Tips and Essential Knowledge for Buying Solar Panels
As you all know, solar panels are a big investment that delivers an array of benefits to property owners. Nonetheless, the process of actually buying then installing solar panels brings multiple implications, such as: the suitability of installing to your building, choosing the best PV panels / inverter, finding a trustworthy installer, attaining satisfactory service plus purchasing a battery system and or any additional electrical components.
Ultimately, the priority is to maximise future savings whilst minimising the payback period; in addition, ensuring the installation process is as simple and stress-free as possible.
This article highlights the integral steps to consider when purchasing a solar system. Subsequent to reading, you should have the peace of mind to contact an installer / company to begin your solar quest!
Is Your Roof Suitable for Solar Panels?
Importantly, before setting any unrealistic goals in regards to fitting solar panels, it is vital to undergo an assessment of your roof to investigate the feasibility to install panels to your property. At P4, we will always assess your roof to understand the safety and suitability of fitting and retaining panels for the longevity.
Firstly, the roof has to be strong enough to withstand the weight of the panels – typically panels weigh between 18kg-22kg thus if the roof is very old or damaged it needs to be properly fixed to ensure full safety. In most cases, today’s roofs are in good condition therefore the additional load of panels shouldn’t be an issue, however, a full assessment of the roof prior to installation is always mandatory.
Is the Angle (Pitch) and Direction (Orientation) of the Roof Optimal for Solar?
Critically, angles tilted at 35 degrees from horizontal is ideal for optimum solar panel performance on UK roofs. Nonetheless, almost any angle pitched on a roof can acquire sunlight thus feasible for solar energy. However, the panels will need to attain a suitable orientation and be free from shade to perform effectively (see below).
Indefinitely, south facing roofs are admirable for solar energy due to maximising solar energy yields. Nonetheless, roofs facing south-east, east, south-west or west still sufficiently obtain enough sunshine for generating energy. Often seen with roofs facing both east and west, panels will be split across both roofs to ensure they are attracting sunlight consistently throughout the day. Notably, buildings, trees, mountains etc. can all contribute to shading which doesn’t just affect the shade affected panel(s) but all the others connected on that string. Importantly, when shade is unavoidable, utilising optimisers will still enable shaded panels to produce some energy but importantly, completely mitigate the impact shade has on the subsequent string of panels. Therefore, undergoing a thorough evaluation with a solar professional prior to purchase will fundamentally source any implications which may arise with your roof layout. At P4 we do this all for free!
Is a Permit Required to Install Solar Panels?
As of 2008, solar panels are “Permitted Development" therefore, in most cases don’t require planning permission. However, users who desire a system over 3.68 KW, obtain a listed building or situate in a conversion area do require planning permission (a G99 application). For most residential properties, planning permission will not be necessary however at P4, we will always thoroughly go through permit implications so that there's no confusion on your end. See ''What Planning Permission is Required for Solar Panels?' to find out in greater detail, information regarding planning permission.
What is the Right Solar Panel?
Overall, solar panels are an increasingly important decision to make; the money incurred from the purchase in addition to the changes they make to your lifestyle means acquiring the right panels are fundamental to suit your personal needs.
Warranty and Lifespan
The two unique selling points of adopting solar is evidentially for environmental sustainability and financial returns. Like any product, solar panels degrade overtime however the majority of panels are expected to last for 25 years with a reasonable power output of over 80% throughout their warranty lifespan. Notably, with improvements in technology, the levels of degradation are reducing and now some panels in fact stay above 80% after 30 years. Importantly, with the advancements we are seeing in technology every year, this figure is only going to greaten in the future.
To ensure an optimum lifespan for your solar panels, utilising well-established manufacturers are essential to guarantee top performance. At P4, we only supply top of the range panels and will always provide advice to find a panel which works best for you! Visit our partners page to see which manufacturers we work with to gather an understanding of the different modules available.
Efficiency of solar panels are based on their size and power output. Obviously, the greater a panel’s efficiency the greater the power output. Currently, the average efficiency of residential solar panels flutter around the 20% mark which at P4, is what we always aim for to ensure top performance for our customers.
