Solar Panels and the Solar power system is made up of several elements: an inverter, a meter and your existing consumer unit, through combining these three elements Solar Electricity is generated and powers your home, the question is, how?
The Solar panels which we install on your roof have an intricate system of cells, known as PV cells. These PV cells absorb natural daylight and covert the light into DC Electricity. This raw electricity then passes through an inverter converting the absorbed light into usable electricity. The usable electricity is then transported to a meter and deployed into your consumer unit ready for operation. Instead of using chargeable electricity from the mains supply you will use the free electricity you have generated. Any unused electricity can be exported or sold back to the grid.
What Is Solar
Solar energy / solar power has been around for a lot longer than we think, but thanks to advances in technology solar power in the UK is becoming more familiar.
Fossil fuel is not sustainable and over the years it has become depleted therefore pushing the government into incentivising the UK population to use renewable energy. As sunlight is classed as a renewable energy source technology was developed and made available to make home nurtured electricity.
So how does solar power work? Essentially, sunlight, which is a natural renewable resource, is converted in usable power, be it for solar thermal use or solar photovoltaic. The ‘power’ is absorbed using a framework of tiny cells known as a semiconducting material and is silicon based. As the power is absorbed it creates a reaction which in turns develops into electricity (DC electricity).The power is then pushed through to the inverter. The inverter, usually housed in the attic space does all the hard work, and converts the DC electricity into AC electricity. The usable energy is transferred to your consumer unit and is distributed round your property for day to day use.
For solar panels to work efficiently all we need is natural daylight or a bright clear day. The sun does not have to be burning down on them which due to our fluctuating climate leaves us in good stead. However, we cannot solely rely on home nurtured solar photovoltaic electricity so there will always be a need for grid purchased energy, for example of an evening or on dark cloudy days.
As the market continues to grow it has been predicted that within the next 12-18 months battery storage devices will come to the UK market, this will allow home nurtured energy to be stored and used when required rather than being fed straight back into the grid. As with all new developments this is still in its infancy and at launch won’t be cheap! However, looking at the pv system as a whole, and again with further advancements in the manufacture, the cost to install a solar pv system has reduced dramatically over the last 5 years and with the cost of grid bought energy increasing (expected to reach 25.3p/kwh by 2020) solar pv is on the rise
Things To Consider
Besides the initial expense there are a few factors that you would need to consider before installing solar panels. For example, do you have enough roof space to house solar panels? Are there any obstructions blocking the panels from absorbing the natural daylight?
This is where we can help. We have a skilled and knowledgeable team that visits your property. They will help you determine the correct positioning; ensure your roof is strong enough and above all else put your mind at ease with your new investment.
What’s in it for me? I hear you ask. Within the first 4 months of the panels being installed you’ll see your electricity bill fall. Why? Because come rain or shine the solar panels are picking up the natural light source which generates power which in turn runs your home. Instead of draining power from the main supply you’re self-generating power, you’re becoming eco-friendly.
Below are our “Top 10 Tips”
- CHECK! – with your energy supplier that they are a member of the Feed In Tariff scheme. Most energy companies are, but some of the smaller companies aren’t. If not you will need to change suppliers. This can take between 6 and 10 weeks to complete.
- Single Phase or Three Phase supply – most UK residential properties have an incoming single phase supply, this would mean that the maximum you are legally allowed to install is 4KW. A three phase supply would allow a maximum of 10KW. Should you wish to install more, permission must be granted by your DNO. The approval process can take up to 60 days.
- How much energy do you use? – knowing exactly what you use and what you’ll generate will help with budgeting and will also help us predict how much you’ll get on your return on investment. We can estimate, but having true figures will allow us to give you a more accurate figure.
- Direction – ideally solar panels should go on a south facing roof, but as long as the panels are not installed on a roof that is with 15° of North you will self generate electricity.
