar energy bandwagon. SEAI grants are available for PV panels and storage batteries, to the tune of €900 per 1KW panel, capped at €2,400. You can also offset some (around 13.5%) of the 23% VAT on your solar panels through your taxes over two years through the Home Renovation Incentive Scheme. If you are interested in thermal solar panels, the SEAI has a grant available for a value of €1,200.
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What Is the Average Cost of Solar Panels in Ireland?
The solar panels themselves come with different energy outputs; anywhere between 100w to 580w. The higher the energy output number is, the higher the cost is. On average a new solar panel can cost anywhere between €150 to €425.
Determining which size panels, how many you need, and so on, is a process we recommend you differ to a renewable energy expert. They can take your home’s location, roof angle, and energy consumption to determine a system that would be best for your needs.
Here are the latest prices for PV solar panels with the SEAI grant discounted from it:
|House Size||Rated Capacity||kWh per Year||Cost After Grant||CO2 Saved|
|2-Bed Terraced||3.28 kW||2,856 kWh||€4,237||994 kg|
|3-Bed Semi-Detached||4.10 kW||3,573 kWh||€4,749||1,000 kg|
|4-Bed Detached||4.92 kW||4,323 kWh||€5,354||2,000 kg|
|6-Bed Detached||6.56 kW||5,710 kWh||€6,818||2,000 kg|
Last Updated: 14/07/2023
Which Is the Best Solar Panel Supplier in Ireland?
Below you can find a round-up of the main solar panel suppliers in Ireland. Interestingly, Ikea has also started selling solar panels in the UK, but as of yet hasn’t planned a rollout for the Irish market. You can also get your own DIY solar panel kits.
|Alternative Energy Ireland||Yes||No||Yes|
|Green House Renewable Energy||Yes||No||Yes|
How Many Solar Panels Do I Need in Ireland?
The following factors are the main points you will need to consider when calculating how many solar panels you need for your home, business, or farm:
- Roof orientation
- Roof angle (in degrees)
- Your current energy consumption
- Historical weather patterns for your county
It is important to remember that you don’t have to install enough solar panels to provide electricity for your entire home. Every little bit counts and installing a low-cost system, even just a single panel, will help reduce the cost of your electricity and still be there as a backup during power outages.
If you are still interested in knowing how many panels you would need for your entire home, the Electric Ireland calculator is rather handy to get an estimate.
Verdict: Are Solar Panels Worth It in Ireland?
The prices of electricity and gas in Ireland continuously trend upwards year after year, decade after decade. Conservative estimates of savings for PV panels show €250 a year in energy savings, which means for a basic system (keeping in mind that basic systems may not net you a €250 annual saving) it would take 14 years to pay for itself.
With savings ranging from 40% to 70% off annual energy requirements, solar energy in Ireland is becoming more and more popular. It is estimated that efficient solar PV systems could produce up to 80% of the energy needed for a household - however, this doesn’t necessarily translate to an 80% saving on electricity bills. There is no escaping standing charges and the PSO levy if you are connected up to the electricity network.
As we have seen, there are various advantages and disadvantages to each type of solar panel.
If the goal of installing solar panels is to lower your energy bills, the easiest and fastest way is by making sure to switch energy providers every twelve months. Doing so can easily save you up to €825 a year according to the CRU. The table below breaks down the cheapest offers from Ireland's largest providers.
|Supplier||Best offer||Price per year|
|Bord Gáis Energy||10% Electricity discount
10% Gas discount
|Electric Ireland||8.5% Dual fuel discount
|Energia||10% Electricity discount
10% Gas discount
|SSE Airtricity||10% dual fuel discount
|Compare Dual Fuel Offers||Call (01) 913 1771 Ad||Mon - Fri: 9 am - 6 pm|
*Figures are for illustrative purposes only. Calculations based on average consumption figures for an urban home with a 24-hour standard meter. All discounts and cashback have been applied. Last updated: February 2023
Once that is done, consider other energy efficiency measures for your home (such as improving insulation). Many home improvement projects can also benefit from grant support from the SEAI. On the other hand, if your motivations are mainly to help the environment and reduce your carbon footprint, you don't need to install a full-on solar power energy system up-front. Start small and gradually add solar panels over time.
You can combine this with other healthy energy habits like moving to a hybrid or electric car. If so, you may also want to consider a solar-power carport. Every little bit helps, and solar panels are a relatively easy way to cut your bills and help with the fight against climate change.
Find out more about our offers from energy, broadband and waste collection providers!
Find out more about our offers from energy, broadband and waste collection providers!