The capabilities and scope of solar power have increased rapidly over the past decade or so. Signs are that this evolution will continue at a similarly dramatic speed as we head towards the second quarter of the 21st Century. Solar panel trends are informed by the growing need for alternative, renewable energy sources. Pressure on fossil fuels and traditional energy sources is increasing, which in turn is contributing to climate change and irrevocable damage to the planet’s ecosystems.
Solar power future trends
Switching to solar power is just one way in which homes and businesses can contribute to a more sustainable way of sourcing and using energy. The technology has benefited from numerous innovations, attention and funding from around the world. Here are six solar power future trends that we are expecting to see in the coming months and years ahead.
- Clever technological developments
Alongside advancements in photovoltaic panel efficiency, there are several other future solar panel trends around developments in technology. Thes include the increasing use of AI and internet connectivity to control and optimise solar panel performance. Other areas being researched include using nano materials, as well as fitting photovoltaic cells into roof tiles and walls and creating transparent panels to go in windows and skylights. All of these developments will offer architects innovative solutions to ‘hide’ solar panels more effectively and allow greater design flexibility.
- Increased domestic take-up
As alternative energy becomes more prevalent, and commonplace, it is likely that increasing numbers of domestic homes will invest in solar power. This is one of the solar panel future trends that is informed by increases in efficacy and cost. As the technology evolves, so the amount of energy that a single photovoltaic panel can produce will increase. More energy produced per panel will mean that fewer units will be needed to power the home and installation and maintenance costs will fall. It also goes without saying that increased efficiency will lead to greater demand – and higher demands for domestic solar energy storage solutions. Battery capacities are expected to increase, and with them, safety measures and charging solutions will improve.
- Increased commercial take-up
Additionally, greater emphasis on sustainable working methods and reducing carbon usage is informing many commercial mission statements, strategies and plans. This will lead to increased interest in solar technology and its many benefits, from the financial bottom line (saving energy costs) to the PR department (positive publicity). Solar power can represent a firm and very public commitment to green working practices for savvy business owners with an eye on solar panel future trends.
- Increased support from governments and policymakers
In addition, greater investment in larger-scale solar projects like solar farms by the utility companies are bringing renewable energy far more to policymakers’ attention. This is likely to attract government funding and partnership working to ensure that the development of these larger-scale solar panel future trends can benefit entire communities, towns or even, one day, countries. Solar power will also become more prominent in government policy making around feed-in tariffs, renewable energy targets and initiatives to encourage public uptake in renewable energy solutions.
- Sustainable living trends
Solar power, despite being a green energy solution in and of itself, could also become instrumental in driving other sustainable solutions in the fight against climate change. Some of the more intriguing solar panel future trends evolve around this concept. They include solar powered drones to monitor crops, survey land and record climate data. Solar panels could also power drones that deliver packages, thus reducing reliance on road vehicles for this type of logistics. Innovations in solar powered water treatment plants could also develop, helping to reduce the amount of carbon emissions and fossil fuels needed to purify water.
- Transport sector and infrastructure
Solar powered vehicles are an inevitable part of solar panel future trends. The drive for sustainable living is extending to our transport systems, with electric and hybrid vehicles now an established sight on the roads. Installing solar panels to power electric vehicle charging stations could be another direction to take. Solar panels can also be developed for caravans and motor homes for greener energy on the move. Other solar panel future trends around transportation could include solar powered roads that integrate panels that can power streetlights, traffic signals, advertising hoardings and electronic display boards, amongst other civic and transport infrastructure.
Investing in renewable energy can be easier than you might imagine, thanks to more solar panel finance options being available now than ever before. Buying and having a system installed can represent a large amount of money to have to spend upfront. It is not always easy to find a larger amount of money at the very start of the process.
What Are Your Solar Panel Finance Options?
Solar panels can be a wise investment over the longer term, given the rising costs of energy. There is also the possibility of selling surplus electricity back to the National Grid under the UK government’s smart export guarantee scheme. So, how do you choose the right type of solar panel finance for you and your individual circumstances?