- Tax – under UK law the revenue earned on self generating solar electricity is non-taxable. What you must remember to do is provide your mains supplier with you generation meter readings. The payment will then be processed and sent directly to your nominated bank account
- Insurance–as certified installers we pay a premium to insure our work and protect your investment should the company go into administration, however, we strongly advise that you notify your buildings and contents insurer
- Warranties – check the warranties issued by the manufacturers. Most panel manufacturer’s offer a 10 year manufacturer’s warranty but a 25 year linear performance guarantee. With the inverters (the exception being micro inverters) all inverters carry a minimum 5 year warranty with a chargeable extension
- Life Span – most solar panels will continue to produce electricity for at least
30 years. Most panels are ‘self cleaning’ i.e. due to being manufactured from a glass type material and being on an angle, when rain water hits and debris will slide off. However, we do recommend when cleaning your gutters that you run the hosepipe over the panels
- Is my roof ok?– As a home owner you would know if your roof is structurally sound. If you are in any doubt we would recommend having a builder out to check it over, however, don’t be fooled. If a few tiles are loose we can fix these whilst installing the panels. When we visit the property we will advise if we find any major problems
- Payment / Ownership – the systems we offer are bought out systems, we do not offer a rent a roof scheme or the free panels. If you are considering a rent a roof scheme or the free panels please be advised the panels are not yours and you will not benefit from the feed in tariff. There are also complications should you come to sell your property. With our system you pay a £100 deposit and then the balance upon completion – the system is then yours, 100% no complications and no questions asked
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How Solar PV Works
In scientific terms, (solar) photovoltaic is the transmutation of atom particles from light to electricity.
In simpler terms, natural daylight is absorbed by an intricate system of PV cells, this is passed to the inverter and converted to usable power and distributed around the home for use. But how?
How does all this work?
A solar panel is built up of cells, a typical 1m x 1.68m solar panel comprises of 60 cells. Each cell is connected via a complex circuit of wires and held together by an aluminum frame. The performance of solar cells is measured by its efficiency e.g. the efficiency of converting natural daylight into electricity. As only a percentage of natural daylight is absorbed and converted into electricity a standard cell on a 250w panel would reach between 13 and 17% efficiency. The panels are then formed to create and array and installed (ideally) on a south facing roof.
The panel cells are manufactured from silicon based material. There are two main layers to each panel, when natural daylight hits the panel a chemical reaction occurs, in the top layer negative charges are produced and in the bottom layer a positive charge is produced. When the two layers meet in the middle this is when the DC current becomes apparent. It is this DC current that is pushed to the inverter.
The heart of your PV system is your inverter; essentially this does all the hard work. Your home runs off AC power BUT your panels are producing DC power, so it is the job of the inverter to convert the generated power into usable power. But which inverter do you choose, well it all depends on the type of installation you’re having. With the amount of money you’re investing you want to make the most your of your system. Here are a couple of things you might wish to consider when choosing your inverter:
- Single roof installation: with this type of installation providing there are no shading issues a traditional string inverter would be suffice
- Two roof installation: splitting your panels over two roofs of a different angle or direction requires a dual tracker inverter. This allows each roof to work independently. For example, 6 x panels installed on a south roof and 6 x panels installed on a west roof – the panels on the west roof wouldn’t work as efficiently when the panels on the south roof are in natural daylight and vice versa. Therefore choosing a dual tracker inverter would allow each roof to work independently.
- Three roofs or more or shading issues: as above, if one roof is in daylight and the other in shade the panels with a traditional string inverter (or dual tracker inverter) would only work to the strength of the weakest panel, so to ensure all panels are working to their maximum output in these instances we would recommend optimizers or micro inverters.
Once the power has reached the inverter, it is very cleverly converted into usable AC electricity. The usable AC electricity is the passed via a PV cable into the main fuse box (consumer unit) for distribution around the home e.g. to power the washing machine, lights, TV etc.
Is Solar Right For Your Property
One of the main questions that we are asked at the initial point of enquiry is: Is my property suitable for solar pv? The simple answer is no, not every property is suitable for solar pv. There are a lot of influencing factors to this – e.g. roof size, shape, direction, shading, structure and composition, is the property listed, in a conversation area or in an area of natural beauty and does the property hold a valid EPC? All these factors are explored below.
Roof Size: Most of our customers enquire after a 4KW system; we use a 280w panel which measures 1m x 1.68m. To install a 4KW system using these panels you would need a surface area of approx. 25 meters square. This measurement takes into account the required spacing between each panel and at each roof edge. What we must also take in account are the likes of velux windows or skylights, chimneys, vent and Andorra roofs.
Of course, we are not limited to using a 280w panel; we can increase the wattage which would of course mean a smaller roof area would be required.
