Better guide to installing solar photovoltaic panels

Year upon year many people are losing money unnecessarily by paying energy companies for the electricity our modern lifestyles demand.

And you have read that correct. Yes - energy consumers are losing money unnecessarily!

Faced with this outrageous statement, surely we need to back up what we’re saying with some facts… So consider the following: -

  • By installing solar photovoltaic panels at a home, the household can generate around 50% of their electrical energy needs from converted sunlight.
  • This means that typically once solar panels are installed, a household’s electricity bills from their grid suppliers will essentially be halved!
  • And depending on the installation, money can be made from energy generated - with any surplus electricity eligible to be sold onto the National Grid.

So why doesn’t everyone have solar panels? You’d have to ask them. But what our community at Better Century has found is that home energy installations such as solar photovoltaic panels really work as long-term investments!

Of course what you save and make from solar photovoltaics will depend on your location, home energy use and what type of system you have installed. So considering battery storage and managing how much energy you use is important. Time is also a big factor - as owners are unlikely to see the installation pay for itself until at least 8 years down the line.

It’s up to you if you can wait so long for the investment to pay off, but once solar panels have paid for themselves, a decent 4kWp system could annually put £375 in your pocket!

The importance of location

Although the UK is famous for its lack of sun and incredibly fickle weather, solar panels are widely regarded as very effective in our climate. They don’t necessarily need direct sunlight to generate electricity! And they are spared the damage which is caused to them via overheating when placed in hotter locations.

However, maximising sunlight will ensure they work optimally. This can be achieved by making sure panels are placed as near to south-facing and the ideal 34° of angle on your roof as possible. If your roof cannot provide close to this ideal orientation, installation of brackets can be considered to adjust. However, should angle and direction differ wildly… Then caution and advice on the economic impact of this is needed before you invest.

Placement of photovoltaic panels should also ensure that to best ability nothing is blocking the necessary sunlight. Roofing will need to be checked too - that it is strong enough to take the burden of the installation, as this can be a problem for some slate or wooden roofs.

Want further advice on the location of your solar installation? Our community provides support and recommendations here - check out relevant articles or simply ask a question.

Your choice of installation

After considering the location, then it’s time to consider what you want installed! The first thing to ensure is that you’re looking at solar photovoltaic systems and not solar thermal collectors. It is the photovoltaic panels that will provide you with the usable, multi-functional electricity.

Solar photovoltaic installations vary in cost based on the number of panels you want installed. With more panels - the bigger the system, the more electricity can be generated for your home and the bigger the financial pay-off in the long run.

Our community indicates a mid-range 4kWp solar array provides around 3800 kilowatt hours of electricity a year, costing an initial outlay of roughly £6,200. Installations of 3kWp or lower are considered small, whilst larger installations of 6kWp can cost around £8,000 upwards.

When looking to purchase solar panels, it will be important to consider your needs. So be sure to take account of: -

  • Household energy requirements: to what extent the installation should meet demand.
  • Physical constraints of your property: how suitable your home is for the installation.
  • Plus the financial target you wish to attain: as payback time for different sized installations will vary.

It is also possible to store generated energy with battery storage. Such will cost a sizable additional outlay - but will provide a means for surplus energy to be sold to the National Grid.

Want to learn more about solar photovoltaics and electricity generation? Read more, find advice and recommendations here.

Getting quotes for installation

To ensure your installation is a success, you should be using installers who are certified by MCS - the Microgeneration Certification Scheme, and who will use MCS-certified products. These tradesmen should be able to propose the cost of installation supported by a detailed breakdown of size, energy and savings potential, plus operating and maintenance guidance.

When you have decided who to contact - we would suggest 3 or more installers - then when getting quotes, you will need to look out for the following: -

  • If the installer will manage the whole job or if you’ll need to pay for further work by other tradesmen to get the job done.
  • That the energy distribution system is included in the cost, alongside proper removal and disposal of equipment existing on site.
  • Whether the cost of integrating or incorporating a home heating system is included.
  • If the quote includes the cost of commissioning the system and that a Commissioning Certificate will be received on completion.
  • That your deposit will not be more than 25% of the installation’s full cost.
  • And what the system’s energy efficiency value is.

There might be additional options detailed by the tradesmen. Something might be included which is missing from other quotes - so look out for this detail! Consider all the above carefully and you should ensure your choice is the right one for you.

Want help to find recommended solar installers? You can find recommendations and advice within our web pages here.

Planning permission and insurance

Obtaining planning permission or a building warrant can represent the final big obstacle before installation. Whether you need this depends on the type of property and installation size, type, etc. If your building is listed, consent from your local planning authority will probably be a necessity. It is strongly advised you ensure the right permissions are in place by contacting the planning authority before work starts.

And for that final bit of paperwork… Always consider the insurance!

There are two parts to consider here. One is ensuring that what’s in your contract with the installer is covered when you pay your deposit. Another is checking that your home insurance policy will cover the changes to the property. It’s not uncommon that home policies will cover photovoltaics, but you may need to make adjustments if needed.

Solar photovoltaic panels can be an incredible asset - to your property, lifestyle and wallet. With a medium-sized installation saving 1,500kg of carbon annually being released to Earth’s atmosphere - this surely represents a better way of providing the energy we need!

So, has this article aroused your curiosity? Do you know where to go from here? Search Better Century or follow our links and you will find a community ready and willing to help!

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