Which way does your roof face?
PV solar panels work much better on a south facing roof. This is because the UK is in the northern hemisphere, and the sun is more often than not to the south of us. Having said that, don’t rule solar panels out if you roof faces east or west, as you can still make a reasonable return. The pitch (angle) of your roof is also important. Solar panels are most effective at around 30-35 degrees – the same pitch as a standard UK roof. Your installers should accurately measure your roof before they give you a final estimate of performance.
Also, check if your roof area is shaded by trees, buildings, or other structures. The solar panel company should take this into account when they make their calculations.
When do you use the most electricity?
Solar panels convert sunlight into electricity, and feed that electricity directly into your home. You will get the most value from your solar panels if you use a lot of energy during daylight hours – things like washing and drying clothes for example. Making a few changes to your daily routine will really help maximise your savings.
How long will you live in the property?
When we design a domestic solar panel system, we do our best to give the customer a 10% return on their investment – or in other words, the panels will pay for themselves in around 10 years. The Feed In Tariff is guaranteed for 20 years. So in order to get the maximum value for money from your panels, you should really be planning to stay put for several years.
What about free solar panels?
At one point in time several companies were offering free panels, or ‘rent-a-roof’ schemes. The company would own the panels on your roof, and they would benefit from the Feed In Tariff, leaving you with just the electricity savings. These schemes have become less popular since the Feed In Tariff rate was reduced by the government in August 2012, although some companies are still doing it.
Our company do not offer free panels, as we feel they are unfair to the homeowner. We think that if you pay for the panels to begin with, you will get far more benefits in the long-run.
Is the installer MCS and REAL certified?
This one is crucial. The company who install your solar panels MUST be MCS certified in order for you to receive the Feed In Tariff. MCS is supported by the Department of Energy and Climate Change and assures quality workmanship.
REAL (Renewable Energy Assurance Ltd) ensures that installers comply with their Consumer Code, which is backed by the Office of Fair Trading. In other words, REAL members have to behave themselves and stick to the rules regarding advertising, giving estimates, the way their salespeople behave and so on.
Does the system come with a guarantee or warranty?
What would happen if your installation company went out of business? What could you do if there was a problem with your panels? Make sure you are protected if anything goes wrong.
Where will your deposit be kept?
If a solar panel company asks for a deposit, it should go into a separate holding account, in accordance with the REAL code (see above). This means that if anything goes wrong you will be able to get your money back.
What about the actual panels?
Most panels may look the same at a glance, but there are hundreds of manufacturers and models to choose from with differences in quality and efficiency. Did you know for example, that there are two types of silicon that panels can be made from? – monocrystalline (higher efficiency but more expensive) and polycrystalline (slightly lower efficiency but cheaper). Not all panels are created equal, and it’s a good idea to ask which panels your installer will be using and ask to see some technical specifications.
Has the installer asked to see your Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)?
In order qualify for the Feed In Tariff, your home must be rated D or better for energy efficiency. If it is rated E or lower, you have two options – make energy efficiency improvements before having the panels installed or receive the lower Feed In Tariff. Either way, your installer should ask to see your EPC before making any calculations.
What is included in the price?
Ask for a full breakdown of the cost and if there are any hidden extras. The price you are given should include labour, scaffolding, electrician fees, extra materials (railings & fixings, cables etc) and VAT.