Square or rectangular roofs are by far the easiest roof to work with, however if your roof face is triangular in shape this would more than likely mean that we need to install over more than one roof and quite possibly use a stronger wattage of panel to get the maximum output.
The most obvious direction for installing solar panels is south as this is where the most energy is generated, but we’re not all equipped with a south facing roof. So, you’ll be pleased to hear that solar panels installed facing east and west can still generate a large amount of energy. Statistics show that the difference between a south facing installation and an east/west installation is only 15%
Shading: Shading is a problem! And is something that we must consider when putting together your proposal as this will have an effect on the output and overall return on your investment. There are two types of shade – natural shade as the sun rises and falls – this is already accounted for within the MCS calculations and then shade that occurs from large buildings, trees, chimney stacks etc. If a property incurs more than 50% shade on any roof it is our recommendation that solar pv is not suitable for your property.
Roof Structure and Composition:
To ensure that your roof is strong enough to withstand the weight of your solar panels a member of our survey team will call to visit the property. The visit takes place upon receipt of the deposit and order form and looks at: the size of roof, the structure, the substrate, the direction and obstructions. If any anomalies are found at the point of inspection and we advise that the installation cannot go ahead you will be advised accordingly and the deposit refunded. We are unfortunately unable to install solar panels on thatched, asbestos or felt roofs.
In general terms a property does not need planning permission to carry out a solar pv installation however there are a few instances that DO need the relevant permissions. If your property is listed, in an area of outstanding natural beauty or in a conservation area YOU MUST seek prior approval before installing solar pv. If permission is not granted you will be asked to remove the panels and will not be granted further permission to re-install. Post installation you will receive a Benchmark Certificate. This is our accredited sign-off to say that our work complies with the current Building Regulations.
EPC (Energy Performance Certificate):
In order to claim the higher rate of feed in tariff the government stipulated in 2012 that your property must gain an EPC rating of grade A-D. Most new properties shouldn’t have a problem gaining the requested grade and if you’ve purchased the property in the last 10 years you will more than likely have a valid EPC certificate. If you would like to check the status of your EPC rating click here: https://www.epcregister.com/home.html
If you don’t have an EPC, don’t worry, an EPC can be sourced – we charge £75 (inc. VAT) or you can source one locally by searching for an EPC Surveyor on-line. An EPC survey usually consists of looking for the following: double glazed windows and doors, an energy efficient boiler, loft and cavity insulation, energy efficient light bulbs, no electric storage heaters and no LPG. If you cover these categories your grading is in the bag.
Our Panels & Inverters
Over the last ten years solar panel technology has evolved taking installations to phenomenal highs.
Panel manufactures have invested heavily to broaden their capacity to cope with the ever changing market place. For example, in days gone by if a roof was restricted by size an installation / total capacity would have been minimal, but now with the varying sizes in wattage of panels readily available everything is possible.
Many installers favour or only install one brand of manufacturer; this is where Advantage Energy differs. Yes we prefer to work with LG as they are one of the biggest manufacturers of technology and are a well known global company and with their longevity in the field will more than likely be around over the next 20 years and beyond to uphold their warranty claims, but, we are not restricted to using LG. We also work with the likes of Sharp,SolarWorld, Seraphim, BenQ, Eco Future and Simax. If you have a preferred panel manufacturer that we have not listed please let us know as we would be happy to investigate costs and work with you to provide a tailor made solution.
The majority of solar panels come with a 10 year manufacturer’s warranty and 25 year linear performance guarantee. If you have been advised differently it is wise to check directly with the manufacturer before installation.
As mentioned earlier on our website the key factor or heart of your installation is the inverter. As with the panels technology has advanced greatly over the past few years to bring a more usable product to the market. Choosing the right inverter is very important; our helpful and knowledgeable team will guide you through this process.
Again, we are not tied to using one particular manufacturer of inverter. Advantage Energy works with: GroWatt, Samil, SMA Sunny Boy, ABB / Powerone, Solar Edge and Enphase. Should you have a preferred inverter manufacturer that we have not listed please let us know as we would be happy to investigate costs and work with you to provide a tailor made solution.
Inverter warranties are all different; they range from 5 years to 20 years. Therefore depending on the type that you choose it is most certainly worth double checking prior to accepting and placing your order.
