Help Center & FAQ’s

Frequently Asked Questions About Solar & Renewable Energy

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General Questions

1Does my house qualify for solar panels?
All homes are eligible for solar Panels, but not all homes are suited, due mainly to a problem with the roof.
Examples could be either the orientation is not good, the roof itself is in bad repair, has the wrong type of covering (thatched) or it is to small.
Other issues could be, that your building is listed or in a conservation area or may need planning permission for the system that you are proposing to install.
2How many panels can I fit?
Because  solar panels come in different sizes and power outputs (kw) there is not just a simple answer. Changing the orientation of the panels – from  portrait to landscape – can sometimes make a big difference in how many solar panels will fit on your roof  - so it’s important to have an experienced solar panel installer do a survey. Many installers will offer a free solar panel survey and  you will then find out exactly the size & configuration of the best  one for you. As a rough guide, a typical 200w to 250w panel will need 1.7sq metres  - 1.7 metre long by 1 metre wide, so a 10 panel  system would need 17 sq. metres.  However, the full  area of your roof may not be usable due to the shape or angles of the  roof.  The solar panels will also need to be kept back from any open edges, normally between 250mm to 450mm.  If you have a lot of panels on your roof, when it rains heavily the water shoots off quite quickly and if the panels are too close to your gutters the water will overshoot!
3How much do solar panels cost?

Solar panel costs vary a lot. It can depend on the make & size of the solar panel or the locality of the solar panel installer.
Solar panel installers from London may well charge more to fit a system in Glasgow than a local solar panel installer due to the cost of travelling to the job.

4How long does it take to install a solar power system?
An experienced team of installers should be able to complete the average house in around 3 days, sometimes quicker.
5Do I need planning permission?
For most parts of the country planning permission is not required, although it is always recommended to check with your local authority (check out their website). Generally, if you are in a conservation area or listed building there will be some elements of permissions or special conditions need to be met.

About Installers

1Why is MCS membership important when choosing an Installer?
When your installation is complete, the solar panel system will need to be certified to the MCS standards otherwise you will not be eligible for the Feed in Tariff for producing electricity. If the person or company is not registered with the MCS then they cannot certify the system & your current power supplier may not register the system on the grid.
Not having your solar panels MCS certified could cost you thousands of pound in lost income from the feed in Tariff. More information can be found on their website microgenerationcertification.org where you can check the database of listed Solar panel installation companies.
2What is the MCS?
The MCS is the Micro-generation Certification Scheme, they certify all the Micro-generation technologies used to produce electricity and heat from renewable sources such as solar panels. They set the standards that all the equipment has to achieve in order for your solar installation to qualify for the Feed in tariff.
The MCS can be considered the Quality Control mechanism for consumers, companies and manufacturers. By having this standard in place it makes it simple to immediately know whether or not to install a piece of equipment or to choose a suitable installer – As a general rule, if it’s not MCS compliant, don’t use it.
3What is the REA?
The REA is the Renewable Energy Association, primarily it’s a trade association set up to offer a level of consumer protection in the Solar power market. There is also the REAL Assurance Scheme, this was set up by the Renewable Energy Association who’s stated aim is “to guarantee a high quality experience for consumers wishing to buy or lease small-scale energy generation systems for their homes.”
If your installer is showing The REAL Assurance Scheme logo, they will need to be a member and it is a sign that the company has agreed to abide by the standards of the REA Consumer Code. They can also provide a deposit guarantee scheme for their members, which offer added protection for you as the consumer – if your installer is member of REA then that’s a good sign
4What should I expect from a free solar panel survey?