Aesthetics don’t concern everybody however for some, they can be a real influential factor in regards to purchase. Regardless, panels are going to be on your roof for 25+ years where you and your neighbours are going to see them more or less every day – thus, you may as well choose something that fits your taste and looks appealing. Slicker and sharper designs are regularly coming to market which are becoming increasingly appealing to the public eye. Moreover, in roof designs have recently become progressively popular which means that the panels are integrated into the roof (see below); making for a slicker design whilst still ensuring optimal ventilation, water resistance, snow and wind compatibility plus being fire resistant. At P4, we’ll always discuss your personal needs and find a panel to aesthetically and suitably meet your requirements.
How to Choose the Right Installer?
Choosing the right installer is critical to ensure your purchase meets your specified needs; the cost, the quality of the installation plus service and support is all consequent of choosing the right installer / company.
The cost of installation fluctuates immensely between different installers, that’s why we always recommend to get quotes from multiple companies so you find a solar system that meets your needs. Sourcing value is extremely important within high-involvement decisions but nonetheless, choosing the cheapest service will not always guarantee desirable results. At P4, our friendly advisory services ensure you are fully educated on the purchase you are undergoing whilst limiting ambiguity as solar is obviously not everybody’s expertise! That’s why we recommend for you to have a deep and thorough chat with the company / installer before obtaining your quote to fully understand the logistics of a solar system personal to you. It is regulatory practise for an examination of your roof to take place to later design an optimized system for your property to achieve admirable results. Consequently, a quote can be formed to provide the details behind the power generation and payback period upon return on investment; at P4, we provide an extensive report so that our customers fully understand everything involved within the purchase they are considering.
Furthermore, choosing a reputable company is pivotal – never rush into a purchase just because the wait time is high (very much like it is at the minute)! Choosing an MCS certified company should be the bare minimum to ensure reliability - do not buy solar from a company who are not MCS credited! Visit our Accreditations page which showcases that we are a quality-assured, reliable company. In addition, looking at customer reviews can gauge company repertoire whilst referrals can also capture how previous customers perceived their purchase. At P4, the majority of our customers are generated through referrals via our customer satisfaction being extremely high; visit our Reviews page to read live comments left by our brilliant customers!
How to find a reliable company?
- Who have your friends, family or colleagues used? Seek referrals.
- Check reviews - visit Trustpilot, Facebook etc. to discover experiences undergone by previous customers.
- Search the MCS installer database to find accredited companies near you.
- Ask us, we are here to help! Although we are very busy, we can recommend external installers and companies who we trust.
Once the panels are installed, there should really be no sudden problems, however, after 25-30 years problems can still occur which is something to be cautious of. Most inverters have a 10–15-year lifespan so they will need to be replaced in due course – if this occurs, hopefully you should have a strong relationship with your installer and replacing will only take half a morning! At P4, we like to maintain healthy relationships with all our clients, this being consequent to receiving so many customer referrals. Therefore, at any point our customers are always free to have a chat with us.
How to Choose the Right Inverter?
Acquiring a suitable sized invertor is important to fully reap the benefits of your solar system. For example, if you have a 2KW inverter but a solar system with 10 panels each at 390W, ultimately the invertor will not generate enough power to fully optimise the performance of your system. Therefore, your parent company should always advice a correct sized inverter whilst using a reputable brand to ensure best practise for your solar panels. Notably, at P4 we encourage our customers to install hybrid invertors so they can install solar batteries – this enabling you to store any surplus energy created from the panels as well fill up the batteries and power your home at off-peak rates. Nonetheless, if batteries are something a customer cannot necessarily afford or doesn’t want at the stage of installation, utilising a hybrid inverter means at a later date an installer can simply fit batteries to your system; this being unfeasible when using a standard string invertor.
Do You Need a Solar Battery?
Every household has different requirements; a households energy expenditure is resultant of whether they need batteries or not. That’s why at P4, we will always ask to see your energy bill and consumption throughout the year to adequately assess whether a battery will suit your needs. Visit "Are Battery Storage Solutions Worth it?" to find out more but ultimately if your household is exceeding the kWh per annum of your invertor, a battery would help save significant amounts of money per year and greaten household sustainability.