Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need scaffolding to have a solar PV installation?

If there is any chance of our installers falling and injuring themselves then the answer is yes! It is not just about accessing the roof easily, it is about transferring large glass panels safely and without damage. Unless the roof can be stepped onto from the ground or from another flat roof, then usually scaffolding will be required.

We have access to excellent and reliable scaffolders, and would arrange scaffolding as part of the installation. Our scaffolding is always fully certified and insured.

If we are installing panels on a building where you are arranging the scaffolding (for example as part of a building project), then please speak to us to ensure that it meets our requirements.

Can I have solar panels on a dormer or a small flat roof?

Small flat roofs and dormer roofs are not usually suitable for solar panels. Bear in mind the following: –

  • On flat roofs, you usually need to observe a 600mm exclusion zone between the edge of the array and the edge of the roof. In most cases, that means reducing the available size of the roof by 1.2metres width and depth (often on dormers not leaving space for more than one or two panels)
  • Panels on flat roofs have to be elevated so as not to void the warranty of the panels. This means that they protrude more than 200mm from the roof plane, and so generally need full planning permission.
  • Being on a flat roof so high up makes them usually inaccessible for visual monitoring or servicing
  • Ballasted systems weigh the panels and mounting frame down with something heavy (paving slabs or similar). Four panels is usually the minimum required for warranty purposes for these systems, and a structural assessment would be needed to ensure that the dormer can support the not inconsiderable amount of ballast required (many dormers are of light timber construction,  which is often unsuitable).
  • Fixed systems need to go on at the point of construction so as not to avoid roof warranties

If you think your roof is large enough then do let us have details and we would be happy to assess suitability.

Can I have a battery installed in the loft?

Batteries in lofts are not a good idea. They are mighty heavy and do not like huge fluctuations in temperature (especially heat). It is also advisable to have batteries somewhere you can keep an eye on them. The best places for batteries are on ground floors, in garages or utility rooms – or on external walls if there is no space on the ground floor. Batteries also need to communicate with the inverter, so bear that in mind when thinking about location – we can also advise best locations on a survey.

Can I install panels in my garden?

In theory yes! Roofs are definitely the best option, but if there is really no suitable space on the roof then they can be ground mounted.

However, you would need to obtain planning permission and be prepared to have a large structure built to support the panels (see some of our previous projects). We would also assess shading and advise if there is a suitable position or not.

Can I install solar panels on a slate roof?

Yes you can! Or rather we can…

It is a more difficult installation and takes longer, so is usually more expensive than installing on a tiled roof.

Where we remove slates to install roof hooks we use proprietary flashing kits (called Genius) to ensure the roof remains weathertight.

And all black panels look great on slate roofs….

Do I need to change my electricity meter if I have solar panels?

Solar panels will generate electricity that you can use in the house – no matter what electricity meter you have. However, old style analogue meters can be limiting if you want to benefit from the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG, read on for more), or any other smart tariffs, so we usually recommend having a smart meter fitted prior to the installation of a solar PV system or battery.

Smart meters measure electricity that you export, and you can sell this electricity back to your supplier (this is the Smart Export Guarantee). Rates vary from supplier to supplier, but the more responsible electricity suppliers pay 15p or more per unit.

Other smart tariffs that might be of benefit (if you have a battery for example) include cheap rate overnight tariffs.

Do I need a South-facing roof for solar panels?

In short, no!

You can install panels on any pitched roof, it is just a matter of how much electricity they will generate – which affects whether or not a system is financially viable.

If you take a standard pitched roof, 1kW of panels on a perfect south facing roof will generate 971kWh (units of electricity) a year. 

Facing south east or south west there is almost no difference (6% lower, at 916kWh).

At due east or west, generation drops to 775kWh a year (20% lower than a perfect south roof)

North east or north west would only be 609kWh (so 32% lower)

And a due north facing standard pitched roof would generate 530kWh a year (42% lower than if facing due south).

Steep roofs do not do as well as this; shallow pitched roofs do better. It is not unusual to install panels on a north facing roof if it has a very low pitch (10 to 20 degrees), it is large, and there is no alternative.  

