When you are investing in home improvements, it’s always an idea to be informed about what you are getting, what’s involved and how it will fit in with the rest of the home.
So, in this blog we thought we’d give you a step-by-step description of a full install, from quote to aftercare.
The first step on any journey is getting the information you need.
So, when you book an appointment with a solar sales rep make sure you have all your questions ready for them.
Most reputable companies will have well trained reps who will be able to take you through your installation, what you need to generate the power your home needs and give you a breakdown of savings.
At this stage the quote may not be final because, as educated as the salespeople are, they need to have their information checked by a qualified surveyor.
Once the sales team have left your home, they should be sending your information to the survey team to ensure what they have quoted you for can be installed in your home.
9 times out of 10 there will but no need to change your quote but, occasionally, the survey team may pick points the rep has missed – both positive and negative.
For instance, the rep may have quoted you for 10 panels, but the survey team may see an opportunity for more and will contact you to let you know.
It’s also at this stage any system producing over 3.68 kW will need to gain approval from the grid operator via an application for a G99 certificate.
Systems under 3.68 kW will need a G98 certificate, which is more of an indication that you’ll be feeding into the grid, and that will be applied for later in the process.
The survey will also flag up and risks or potential installation problems.
Once all the potential problems, or barriers to installation are sorted out, it’s time to make sure the installers can get where they need to be.
Scaffolding is essential when installing solar on anything taller than a bungalow – and even then, it can be a good idea to use scaffolding on a bungalow.
While solar panels are not particularly heavy, they are large and cumbersome, so scaffolding makes life easier and much, much safer.
Installation companies will use a well trusted scaffolding contractor from the local area, so they will usually turn up the day before your install.
Whether you have a pitched roof, a flat roof or a ground-based installation, you need rails and brackets for the panels to sit on as it’s the cheapest, most practical way to do it.
The tiles or slates are slid to one side and a secure hook is fastened to the rafter underneath.
Once the hook is attached, the tile is replaced leaving the end of the hook exposed.
The rails are attached to these hooks to span the full length of the solar array.
Learn more about solar panel mounting.
Panels are held in place with friction-based brackets that hold both the edge of the panel and the rail.
This system is incredibly safe, and strong, as it’s tested for hurricanes, hail and torrential rain.
Once the panels are laid on top of the rails, the air can flow freely around them, keeping them cool and maintaining efficiency.
Learn more about solar panel installation.
The connection of the panels happens once they are installed on the rail.
Using PV Connecters, sometimes called MC4 connectors – a brand name from cable and connector giants Staubli, the panels are connected in series or in parallel, depending on the inverter you are using.
This isn’t something a customer needs to worry about, but it’s best to note whether the panels are in series or parallel in case you need to replace one or buy a new inverter.
Also, do not connect, or disconnect, panels when the inverter is drawing power from them, you may damage them or start a fire!
The inverter is the piece of kit that transforms the DC energy produced by your panels into AC energy you can use in your home.
Inverters come in various sizes, based on the kWh they can handle, and your inverter will have been chosen for your particular needs.
It’s best to have the inverter installed inside the home, and most are fitted in the loft space or garage, but they can be situated outside if you have storage for them and they won’t be in direct sunlight.
The inverter also feeds excess electricity to the grid and/or battery.
If you opted to save yourself money 24/7 you’ll be needing a battery.
These are installed along with the inverter and their charge will be controlled by that inverter.
It’s worth noting that the VAT on a battery will be zero if it is part of an energy saving installation – but, if you retro fit one, you may end up paying VAT on it.
Once your system is fully installed, it will be connected to a specially designed device that ensures electricity is fed to the home, the battery and the grid.
Then, flick the switch and start generating your own electricity.
The G99 and G98 forms we talked about earlier certify that your system is eligible to feed electricity into the grid.
Energy suppliers are legally obliged to offer customers an SEG, or Smart Export Guarantee, to buy back your excess electricity.
It’s worth shopping around for a good deal as companies are offering up to 24p per kWh while some are offering as little as 2p.
And that’s it!
So long as everything fitted is in good working order, and there is no user error during installation, your system should be producing electricity from the minute you turn it on until the panels finally give up in 50 odd years.
Your installation company should provide you with some kind of monitoring service to ensure everything is running well and keep you informed on what energy you are using, what you are storing and how much is going to the grid.
You will need to look at replacing the inverter and batteries in about a decade but, certainly here at Solar Fast, that is all included in the quote and the savings predictions.
Please ensure any installation team, or company, you use is registered, or affiliated, with MCS, NAPIT, EPVS and HIES.