This one may seem obvious, but if you have got enough cash in the bank to cover purchase and installation costs, this is an easy way to sort out your solar panel finance. This is a good move if you plan to stay in your home for a few more years. This is because any capital investments like this into a property can help it maintain or even increase its market value later on when you do come to sell. Also, being able to pay for the work without having to worry about ongoing financing arrangements is both reassuring and useful for future budgeting.
Of course, not everyone has the right amount of cash sitting around, waiting to be spent on a solar panel system. Another option for your solar panel finance is to take out a loan. There are specialist solar panel and home improvement loans out there that are tailored to this exact situation. You can apply for the exact amount to cover the work and have the panels installed straight away. This solar panel finance option will help you save money on bills and maybe help you sell surplus electricity back to the National Grid. You can use this money to start paying back the loan. One thing to bear in mind is that you will be responsible for repairing and maintaining the panels, even before you can own them outright.
Some solar panel companies offer a leasing arrangement by which you can have the system installed, but it remains the property of a third party. This solar panel finance arrangement works for people who are not planning to stay in the same home or business premises for very long. They can benefit from utility bill savings and more sustainable energy generation without having to commit to a sizable cash investment on installation. There can be complications if you choose to sell your home while the leasing agreement is still in place. You may have to pay quite a lot to be let out of the lease early. However, this is something that you may be able to work out with the new owners if they are happy to take over the lease.
If you are very keen on having solar panels installed and have enough capital in your property, you may like to consider a re-mortgage. Lenders are usually happy to consider renegotiating the terms of a mortgage for home improvement projects like this. After all, solar panels can help a property increase in value, especially during a cost of living and energy crisis.Always do your research. You will need to know how a re-mortgage will impact upon your future repayment plans. You must also be able to understand your ability to meet any additional repayments in the longer term.
Whichever solar panel finance option you choose, it is vital to do your homework. Can you handle the implications of your chosen method? For example, if you up-front the cash, will this leave you short in other areas? If you plan to take out a solar panel loan or remortgage, can you meet the repayments? If leasing is your preferred way to go, are you planning to stay long in your home, and what happens if you sell up before the lease agreement is up?
It can be a good idea to speak to a reputable solar panel installation company to see what they would recommend for you. Every situation is different, and you must feel confident that you have chosen the right solar panel finance for you before proceeding with the installation work.
Whether you have already got photovoltaic solar panels installed at your home or commercial premises, or are thinking about taking the plunge to convert to solar power, a key consideration is making sure that you get the most value out of your investment. Using solar energy to light and power a building is fairly commonplace. However, such is the versatility of this renewable energy technology that there are many other ways to take advantage of your solar panel system, once it is up and running.
As well as saving energy and reducing fuel bills, solar panels can also help power a range of applications and sustainable living initiatives. From smaller appliances to property-wide power requirements, here are some unusual ways to use solar power at home or work.
Solar Powered Garden Lighting
We tend to think about using solar panels to power indoor lighting, but the technology can also work well for outdoor lights. From strings of fairy lights to full-on landscape lighting set-ups and greenhouse lamps, outdoor lighting can be powered by solar panels charging batteries during the day, or by having the lights connected directly to the building’s main electrical system. Other garden electrical applications include electric mowers, hedge cutters, strimmers etc. All of which can be powered using energy generated by photovoltaic panels.
Immersion heaters can be connected to solar power too via an immersion diverter. This piece of technology keeps track of how much solar power is being generated and used. It then diverts any surplus towards powering your immersion heater and providing the building with hot water. This can all be done automatically, so you can set it up and then leave it to work on its own. This is a great way to ensure that you can use more of the electricity generated, should you not wish, or are unable, to store it over a longer time period.
Electric Vehicle Charging
As more and more people switch to electric cars and vehicles, the need for charging points also becomes more pressing. This is an increasingly important factor in town planning, which can also be replicated in homes and businesses. If you are keen to live a more sustainable life with less reliance on fossil fuels, consider combining an electric vehicle with using solar energy to power a charging point outside your home or business premises. You could even use a solar battery to store electricity just for the purposes of charging electric vehicles of occupants of – and visitors to – the building.
