FAQs

All that you always wanted to know about solar energy!

Unsure whether Solar Panels are right for you or have some questions you want answering before you make up your mind?
Take a look at our most popular questions below. If you have any further question please do not hesitate to contact us and we will get back to you.

Solar Energy Explained

What is Solar PV?

“Solar PV or Solar Photovoltaic panels use the light emitted from the Sun to generate electricity that can either be used to power appliances or be fed back into the National Grid.

 

How do Solar PV Panels work?

Solar Photovoltaic Panels consist of a silicon based material and have both positive and negative layers, similar to a battery, which when stimulated by photons from the sun create an electrical charge. This charge is then turned into a usable current by a converter for use in your home and the grid.

 

What is the difference between Monocrystalline and Polycrystalline solar panels?

Both Monocrystalline and Polycrystalline, are photovoltaic solar modules. However the structure of the silicon used within each is different.

Monocrystalline silicon is formed with a continuous crystal lattice structure making it highly purified and very efficient at converting solar energy into electrical energy. On the flip side, Polycrystalline silicon is formed with many small crystals. The process of manufacturing Monocrystalline solar panels, silicon with a singular crystal structure, makes it slightly more expensive than Polycrystallines.

Each silicon type has its own advantages and disadvantages; with Monocrystalline costing more but being more efficient and Polycrystalline being cheaper but less efficient. However, monocrystalline PV panels with their greater power output efficiency are seen as being better suited for long term investment as well as installations where space is limited.

 

Will solar panels produce electricity on a cloudy day?

Yes, solar panels do produce electricity even when they’re not directly exposed to bright or direct sunlight. So although cloudy skies are not the best option for an optimal electrical output, solar pv panels will be still capable of producing electricity.

 


Investing in Solar

Are solar PV systems a good investment?

Nowadays, solar energy remains one of the best investments possible in the UK. Solar PV systems have the ability to both save you money on your annual electricity bills as well as earn you money for every unit of electricity you generate for 20 years through the Government’s Feed-in Tariff scheme. A typical household installation would normally be paid off within 10 years or less, with the remaining 10 years to make pure profit. In fact, the return on an investment in solar energy after 20 years would be far better than any cash ISA available on today’s market. As well as this, you would also be able to meet your home electrical needs during the day, making big savings on your annual electricity bill.

 

How does a solar installation compare with other investments?

The Government’s Feed-in Tariff scheme provides households with the opportunity to cash in on every kW of green energy they produce. In addition, the electricity generated by the solar systems is also used to power electrical appliances, helping homeowners to reduce or even cut their electricity bills. Photovoltaic solar systems are now not only a way to save the planet and cut down your annual electricity bills but also a great investment opportunity for the savvy investor.

Enter your postcode in our Income Calculator and find out how much you could make from an investment in solar energy.

 

What are feed-in tariffs?

The Government’s Feed-in Tariff scheme provides households that produce electricity through renewable technologies, such as PV solar panels, with guaranteed payments for ever unit of energy they produce. Anything you don’t use in your house can be sold back to the grid for an additional payment.

The Feed-in tariff rates you receive are guaranteed to remain at the level they were when your solar installation was commissioned, however the tariffs are likely to drop year on year as solar installation costs decrease, rewarding early adopters of the technology.

For more information about the latest Feed-in Tariffs updates, please check Ofgem’s website.

 

What stops the government from cutting the Feed-in-Tariff rates?

The Feed-in-Tariffs were introduced along with laws that commits the Government to guarantee paying homeowners the rates that were applicable to them when their solar system was commissioned, for a definite period of years. This means that once a household installs solar panels, its corresponding tariff remains locked and any future cuts will not be applied.

The Government has recently cut the Feed-in Tariff rates. For more information about the latest Feed-in Tariffs’ updates, please check Ofgem’s website.

 

How much could I save?

“I have been told solar energy systems generate great income and also save some money in energy bills but… How much?”

