FAQ

What happens if we move from the property?

The ownership of the PV system is directly linked to the property, not the occupant. If you decide to move house all of the benefits of the PV system will be passed on to the new owners. If you move into a new house with a PV system you’ll get the FIT and free electricity.

As a landlord, what benefit would I receive from installing PV?

It’s up to the landlord and tenants to come to an agreement. In most cases the tenants would receive the free electricity, whilst the landlord would receive the generation and export payments. Some people decide to charge a small fee for the solar electricity usage, but that is of course up to the individual..

Do I need a special meter?

As part of the MCS requirements for a PV system it is necessary to install a Total Generation Meter (TGM) so that the production of electricity (kWh’s) can be recorded, generation of the system metered and your FIT payments can be made. An export meter or smart meter can be installed to identify how much “unused” electricity has been exported back onto the national grid. These meters are not yet mandatory for smaller (<30kWp) systems but smart metering is likely to be rolled out nationally over the next few years.

If I’m not connected to the grid can I still claim the FIT’s?

Yes. Although your system would be eligible for the comparably lower “stand alone” rate, almost half the amount you are able to receive per unit for a typical domestic installation.

Does this mean I don’t have any electricity bill?

No. As your PV system uses daylight to generate electricity it will only produce power when the sun is shining, you’ll still need to buy electricity from the grid to cover your usage at night and times when the systems production is lower than the usage in the house.

Can I change my electricity supplier during the FIT period?

Changing you supplier shouldn’t be an issue, although it’s definitely worthwhile reading the T&C’s in the contract offered up by your chosen FIT supplier. Most allow you to change your electricity provider freely but on occasion some do tie you in for a specific amount of time. The FIT contract is however set and its difficult to change that once you’re set up.

Is there any disruption when my usage changes from the PV supply to grid connection?

There is no disruption to your supply whatsoever. There’s no switch you have to turn or button you have to press; the changeover is done automatically and the transition is so smooth you wouldn’t even notice it happening.

How will I know what my PV system is generating?

The TGM will display the number of units that has been generated by the system since its commissioning date, this is also where you take your readings for the FIT. For a more in depth idea of production over different time periods most inverters will have an LCD display or wireless connectivity so that you are able to download detailed information. Of course there are various different types of monitoring systems that can also be included that offer up a wider range of data and present it in an easy to interpret way.

What guarantees come with the system?

PV systems installed by SunGift come with a five year workmanship guarantee as standard. Product warranties vary between manufacturers with inverters being 5 to 12 years and mounting systems usually around 15. Panels come with a performance guarantee over the course of 25 years and a product warranty of at least 10. Better quality modules usually guarantee a lower rate of degradation and a longer product lifespan. Extended warranties are available.

How long will my system last for?

Although most panels are guaranteed to 25 years (as mentioned above), realistically their lifespan will be much longer and they’ll still be producing usable electricity in year 40. Although their performance will be noticeably lower than when new. It’s also important to be aware that the inverter may require replacement during this time.

Is planning required to install a PV system?

Most domestic sized systems come under something called “permitted development” which means as long as the system is installed according to certain criteria then no permission is required. They are as follows: • Panels should not be installed above the highest part of the roof (excluding the chimney) and should project no more than 200mm from the roof slope or wall surface. • The panels must not be installed on a building that is within the grounds of a listed building. • The panels must not be installed on a site designated as a scheduled monument. • Wall mounted only – if your property is in a conservation area, or in a World Heritage Site, panels must not be fitted to a wall which fronts a highway. If the system is ground mounted or within a conservation area or national park its also worth checking with the local planning authority.

How much space do you need?

Generally speaking for every 1kWp installed you’ll require around 6.5m2of roof space, with the most common sized systems being 3-4kWp. With higher powered panels it is possible to bring that 6.5 down to around 5m2 for those projects with limited roof space.

Do panels have to be roof mounted?

No, a solar panel can be installed across a range of applications. Roof mounted is the most common but on a frame on the ground is also frequently used when the roof is not ideal. This way you can often achieve a better performance from a system as the pitch and orientation of the units can be set so as to achieve the optimum yield.

Do the panels have to face South?

No. Although South facing is the optimum orientation for PV modules in the UK systems off South can still yield high returns. A system facing East or West can still produce as much as 85% of the electricity generated by a South facing array.

If the sun isn’t shining will I still get electricity?

Yes. Solar panels are photovoltaic and as such they do not rely upon direct sunlight to generate electricity, albeit at a reduced rate.

Do they require maintenance?

Although PV systems are designed to be “plug and play” we would recommend that a service is undertaken every five years just to make sure the system is running to optimum performance and to have the opportunity to pre-empt any potential issues. Most manufactures include stipulations in their warranties that require systems to have a periodic service check. It is also quite commonly suggested by industry bodies.

Are the panels or my roof damaged by strong wind or hail?

As part of the MCS accreditation process all modules are required to pass wind and hail test before they are able to be sold commercially. The modules we supply have all been tested at levels that exceed the conditions found in the UK. If designed and installed correctly a PV system should cause no damage to your roof whatsoever.

How long will the installation take?

Depending upon the size and complexity of the system it should take no more than 1-2 days for a domestic sized installation.

Can I install the panels myself?

No, unless you’re MCS accredited. For you to be eligible to receive the FIT payments your system must be installed by an MCS accredited company.

Will I still have electricity if there is a power cut?

No. As a safety feature of the inverter it will not function if it can’t detect voltage on the grid. If it didn’t have this feature then it would be able to export electricity onto the national grid whilst the power was down and people were working on the line, potentially being very dangerous.

Can I spread the panels across two roofs?

Yes. The panels are managed by an inverter system which usually has the ability to manage two sets of data i.e panels on both an East and West facing roof.

Are there any grants available to help towards the cost of the installation?

The FIT has largely replaced all the grants that were available for domestic installations. There may be some more local schemes available in your particular area but accepting a grant of this kind usually means that you are not eligible to receive the FIT payments at all.

How long can I expect a system to take to break even?

This of course depends on a number of factors but we find system paybacks range from 6.5 to 12 years, with the most common being around 8-10 years.

Will a PV system add value to my house?

From our experience this is a very subjective topic. When systems are designed and installed without compromising the character of the building we generally find that the addition of solar is found as a major benefit, after all a 4kWp system can provide a tax free, index linked income of almost £600 annually, rising to around £1,000 when considering the savings on electric bills. Who wouldn’t see that as added value?!

What happens to the energy when I’m not at home?

Any electricity produced by the system will fulfil the demand in the property as a priority. If the demand is met the electricity will automatically be exported back on the national grid.

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