The person who does the initial survey should check a number of points. Obviously they need to asses  the size of your roof. The surveyor should check  the condition of the outside & inside of the roof for structural integrity, check if there are any issues with shading of the proposed siting of the solar panels and discuss  any obvious obstacles to you having solar panels fitted, such as whether your building is  listed, in a conservation area or do you need planning permission. Get free survey here>

5What equipment is installed in a typical solar panel system for my home?
Normally a typical system would be made up of 3-4 main sections., the panels, the inverter, a generation meter & isolating switches . Your chosen number of solar panels are fitted to the roof by means of “rail mounts” and this would then be connected to an inverter, which is normally located in your loft or attic space.
Inverters do tend to “hum” quietly so it’s best not to site them where they may be heard, especially if your loft is converted into living space. Cables from the inverter are then run to a generation meter and onto your current household electrical system. Isolating switches, to enable the supply to be “cut off” from the national grid when needed for safety reasons, are fitted in a suitable location at ground level.

Miscellaneous

1What is The UK Feed in Tariff?

This is a financial incentive introduced to the UK in 2010 and provides tax fee income to homeowners who install qualifying renewable energy home improvements. find out more here

2How do I register for the feed in tariff?
Once your solar panels are installed the MCS registration will be done by the company that installed the system. The MCS will  then produce a certificate of registration (7 to 10 days) and this will contain the details of the panels and the output or “declared capacity” of your solar panels. Once you have your MCS certificate, go to the website of your utility provider and download the FIT application form. This form needs to be completed and returned to your utility provider along with a copy of your MCS certificate. You should receive your FIT rebate quarterly in arrears.
3What equipment is installed in a typical solar panel system for my home?
Normally a typical  system would be made up of  3-4  main sections., the panels, the inverter, a generation meter & isolating switches . Your chosen number of solar panels  are fitted  to the roof by means of  “rail mounts”  and this would then be connected to an inverter, which is normally located in your loft or attic  space. Inverters do tend to “hum” quietly so it’s best not to site them where they may be heard, especially if your loft is converted into living space. Cables from the inverter are then run to a generation meter and onto your current household electrical system.  Isolating switches, to enable the supply to be “cut off” from the national grid when needed for safety reasons, are  fitted in a suitable location at ground level.
4How much VAT is charged on solar panels?
For qualifying renewable energy systems fitted to residential properties the current rate of VAT charged for 5% of the cost of the installation - however this may be subject to increase due to EU legislation.
5Do I pay tax on the feed in tariff income?
Although the FITS and generation tariff are extra personal income, the government confirmed in 2009 that people who receive income in the form of tariffs will not be subject to income tax. For a basic rate tax payer, this would represent a very good investment opportunity. For higher rate tax payers, such as yourself, the situation could a lot more efficient and productive as higher rate tax therefore also is not due – however, there is a phrase used in connection with the income being tax free and that is: “ so long as the electricity generated is predominately used for domestic purposes” – how and where the revenue may implement this is not clear as yet.
6What does kW, kWh & kWp mean for solar panel installations?
The kilowatt hour or kwh is most frequently referred to as the unit for energy provided to consumers by the power companies . Your Energy supplier would normally charge by the kWh for the electricity that you use.  For our purposes, kWp generally refers to the size of a solar panel system.  When we mention kilowatts peak , most people use it to mean the maximum power output from the panels under perfect conditions (normally test lab conditions).
7What is an inverter?
As the solar panels only create direct current (D/C) it has to be converted into Alternating current (A/C) in order to be able to be used in your home – your mains electricity supply is A/C. this is achieved by running the electricity produced by the panels through an inverter which transforms the electricity from D/C to A/C. The inverter is chosen to match the power output of your solar panels in order to be able to handle the correct amount of power generated.
8What is the difference between thermodynamic & thermal panels?

The major differentiation between these two designs are in the way they collect & distribute heat. Solar thermal panels are tube like structures that need to absorb heat from direct sunlight and work most efficiently on bright days.

Thermodynamic panels, on the other hand absorb heat from the surrounding atmosphere & do not require sunlight to operate & can generate hot water even at night. Thermodynamic panels, however, may not qualify under the FIT tariff as yet.

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