Although the income you could generate depend on lots of factors – like the size of the installation, the orientation of your roof -, as an example, in September 2012, a typical solar panel installation, consisting of sixteen 250W solar panels, would cost around £6,950, and at the end of your payment time, the total pure benefit you could have earned would be of more than £14,600.

These figures are, however, relative, as both Feed-in Tariffs and costs of installation are continually dropping down. As a reference, the return on investment of a solar energy system is estimated to be around 10% per year. To know how much money you could make and save, simply go to our Income Estimator, introduce your postcode and select the area of your roof you want to cover in the map showed below. Detailed information about the costs of the installation, the energy savings and the income generation will show up.

 

How long will it take to make my money back?

The time it will take to recover the initial cost of your solar installation may vary depending on the system you have and the amount of energy you are able to produce. As an example, an installation costing around £7,000 would typically pay you £850 each year, so after 10 years your money will have been paid back and for the remaining 10 years, every unit you generate would be pure profit.

For a more accurate and personalized appraisal, enter your post code into our Income Estimator, and discover how much energy and money you could save!

 

How do I get a quote?

To get a free quotation from any of the MCS accredited installers registered in our directory, you can:

 

How will my solar panels be installed?

After a consultation and survey of your property, the installer’s team you have chosen from our Installers Directory will begin by constructing a small scaffold rig to allow easy access to the roof.

Brackets are then mounted to your roofs rafters to which the panels are attached, and an inverter is installed, typically in either the garage or loft. This inverter will convert the direct current (dC) generated by the solar panels into an alternating current (aC), that can be used in your home or sold back the grid. Alongside this, a Total Generation Meter is fitted to measure the amount of electricity being generated from your solar installation.

This process can usually be completed in less than a day depending on the number of panels installed.

 

Is my roof suitable for Solar Panels?

Although the majority of domestic homes roofs are suitable for solar panels, there are some basic principles that can help you to figure out if solar panels can be installed on your roof. Have a look!

The size of your roof

Is your roof, at least, 2Mx2M?

If the answer is yes, we just can say… Welcome to the solar world!

The orientation of your roof

Is your roof, or at least one of its sides, South facing?

Although solar panels can be installed in any roof, the truth is the more closer to South facing, the more energy you generate.

The location of your roof

Where are you in the world?

To get the most of your solar panels, the South of UK is obviously better than other areas. However, solar panels work anywhere, so even living in the Northest point of the UK, your solar energy system will be producing free electricity.

The angle of inclination of your roof

Which is the pitch of your roof?

To get the most of your solar panels, the South of UK is obviously better than other areas. However, solar panels work anywhere, so even living in the Northest point of the UK, your solar energy system will be producing free electricity.

The shading of your roof

Is your roof no shading or completely covered?

If even a small part of a solar panel is shaded – by the branch of a tree, for instance – there will be a very significant drop in the power output of the panel.

 

What happens if I sell my house?

The Feed-in Tariff payments are made to the legal owner of the solar generation equipment and when you sell your house the expectation is that the solar equipment will come with it. The new owner of the home and therefore the solar installation would receive any ongoing Feed-in Tariff payments. However, you should receive compensation in the form of the increased market value to your property when selling a house that’s fitted with a solar installation and has guaranteed Feed-in Tariff payments.

 

Can solar panels add value to my property?

Although there is still little statistical proof available for the effect of solar installations on property prices in the UK, we believe homes value should increase in today’s climate of high energy pricing. A recent survey by MORI found people are willing to pay up to £10,000 more for a home built to high energy efficiency standards and estate agents have been raising the value of properties with solar panels compared to those without. A US study by U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has also found evidence that homes with solar panels sell for more than those without.

In addition, in the case of rented houses, tenants’ electricity bills would be lower than the current ones, due to the reduction in the usage of the electricity coming from the grid. As a consequence, landlords would directly benefit from these electricity savings, as well as from the Feed-in Tariffs income.

 

Do I need planning permission?

