Solar panels are installed by first putting up scaffold towers, then marking out the array on the roof before the actual installation, which begins with moving tiles and screwing hooks down onto the rafters, then putting tiles back and attaching rails to the roof hooks, before the last step of bolting the panels onto the rails, or using a clamp system instead of bolts. The inverter is hooked up and then your PV system is ready.
Good news is that solar panels, after installed, require little maintenance. They feature no moving parts or intricate mechanisms prone to breaking down. That said, regular maintenance is essential. It can detect and remedy faults which may lead to more substantial damage if left unchecked.
In addition to the actual cost of PV panels, roof mounts, and inverters, solar panel owners obviously also incur costs with installation. Furthermore, after installation, they have to consider the reoccurring costs of service and maintenance.
- 1. How are Solar Panels Installed?
- 2. How Long Does it Take to Install Solar Panels?
- 3. What is The Best Tilt-Angle for Solar Panels?
- 4. What Are the Service Costs of Solar Panels?
- 5. What Type of Service is Done on Solar Panels?
- 6. What Insurance Do I Need to Get When I Install Solar Panels?
- 7. Can I Install Solar Panels Myself?
- 8. How Will I Know If My Property is OK For Solar Panels?
- 9. How Do I Maintain My Solar Panels?
- 10. The Bottom Line
How are Solar Panels Installed?
Solar panel installation happens in stages.
- Your installer will first survey your property and draw up detailed plans concerning installation.
- The second step is putting up scaffold towers. Make sure that the cost of this operation is included in your installation costs. From this point, it can take less than a day for the installer to complete the job.
- Next, workers will mark out the array on the roof. They will also pinpoint the spots for the roof hooks. During this process, installers may move tiles to find the rafters.
- The actual installation of the roof hooks is the next step. Workers lift the tiles, find the rafters, and insert the hooks. The hooks are screwed down onto the rafters. The tiles are slid back into place.
- Once the hooks are in place, workers attach the rails. The rails are bolted onto the roof hooks.
- The final step is the installation of the panels. Workers bolt the panels onto the rails. They may use a clamp system instead of bolts too. The inverter is hooked up, and the PV system is ready to start contributing electricity.
- Special, non-penetrating mounting systems exist. Such systems are draped over the peak of the roof. The weight of the mounting system and solar array is what keeps it all in place. With such systems, no roof hooks are used. The tiles are not disturbed either.
In the UK, the majority of roofs are well capable of handling the extra load of PV panels.
Do not worry about the integrity of your roof. Following proper installation, your roof should be just as weatherproof as before.
How Long Does it Take to Install Solar Panels?
According to which.co.uk, under normal circumstances, solar panel installation should not take longer than a day.
Normal circumstances in this instance translate to a professionally made roof in good condition, no shading problems, and enough space to install the scaffolding.
If your roof is in need of repairs, not only will solar panel installation take longer. You will likely incur additional expenses with the repairs.
That said, be aware that solar panels are heavy. The age of your roof is a major factor as well.
What is The Best Tilt-Angle for Solar Panels?
Your solar panel will produce electricity at various tilt angles, even when shaded. The ideal position for it is a south-facing roof with a 30-degree tilt angle. Also, the roof should be shade-free.
A 20-degree tilt on a south-facing roof with no shade is also quite close to ideal.
40-50-degree tilt angles are fine as well. Higher tilt angles ruin the performance of solar panels. On the other hand, even a 0-degree tilt yields relatively good efficiency.
In the UK, the roofs of most houses feature tilts between 30 and 45 degrees. This means your property is likely suitable for solar panels in this regard.
East- and West-facing roofs are suitable for solar panels too. It is however not recommended to install solar panels on north-facing roofs. With such exposure, PV cells simply cannot capture enough solar photons to make it worth your while.
What Are the Service Costs of Solar Panels?
Despite the impressive reliability of PV technology, faults are to be expected in the system. Regular maintenance is much more cost-effective than reacting to significant problems after they occur.
As far as the actual maintenance costs go, you should be prepared to shell out some GBP 199 per year. This will likely cover PV panel cleaning, some shading management, and system inspection. Going through this routine is recommended at least once every six months.
The exact cost of these services differs from one provider to another. You may end up paying substantially less. According to fitarrifs.co.uk, maintenance costs are so minuscule, they are practically non-existent.
Costs will skyrocket in case of major component faults. The inverter is the most vulnerable part of the system. Statistically, it is likely to need replacing once through the lifespan of your PV system.
Such a component may cost as much as GBP 1,000. Prices can run much higher if entire panels need replacing for whatever reason.
What Type of Service is Done on Solar Panels?
The short answer would be: whatever is needed.
Under normal circumstances, servicing solar panels covers a handful of routine measures such as:
- Shading management covers the trimming of foliage. Trees grow and previously shade-free solar panels may fall under partial or total shade. This affects their efficiency and needs to be remedied.