Will I need to apply for planning permission to get solar panels?

Domestic solar PV systems on pitched roofs usually fall within Permitted Development Rights, and so do not need planning permission. The exceptions to this are as follows: –

  • The property is within a Conservation Area or an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)
  • The property is listed
  • The panels would be on a flat roof or a wall
  • The panels would be ground mounted

In all of these cases you would need to seek (and obtain) permission from your local planning department prior to installation.

Commercial solar PV systems have slightly different rules.

The rules regarding area and listed status still apply, but also any array needs to be at least a metre from any roof edge. With large installations that is easy to achieve – but if you are in any doubt, it is always best to consult the local planning authority.

What size battery storage do I need?

The size of the battery storage system that you need will depend on your electricity use, the pattern of your energy use (so whether you are in or out during the day for example) – and the size of your solar PV system. It also depends on whether you have access to smart tariffs (so can charge your battery using cheap overnight electricity for example).

A very rough guide is to take your annual electricity use, and divide it by 365. That gives your average daily use, and therefore how much you might want your battery to be able to store (whether from solar generation or the grid).

Most battery storage systems can be expanded if you find that a larger system would be beneficial – just bear in mind that there is no VAT on batteries when installed with a solar PV system (but 20% if installed alone).

Have a read of our battery storage page for more information.

How long do solar panels last?

Solar panels are built to last 40 to 50 years, and most come with a 25 or 30 year warranty. Output is likely to decrease with age, but decent panels are guaranteed to be generating at least 87% of their original output after 25 years. That is annual degradation of only 0.5%!

It is important that your solar panels are installed properly by an MCS accredited installer. Learn more about MCS accreditation here.

Can I add more panels to my existing system without affecting my Feed In Tariff (FITs)?

You can certainly add panels and batteries to properties where there is an existing solar PV array – you just need to be careful how it is done, so FIT payments are not affected.

Additional panels can be installed on a separate inverter and generation meter, thus keeping the old and new systems separate. You would still reap the benefits of the free electricity from both, but you would only receive FIT payments on the original system.

In some circumstances you can add panels to an existing inverter – but you would need to declare this to your FIT provider as an extension, and they would then ‘Pro Rata’ future payments.

Will replacing a panel affect my Feed in Tariff payments?

If you have an installation for which you are claiming Feed in Tariff payments, you need to ensure any changes you make to your system do not stop you being able to receive it. 

If a panel is damaged, and can be replaced on a ‘like for like’ basis, without increasing the TIC (Total Installed Capacity) of the system, then this would not affect payments. If your entire system needed replacing (for example if damaged in a fire or flood), then you would need to check with your FIT provider but usually the same rules would apply – so long as the system size is not increased, your payments remain.

If you wanted to replace your array with new panels to increase the capacity (modern panels are certainly more efficient than older panels) then I am afraid you would have to forfeit any remaining Feed In Tariff payments!

Do solar panels need cleaning?

Solar PV panels are designed to be self-cleaning in normal rainfall. Over time (and especially if the panels are installed at a low pitch), you might notice a buildup of dirt, lichen or bird droppings. In this event, a local window cleaner who has extension poles with soft brushes should be able to clean them for you. 

I have pigeons under my panels – what can I do?

Over the last few years, we have noticed an increase in pigeons nesting under panels. Not surprising as their natural habitat is disappearing, but they need to be discouraged!

While they might not appear to be damaging the panels, at the least they can be messy and noisy. At worst they can cause damage to the back of the panels and cables – and dry nesting material under hot panels can also be a fire risk.

If you have a known issue with pigeons it is a good idea to have a deterrent fitted at the time of installation (usually a mesh barrier).

If the issue occurs when the panels are already in situ, you will need to call in a pest control company to deal with the nesting material, and then install the barrier. Pigeons are wild birds, and so it is illegal to disturb their nests or eggs – this can only be done by a licensed professional.

The following licensed companies all operate in the Bristol area: 

Bristol Pest Controller:  01179395775

Advanced Pest Control: 07771503107 

Kapow: 07976 735086

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