In the vast majority of cases installing solar panels to your roof is considered permitted development, which allows you to make minor changes to the structure of your home without the need to seek permission. However, you will need to acquire planning permission if your panels will:

  • Protrude outward, a distance of 20cm from your roof or wall.
  • Be installed on a building within a conservation area and be visible from the road.
  • Be installed on a building within a World Heritage Site and be visible from the road.
  • Be installed on a listed building.

 

Do I need permission from the District Network Operator (DNO) to connect to the Grid?

You can make more money from you solar installations by selling any of your unused electricity to the National Grid. If your solar installation is below 3.68 kW (16 Amps at 2.30 Volts) then your not required to seek permission from your local DNO (note that this may not be your actual energy provider) who operate the distribution
network in your area. Any installations over 3.68 kW will need to obtain permission prior to connecting to the grid. Find your local DNO

 

Is the equipment guaranteed under warranty, if so, how long?

Our solar modules are supplied by several manufacturers, depending on the preferences both the customer and the installer. However, solar panel manufacturers usually provide with a ten year repair and replacement product warranty. This covers you in the event that your solar modules suffer defects in workmanship and materials under their normal application. Under this guarantee any problematic modules will be either repaired, replaced or fully refunded.

Complimenting this they also provide a Pmax warranty. Pmax represents the nominal power output your solar module should be able to produce. This means that if within 12 years your Pmax drops below 90%, or drops 80% within 25 years you’ll receive either additional modules to make up for the lost power or a refund of their current market value.

 

Are we MCS accredited?

All the solar panel installers included in our Installers Directory are MCS certified installers of solar technologies, which means that all their solar installations qualify for the Governments Feed-In Tariffs. The Microgeneration Certification Scheme is a mark of quality and demonstrates compliance to industry standards that companies strive to meet. For more information about MCS certificates and industry standards, please visit MCS website.

 


Solar Energy Jargon

What is a kW?

kW stand for kilowatt, a measurement of electricity that represents 1000 watts.

 

What is a kWh?

A kWh or kilowatt hour is commonly known as measurement for billing electricity and will show you how many kilowatts are being generated per hour.

 

What is a kWp?

A kWp or kilowatt peak is a unit of measurement that show us the total amount of power your solar system will be able to generate in perfect conditions.

 

Amorphous (solar cells)

Amorphous solar cells are a type of photovoltaic solar cells named so because of their composition at the microscopic scale. Unlike multicrystalline and monocrystalline cells, the silicon that makes amorphous solar cells up, much thinner than the silicon wafers in a typical crystalline solar cell, is not highly structured or crystalized, so material costs are highly reduced, making this solar panels relatively cheap and affordable.

 

Export Tariff

The Export Tariff is, in addition to Feed-in Tariffs, the name given to a pre agreed bonus payment of surplus electricity your solar panels system exports to the electricity grid.

 

Off the grid

The term off-the-grid (OTG) means not being connected to a grid, especially to the main or national transmission grid in electricity. A true off-grid house is able to operate completely independently of all traditional public utility services, being self efficient and generating its own electricity – usually through renewable resources -.

 

Microgeneration

The term microgeneration refers to low-capacity electricity generation equipments, covering electricity production up to 50kW. Domestic-scale microgeneration embraces a range of technologies including small scale photovoltaic (PV) arrays, micro-hydro generation, small wind generators and domestic scale Combined Heat and Power (CHP) equipment.

 

MCS – The Microgeneration Certification Scheme

The Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) is an internationally recognised quality assurance scheme, supported by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, that certifies microgeneration technologies used to produce electricity and heat from renewable sources.
MCS is also an eligibility requirement for the Government’s financial incentives, which include the Feed-in Tariff and the Renewable Heat Incentive. For more information, please visit MCS website.

 

REAL Consumer Code

The Renewable Energy Assurance Ltd. (REAL) Consumer Code was set up by the Renewable Energy Association, and its aim is to ensure that consumers wishing to install a small-scale heat or power generation unit for their homes have the necessary confidence and service standards so that they can make an informed choice. For more information, please visit REAL website