Facts about PV solar panels

PV solar panels (photovoltaic) aren’t just about going green; they can save you thousands of pounds!

Solar heating and PV electric panels.

Solar heating and PV electric panels.

You need a southerly facing roof with space on which to put the panels, which don’t require direct sunshine to work, just daylight.

You gain financially in 3 simple ways: your home value increases, you save on your energy bills and the feed-in tariff scheme gives you a guaranteed income from the energy you create.

Consider these gains over 20-30 years, and you’ll see that it can be extremely beneficial.

The interest in solar panels has increased dramatically with the realisation of permanently high energy bills becoming the norm. We have, therefore, put down this list of frequently asked questions that we encounter when helping people choose the right solar panel system for their home.

We hope you will find this useful:

Do solar panels work in the UK climate?

The United Kingdom receives 60% of the amount of solar energy that the equator gets. Each square Metre of the UK receives between 900– 1200kWh of solar radiation each year, making the UK a pleasant climate for PV solar panels to work. Sweden and Denmark have strong solar industries, and they are in more northerly latitudes than the United Kingdom.

Generating electricity from solar panels is very efficient. Over 95% of the electricity collected from your system then converted into AC for use in the home, and this is much more efficient than power bought from the National Grid. Over 70% of the energy is converted into heat with solar heating systems. In comparison, grid-supplied electricity is typically less than 40% efficient.

Solar heating or solar electric panels?

Both technologies do very different jobs with different pricing structures.

Which system you choose varies per household, but it depends on which type of energy cost you want to reduce and how much money you can afford to spend on solar. People now see solar panels as an investment for their home and cheaper energy costs for the future.

Although more expensive, people tend to gravitate to PV electric at the moment, with the favourable feed-in tariff scheme, which is currently available to new adopters.

You can have hot water from the sun in the UK using either flat panels or evacuated solar tubes.

Do I need planning permission?

Solar panel roof systems are classed as permitted development so you don’t need planning permission, although if you live in an area of outstanding natural beauty, National Park or Conservation Area, you should contact your local council for guidance.

How does the feed-in tariffs work?

Your energy supplier pays the feed-in tariff payments to those who generate using micro-generation systems or solar panels. When you apply for the feed-in tariffs, your energy supplier will tell you when payments get made.

Payments will be made at least quarterly.

Feed-in tariff income of under £4,000 per year is tax-free. Larger-scale commercial installations and installations on rental properties are treated as taxable income.

Why do you get more money for electric produced than you pay for electricity used?

Solar energy is free, clean and green. This scheme is in comparison to power generated from fossil fuel sources which become rapidly depleted. The feed-in tariff scheme is designed to help the UK to meet the EU target of 20% by 2020, thereby reducing our dependence on unstable energy sources.

What about at night?

At night, when the solar panels are not able to generate electricity, you purchase power from your energy supplier as usual.

Do solar panels work in the wintertime?

Yes, both types of solar panel technologies still produce energy throughout the winter. The shorter length of day does affect your output, but they will still be working to reduce your consumption.

How durable are the panels?

You shouldn’t stand on them, but they are designed and developed to cope with the wind speeds and snow weight of the UK with ease.

Do the panels require cleaning?

The self-cleaning glass works well, in the same way, that Velux windows work.

Will I still have to pay bills?

Maybe not, but this depends on the size of the solar panel installation compared to your energy usage. Some larger installations do result in the energy suppliers paying the solar user only.

Do panels have to go on the roof of my house?

Not necessarily. PV solar panels especially can easily be installed on frames within your garden/land or perhaps on outbuildings with a suitable roof location.

How long do solar panels last?

PV solar panels have a manufacturer’s performance warranty of 20 or 20 years and a working lifetime of 40 years and beyond. Solar heating panels usually have a warranty of 10 years with a running lifespan of 30 years and beyond.

Monocrystalline vs. Polycrystalline solar panels

Mono-crystalline PV panels have higher efficiency figures than Poly-crystalline panels but suffer from higher temperature variability. Within the real world, poly-panels do produce better full-year performance than mono.

Why you should install solar panels?

Putting the financial savings, earning and home value to one side, the power supplied by the National Grid is typically less than 40% efficient, due to inefficient production and grid length losses.

The more energy that people produce by solar methods will allow more old power stations to be switched off. This reason is why the power companies are behind this.

People without solar panels (maybe your neighbours) will be subsidising your solar installation in the form of higher bills to buy you’re solar-generated locally produced, green power.

What if I move home?

If you install solar panels and start claiming the feed-in tariffs, you will have lower bills and steady income payments. These benefits can be transferred to the new owner if you sell your house and so when you decide to sell your home, you can ask a higher market price for it, as it will come with a ready-installed income.

Do you offer free PV solar panels?

No, and we don’t recommend them for the following reasons:

Firstly solar companies who do offer free solar panels are cashing in and taking away your entitlement to the feed-in tariff scheme.

Secondly, if you work during the day, then the energy savings promised will be small. Thirdly, you will find it hard to sell your home in the future if another company contractually owns your roof for a minimum of 20 years.

Invest yourself and receive the feed-in tariff rewards yourself, is our advice.

What is the VAT rate?

Both solar PV and solar heating installations rated at 5% VAT which is designed to encourage investment in this rapidly expanding industry.

"Real energy freedom."

Stuart Lovatt 2011-06-29
Founder of Power My Home.