Over the years we’ve done our research on the various types of panels that are available and we’ve come to realise that essentially they all have 4 things in common:
- Efficiency and Value. Generally speaking the German’s take the lead in the manufacture of the most efficient panels. Obviously the more efficient the panel more electricity your panel will produce. We recommend that you consider the size to cost ratio. If you have a large roof, you’ll gain a better return (more electricity to sell back to grid) from the less expensive panels. If it’s a small roof, you may wish to invest in the more expensive panels to gain a better investment.
- Get The Look. All our panels come in a large variety of shapes, sizes and colours. If you’re worried about clashing with your roof and wanting to blend in with your surroundings speak to sales team about the different ways in which we can integrate the panels to your roof.
- Warranty. Always consider the length of the product warranty, we offer a minimum 10 year guarantee on all of our products.
The Feed In Tariff
This was introduced as the government became increasingly aware of the decreasing access to fossil fuels. So to encourage UK home owners to install solar panels and become more self-sufficient the Feed In Tariff was created by the government and was introduced into Britain in 2010.
The Feed In Tariff is a tax free payment and is guaranteed by the government for 20 years. The allowance also increases in line with inflation.
By having solar installed you will:
- Be paid for the electricity you produce
- Be paid EXTRA for the electricity you don’t use
- Reduce your monthly gas and electric bills
- Industry statistics show that on average the return on investment in the first year alone is around £700.00
The Small Print
To qualify and claim your Feed In Tariff, you must follow the following guidelines:
You must register for the Feed In Tariff
The company installing your solar panels must be MCS accredited
The panels must not be second hand or refurbished
The panels should come approved by the MCS
All domestic installations must be below 4KWp’s
Your energy supplier must offer Feed In Tariff payments
Your EPC rating must be greater than a ‘D’
As the installing company we will add your details to the MCS database. We will then send you a certificate to confirm your installation complies with MCS regulations. Upon receipt, you will need to notify your energy supplier asking them to register you on the Feed In Tariff. Your energy supplier will cross check your details with the MCS database and will ask for a copy of the installation certificate; this will then be added to the Ofgem Central Feed In Tariff Register. Once your energy supplier has received confirmation of the registration, they will notify you in writing as you will need to submit readings in order to claim your payments.
This may seem a daunting task, but the team here at Advantage Energy will guide you through the process. We won’t leave you hanging high and dry. Whatever the question or query, big or small call or email Trevor 01325 978 181 e firstname.lastname@example.org
The rate at which the Feed In Tariff pays out is likely to change. The government is proposing that the greater the number of installations, the greater the benefits. The government is planning on reviewing the number of installations on a quarterly basis notifying all households at least 2 months prior to launching any plan changes
Going back a few years, the government brought in HIP’s. These were designed to inform the buyer of your property everything they needed to know. HIP’s have now been abolished; however, part of the HIP was to carry out an EPC survey. The EPC is a survey of your home to discover how energy efficient your home is. Only those with an energy rating of D or above will qualify for the full Feed
In Tariff rate.
The majority of properties built or purchased after 2007 will already hold an EPC Certificate, An EPC is valid for 10 years. If you do not hold a valid EPC you may instruct an independent surveyor to carry out an EPC survey. Or at the point of site survey for the installation our team will perform the survey for a fee of £75.
What affects my EPC rating?
If you’re worried about your EPC rating, why not have a quick look round your home and see if any improvements can be made prior to the assessment. Things to look out for are:
- Is your home built from brick, thermalite block or wood
- Is your property air-tight? Make sure all gaps around windows and door frames are sealed.
- How efficient is your heating and hot water supply? Does it take a while to get going? Perhaps having your boiler regular serviced might help. Or bleed your radiators.
- Are you using low energy bulbs?
- Is your loft insulated?
- Do you have cavity wall insulation?
Below is a guide to what will happen on the day of the installation. If you have any questions throughout the process, please do not hesitate to get in touch.
Our team will be with you bright and early on the morning of installation. We usually send, a project manager (whom will make themselves known to you upon arrival), two roofers and an electrician. Our project manager will keep you updated throughout the day and will ensure that the work is completed on time and to our exceptionally high standards.
We aim to have all installation completed in a maximum of 1 day. If any complications arise our project manager will inform you straight away.
