20 May 2024

10 Essential Considerations Before Going Solar


Chris Sadler, Founder of Kimble Solar, unveils the myriad benefits and crucial considerations for individuals contemplating solar.


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Whether you believe in global warming or not, I don’t think anyone is under the illusion that indefinitely mining and burning fossil fuels is a sustainable path. The supply is not endless, and we need to take action. Well, good news, there is a solution that we can all adopt – from a governmental level right down to us, as individuals. Solar panels produce free, clean energy with zero emissions. Even better news; they will save you significant money on your energy bills and even increase the value of your property.

1. Solar should be designed to meet your individual needs

Solar is an investment and, like all investments, you are looking to get a good return. Your system should consider how much energy you are currently using, the appliances and equipment that you are using and your current lifestyle. Any reputable company will provide you with performance calculations that indicate your estimated return on investment and lifetime savings on your energy bills.

2. What is your ‘why’?

The very first question you should ask yourself is, why do you want solar and what are your expectations? You could ask 20 installation companies for a quotation, and I can guarantee that no two solutions would be alike. This is very confusing for the end client, so if you understand why you want solar and what your objective is, then it will be easier for you to know which direction to go in.

3. What are your plans for the future?

Solar panel systems have a warranted lifetime, typically in excess of 25 years; it is a long-term investment. The most important question is how long do you intend to live in your current property for? Most domestic solar installations have a payback period of around five to 10 years. It is also important to consider any anticipated changes in usage. For example, getting a heat pump, any lifestyle changes, whether you will be working from home or retiring and any changes in occupancy, such as getting a lodger or kids growing up and leaving home.

4. Sizing your system

Ideally, your solar annual generation should closely match your home’s annual energy consumption. Not every drop of solar energy will be used by the home and, typically, you will generate excess energy in the summer and not enough in the winter.

5. Is your roof suitable?

In the UK, a roof that is pitched between 20 and 50°, with an orientation between south west and south east can be considered optimal. However, homes that have both east- and west-facing roofs are also advantageous as they can deliver power more evenly throughout the day. Large areas of roof space with minimal obstacles, such as skylights, vents and chimneys, are ideal for maximising the number of panels.

6. Shading is the enemy

Solar panel performance is affected dramatically by shading, even a thin shadow such as a TV aerial or overhead cable can hamper performance. Where possible, position panels away from nearby shading obstacles, remove TV aerials, if they are no longer needed, and keep bushes and trees trimmed.

7. Planning permission

Most on-roof systems can be installed under permitted development and, therefore, do not need planning permission. However, conservation areas and areas of outstanding natural beauty will likely need planning permission. Listed buildings are likely to have planning refused.

8. Energy tariffs

Shop around for an excellent tariff that will suit your change in energy usage. If you are exporting lots of energy, then you want to get a tariff with a good export rate (Smart Export Guarantee or SEG). If you have a battery, then you may wish to change to a tariff that gives you an excellent off-peak rate so that you may charge your battery overnight and use the cheap energy throughout the day.

9. Choosing an installer

Ideally, use an MCS-accredited installer so that you are dealing with an audited company and also so that you may claim SEG payments. Do your research and check the reviews on sites like Google and Trustpilot and be particularly wary if they have any one- or two-star reviews.

10. Beware of the myths

There are a lot of misconceptions about how solar and battery systems perform. Here are some truths:

•  Your solar and battery system will not provide power in the event of a power cut; they will shut down for safety reasons

•  Even with solar panels, you will mostly need to import energy from the grid to charge your electric vehicle

•  Heat pumps for central heating and solar panels work at different times of the year. In the depths of winter, you will be heating your home from grid energy, not solar.

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