Because of the current social and economic climate in the UK and with sharp rises in the cost of living and energy bills, many members of the public are now seeking to ‘take power’ back into their own hands.
The benefits of installing solar panels in the home have been well-known for over a decade, paying for themselves in the long run and with many households able to redistribute and sell excess power back to the energy grid.
With the rising costs in domestic energy and the gradual improvements in solar panel technology (and, therefore, subsequent falling prices), many households can see the wise investment that creating their own renewable energy at home provides.
You’re probably already aware of the great number of benefits that installing solar panels can bring. In this blog post, we therefore aim to answer the legal questions that you may have prior to installing solar panels in your home.
Do I Need Planning Permission to Install Solar Panels?
In most cases, planning permission is no longer required to install solar panels on the roof of your private home thanks to the recent extension of the 2008 ‘Permitted Development’ rules by the UK Government.
It is therefore typically unnecessary to seek planning permission when installing domestic solar panels. However, as with most issues surrounding planning permission and property developments, there are a number of exceptions to the rule.
What are the Exceptions?
If your property is situated in a conservation area, it may be possible to install solar panels under Permitted Rights. However, if the panels are to be installed such that it would be visible from a highway, a planning application and consent from the local authority will be necessary.
It is also possible that the Permitted Development rights have previously been removed from your property as a condition of the original planning permission application or due to the property being situated within an area of conservation. This information can easily be accessed by contacting your local planning authority.
Installing solar panels on a listed building may also bring a number of additional complications.
Can I Install Solar Panels on a Listed Building?
It is certainly possible to install solar panels on a listed building, subject to several additional conditions and requirements.
A Listed Building is protected against any developments that could alter or extend the building/site, and negates the possibility of destroying the property.
Homeowners should know whether or not their property is protected as a Listed Building, but information may also be found using online search tools such as the National Heritage List for England.
Listed Building Consent will need to be granted prior to the installation of solar panels, or any development that would affect the characteristics of the building. This is separate from planning permission, and will be granted by the local authority often with a number of conditions regarding the placement, design and number of solar panels to be installed.
For legal consultation regarding solar panel installation and receiving planning permission for your property, get in touch with the expert Residential Conveyancing Team at Howells Solicitors at 02920 404020 or submit an enquiry.
Can I Legally Install Solar Panels Myself?
As a growing number of people are seeking energy independence, so too are those that are interested in building, or at the very least assembling, their own DIY solar panels for use on their home.
While the time investment required is significantly higher with self-made solar panels, the lower initial investment cost allows a larger number of people to afford a clean and renewable domestic energy.
There are many online resources available for tutorials and guides should you be interested in assembling or building your own DIY solar panels from scratch. But is it legal?
In short, yes. However, forgoing the help of professional installers will impose a number of additional legal responsibilities on yourself.
MCS-Certifications are required for your solar panels when you choose to sell your property with the panels included. This must be carried out by a certified engineer to ensure standards and procedures are upheld.
The issue with installing self-made DIY solar panels is that many of these certified engineers will refuse to certify solar panel units that they did not personally install.
In order to qualify for the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG), your solar panels must be installed by a Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) recognized installer. We will go into further details of the SEG and how excess energy can be sold back to the grid in detail later.
Standard industry requirements for solar panel installations must also be followed when undertaking a self-build project. Along with the special cases in which planning permission or listed building consent is required, this also includes the following:
- Solar panels should be installed below the highest point of the roof.
- The solar panels should be installed no greater than 20cm above the surface of the roof, or away from the surface of the wall that they are installed on.
- Every practical effort should be made during the instillation to preserve the aesthetic appearance of the building.
We would also recommend that you consult with both your insurance and mortgage providers to ensure that the instillation is covered within your policies.
Can My Neighbours Object to My Solar Panels?
If your installation is permitted development, or you have received the necessary planning permission required to make the installation, there is likely nothing your neighbours can do to block or dispute the installation of solar panels on your property.
However, there are a number of ways in which you can limit the impact that your new solar panels have on your neighbours.
You should seek to take visual considerations into account so as to maintain a friendly relationship with your neighbours, by keeping solar panels out of view from both neighbouring properties and public roads wherever possible.
We also strongly recommend notifying your neighbours ahead of time for any type of works on your property, including solar panel installations, so as to warn them of any noise and to inform them of any potential visible impact.
While your neighbours are unlikely to hold any power over your instillation of solar panels, it’s always a good idea to be on good terms with those that could potentially impact your way of life through installations and projects of their own.
Do You Pay Tax on Domestic Solar Panels in the UK?
No, there will be no tax on domestic solar panels in the UK until at least 2027.
It was announced by ex-Chancellor Rishi Sunak that the VAT on energy efficient systems within the home should be cut from 5% to zero as of April 2022, until 2027.
As part of a UK initiative to tackle to cost of energy crisis and push green energy into private households, the cut in VAT applies to installations of solar panels, electric heat pumps and insulation, allowing households to save significantly on their energy investments.
Is the Energy Sold Back to the Grid Tax Free?
Perhaps the most appealing feature of owning solar panels is the idea of selling any excess energy produced during peak times back to the grid.
Prior to 2019, solar panel owners could apply for the Feed-in Tariff, by which they could sell excess power back to the grid for additional tax-free income.
This scheme was closed to new applications in 2019, though successful applicants are still eligible for 20 years following their application date. The scheme was replaced by the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) in 2020.
Compared to the previous Feed-in Tariff, the SEG features a few drawbacks, including significantly lower payments from selling energy back to the grid. This dropped from over 40p per kwh of energy exported under the initial scheme to now between only 6-9p per kwh (Federation of Master Builders, 2022).
Income generated under the new SEG scheme is still tax-free, although the significant reduction in payments compared to the Feed-in Tariff still impacts the amount of profit that can be made from domestic solar panels.
To qualify for the SEG scheme, you must have a smart meter that is capable of providing readings every half-hour, along with a MCS certification for your solar panels.
Can I Take My Solar Panels with Me When I Move Home?
Absolutely. And as your new property is likely to have permitted development, you are unlikely to run into any legal issues when removing and reinstalling your solar panels elsewhere.
However, removing and reinstalling your solar panels may cause more headache than they are worth.
Firstly, your solar panels were purchased and installed with your current property in mind, and may therefore not be perfectly suited to the size, shape and location of your new home. The solar panels may simply not be able to capture the same amount of sun exposure as at your previous home.
Secondly, the process of removing, transporting, and reinstalling the solar panels will be labour intensive, expensive, and may also void any existing warranty on your panels.
Finally, selling your property with solar panels included is an extremely attractive selling point for buyers, as they will benefit from free electricity and profit from additional energy as soon as they take ownership of the property.
By selling your property with solar panels, it may be possible to increase the listing price by a number greater than the initial cost of investment, whilst removing any headaches associated with removing and reinstalling the panels at your new property.
Find Out More by Contacting Howells
For any additional legal issues you may have regarding solar panels on your home, or for any other legal needs, get in touch with the conveyancing team at Howells Solicitors on 02920 404020 or submit an enquiry.