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.
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.
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 not facing south can still yield high returns. A system facing east or west can 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 solar panels require maintenance?
Although solar PV systems are designed to be “plug and play” we would recommend that a service is undertaken every 2-3 years or so, just to make sure the system is running to optimum performance. 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.
Will the panels or my roof be damaged by strong wind or hail?
As part of the MCS accreditation process all solar panels are required to pass wind and hail tests before they can be sold commercially. The modules that we supply have all been tested at levels that exceed the conditions found in the UK. If designed and installed correctly a PV system will 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. In order 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 the inverter will not function if it can’t detect a voltage from the national grid. If this feature did not exist then the system would be able to export electricity back to the grid even during a power cut, endangering anyone working to fix the problem.
Battery systems, however, can be designed to give you energy during a power cut.
Can I spread the panels across two roofs?
Yes. The panels are managed by an inverter system that usually has the ability to manage the data from panels on two roofs facing different directions (e.g. east and west).
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 local schemes available in your area, but accepting a grant of this kind could mean that you are no longer eligible to receive the FIT payments at all.
How long can I expect a system to take to break even?
This will depend on a number of factors. However, we usually find that the payback period for a system can range from 6.5-12 years, with most systems paying for themselves after 8-10 years.
Will a PV system add value to my house?
From our experience this can be very subjective. When systems are designed and installed without compromising the character of the building we generally find that the addition of solar PV is a major benefit. After all, a 4kWp system can provide savings of about £600 annually. 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 demands of the property as a priority. If this demand is met then any excess electricity will be automatically exported to the grid. If you have a battery system however, you can store any unused electricity for use later.