What we need you to do
All we ask is that we have space to work. We will also need to use your mains electricity supply, water, we love a good cuppa and the toilet. All our employees are house trained, therefore we promise to keep noise, disruption and mess to a minimum, ensuring we clean our mess before we leave.
Tools of the trade
- What you will see on the day of installation is:
- Solar panels – these look like large reflective sheets of glass
- Roof anchors – to hold the base to your roof
- Frame – this holds the panels in place on your roof
- Clamps – to hold the solar panels to the roof
Step by step guide to the installation process
- The first thing we’ll do is erect some scaffolding. This will give our team safe access to your roof. This is usually erected the day before our installation team arrives
- The day after the scaffolding is erected our installation team will arrive. Their first job is to attach the roof anchors to hold the base for the solar panels. Depending on the type of tile fitted to your roof will depend on the type of anchor that we use. We will assess your roof on the day that we carry out your home survey to ensure that on the day of installation all the correct fixings are used.
- Our next job is to attach the frame. The frame is made up of aluminum bars. All bars must be fitted straight and parallel to ensure the panels fit correctly and are held securely in place.
- After we’ve fitted the frame, it’s time to install the panels. These are clamped to the frame loosely at first so that we can make sure they are parallel and even. At this stage we will ask you to take at look at the panels to make sure you are happy with the layout. Once these are firmly anchored we cannot remove them.
- Now that we’ve got the panels installed we need to wire the panels. These generally come pre-wired from the manufacturer but we need to get the wires down to the inverter in your attic. The inverter converts the absorbed energy in to DC electricity. Our electricians will ensure the wiring is hidden as much as possible.
- After our electrician has connected the inverter, he will make the final connections to your consumer unit. If this needs updating, he will do so at the point of installation. He will also connect a generation meter; this is for you to monitor how much electricity you produce from the solar panels. Whilst this work is being carried we will need to turn off your mains electricity supply. This can be off for up to an hour.
- All done! Now that the panels are on the roof, the inverter is connected, the consumer unit updated and generation meter fitted, it’s time to switch things on. Our project manager will flick the switch to power up the system. He’ll then send the voltage reading to the team back at head office who will confirm that the system is performing to standard. Once this has been acknowledged, our team will clean and up and will be on their way.
What Happens Next
Keeping you informed is our priority, but ensuring you understand what’s happening is also key. So, we’ve taken the liberty of putting together a guide as to what happens, when it happens, how it happens and why it happens.
Upon receipt of your enquiry we will use Google Earth to estimate the orientation, angle and the size of your roof. Using these estimates we’ll put together a quote based on what we see fit for the panel layout, the costs and your estimated return on investment.
If you live within a National Park, in a listed building, in a new development with shared ownership or if your new solar panels are to be installed on a flat roof or on the ground, we may need to obtain planning permission. As planning regulations change quite frequently we ensure our project managers and site teams are always up to date with the current legislation. If we do need to apply for planning permission, this something you can seek independently or we can support and guide you through the process.
Once you’ve received your quote, we’ll arrange for one of our specialist surveyors to come out and survey your property. This will involve checking the size and elevation of your roof, ensuring the roof is structurally sound and making sure the electrics are fit for purpose. Whilst at your property, we will carry out the EPC survey (if you don’t already hold a certificate) to ensure you meet the minimum requirements for the Feed In Tariff. Once these checks have been carried out, we’ll confirm the layout of the panels with you and arrange a date for installation.
One of the day of installation we’ll introduce you to our team, this usually consists of a project manager, two roofers and an electrician. For more information on what happens on the day of installation please go the Installation Guide.
After installation, we ensure all certificates and registrations are submitted and that the forms are completed to register you on the Feed In Tariff. As we’re registered with all the relevant governing bodies e.g. NIC EIC, Part P and MCS, we can assure you that all our work exceeds the minimum standards. As standard, the panels come with either a standard 10 year manufacturer’s warranty or a 25 year linear performance guarantee. Because we’re so confident in the products that we install, we add on top of this a 10 year guarantee on all installations.
Our warranty covers:
- Your deposit
- Workmanship – the mounting, installation and wiring
- All installation costs
- Additional costs e.g. scaffolding
- Our Company – should we go into administration.