- Cleaning. Some PV panels are self-cleaning. What this means is that the rain washes away accumulated dust from their surface. Sweeping the panels and washing them with water and a soft cloth is recommended, however. Cleaning is extremely important. It can make a 30 percent difference in the efficiency of the panels, as shown at solarsouthwest.co.uk.
- System Inspections are essential for fault detection and damage prevention. An average PV system operates at relatively high voltages. That kind of electricity can damage components over time. Hotspots and DC arcing represent the foremost dangers in this regard. Hotspots can damage equipment seriously if left unchecked. Arcing can even start fires, destroying the PV equipment and perhaps the property as well. Poor installation, micro-fissures, bird droppings, and rodents are all risk factors. A proper system inspection should uncover and eliminate all such problems.
- Repair of storm damage. This can include just about any fault caused by excessive wind. Damage resulting from hailstone strikes is less frequent.
- Re-positioning panels. Sometimes shading management or another factor may make it necessary to reposition solar panels.
What Insurance Do I Need to Get When I Install Solar Panels?
According to towergateinsurance.co.uk, solar panels are included in buildings insurance. What that means is that if your property is insured, the same insurance covers your PV panels. For this purpose, your insurer counts the panels as part of your home.
That sounds simple enough. There are a few exceptions, however. If your solar panels are in your garden and not on your roof, the same insurance does not cover them.
The same goes for auxiliary equipment, such as solar trackers. The logic is that such equipment is exposed to theft. Therefore, it cannot be considered a part of the building.
Can I Install Solar Panels Myself?
A reasonably skilled handyman should be able to size, design and install a PV system. Installation costs represent around 10% of the total cost of residential PV systems. If you take care of that phase yourself, you can save money.
This is the theory. In practice, there are many reasons why you should not attempt such a job.
- Assuming that we are not talking about a DIY, off-grid system: you will need to connect your PV panels to the electric grid. Otherwise, you cannot earn money off reward schemes like FIT and SEG. Only a certified installer is qualified to perform such an operation. On the one hand, it is dangerous for a layman. On the other hand, no one will certify a self-installed/connected system. In some regulatory jurisdictions, certification is compulsory.
- It is a complex undertaking. Even if you know exactly what you have to do, you will face several dangers. You will have to work high up on the roof. You will have to haul the heavy panels up there. You might need to tinker with electrical wiring in precarious positions.
- Due to the high voltages involved, you cannot afford to do a haphazard job. The fire hazard linked to solar panels is very real. The last thing you want is to burn down your house while cutting some corners. Faulty wiring is not the only source of fire hazard. The panels themselves can get very hot.
- As mentioned, during the first phase of installation, a professional installer will survey your property. This includes an appraisal of the structural integrity of your roof. Without knowing whether your roof can handle the extra load or not, you risk damaging it.
- Improper installation might shorten the lifespan of the solar panels. You may install them where bird droppings are a constant problem, for instance.
- Installers and equipment providers offer certain warranties. If you handle the installation yourself, you will miss out on some of these warranties. You may also void others.
None of the above are true for off-grid DIY PV systems. Such systems do not need certification since they do not contribute to the grid. They are usually lighter and easier to handle than residential systems. Often, the voltage involved is lower as well.
How Will I Know If My Property is OK For Solar Panels?
Some of that comes down to common sense. If your house has a south-facing roof, with a 30-45% angle of tilt and no shade, your property is a top candidate. If you reside on the northern slope of a hill, among trees, and get little to no sunshine, your property is not OK for solar panels.
East- and west-facing roofs are OK as well. If you are unsure, request the assistance of a specialist. Other factors, such as the structural integrity of your roof, are manageable.
Your installer will survey your property anyway. He/she will then let you know whether solar panels make sense for your residence.
How Do I Maintain My Solar Panels?
Your role in the maintenance of your solar panels usually resumes to cleaning them. In addition to that, you should also get a specialist to inspect your system once a year, to head off any potential problems.
According to a Google study, cleaning is the single most important maintenance element from the perspective of efficiency.
With that in mind, let us recap what you need to do/consider.
- Before you start cleaning, check with the manufacturer of your PV panels. It may have specific recommendations in this regard.
- Bear in mind that solar panels can get very hot. Clean them on a rainy day, early in the morning or in the evening.
- Go for the simplest approach. Use a garden hose.
- If the filth proves resilient, use warm, soapy water. Rub down the surface of your panels with a soft cloth/sponge.
- Clean your panels with the right frequency. Take environmental factors into consideration. Once or twice a year should suffice. If you reside near a busy road or a factory, you will have to clean them more often.
- If possible, track the power output of your solar panels. When it drops, clean them. See if it spikes afterward.
- Call a professional if your panels are high up, in a cumbersome location.
The Bottom Line
Solar panel maintenance is easy and cheap. Remember: proper maintenance will ward off costly breakdowns in the future. It will also prolong the lifespan of your PV system, increasing its profitability.
Solar panel installation requires some finesse and know-how. The roof hooks have to be installed properly. The same goes for the support rails and the panels that need to be lifted onto the roof. Bear in mind that the weight of these panels is significant.
This job is best left to a professional solar panel installer.