Using solar-powered energy for home and commercial security systems is another way to make good use of the electricity generated by your photovoltaic panels. You can connect all kinds of security devices and equipment to the system, from lights and motion sensors to burglar alarms and CCTV cameras. Adding a solar power battery to the system that stores surplus energy will help keep the security systems running at night, when the need for uninterrupted surveillance is often greater, or when the weather is cloudy and dull.
We all rely on being able to charge up devices such as mobile phones, laptops, tablets etc. As the world becomes increasingly digital, we need to stay in touch with the online world more than ever before. Solar power helps us do that by providing electricity in general for a residential home or business premises via electric sockets and USB ports. Many solar panel systems can also incorporate connections that convert the DC to allow users to plug devices in for direct charging. Another useful way to stay connected while taking advantage of renewable, greener power.
Farming And Animal Care
Solar panels can also help power lighting and heating for any animals or pets that may live partly or wholly outside, or in an outhouse of some kind. For example, lighting inside a chicken coop alarmed security systems or heating for lambing barns on a smallholding. Energy costs can often be higher for farmers and those who keep larger numbers of animals – using solar energy to power essential lighting and heating systems can help keep animals warm, healthy and safe without having to shoulder huge bills or continue to rely heavily on the National Grid.
Summer’s longer days and warmer temperatures tend to mean that you don’t have to spend as much money on heating or lighting your home. However, there are still many calls on your pocket when it comes to electricity bills and other power requirements. Making conscious decisions to save energy and reduce the reliance your household has on fossil fuels and the National Grid over the summer will not only help you to cut expenditure, but will also contribute to a more sustainable, environmentally-friendly way of life.
From finding non-electric ways to cool your home on a hot day to contacting local solar installers, here are some ideas to help you save energy this summer.
Use The Outdoors
One great advantage to summer is the ability to move much more of your life and daily routines outdoors. This can often lead to reduced reliance on electricity. For example, eating meals in the garden is great fun and firing up the BBQ or making a big salad reduces the amount of fuel needed for cooking lunch and/or supper too. You could also encourage the whole family to spend time outside. This helps cut down on electricity used to power games consoles, TVs, smartphones and tablets and you can even teach the kids how to grow and harvest their own food and flowers.
Contact Solar Installers
If you have been thinking about installing solar panels, then summer could be an excellent time to bite the bullet and get it done. Longer, sunnier days will allow the work to be completed without being interrupted by inclement weather. You can also have more time to get used to living with your new electricity generation arrangements. As autumn turns to winter, temperatures will drop, evenings will draw in and you will need to rely more on power to heat and light your business or home. Ask your solar installers about solar batteries, so you can store any excess electricity that is not needed straight away.
Keep Things Cool
Before you reach for the air conditioning controls, if you have a system installed, think about other ways you can cool down your home. Often, you can keep the air moving and the temperature down for free, or for much less cost. Open the windows and internal doors. If there is any sort of cooling breeze outside, this can help air circulate throughout the house. Open windows at all sides of the property for an uninterrupted air flow. Of course, if the air outside is warmer, keep the windows shut and consider closing the curtains too – it is normally easier to stop warm air entering a home than cooling it down once it is inside.
Have An Energy Efficient Summer
Think carefully about how you use your appliances and amenities during the summer. There could be many ways to reduce the amount of energy you use. For example, switching to a cooler setting for the clothes washing machine and waiting until you have a full load to do. Also, warmer summer days enable you to dry clothes outside instead of relying on the tumble dryer. Turn appliances off at the mains when heading out for a summer day out or holiday to save energy. Turn the thermostat down a notch or two and get your boiler serviced now, ahead of the winter months. Defrost the fridge and freezer so that it doesn’t have to work quite so hard and to keep it running efficiently.
Watch Your Water Use
Saving water is a great way to live more sustainably and this is possible even in the hotter summer months. You could collect rainwater to water the garden, rather than running the hose too much. Water the lawn and plants in the early morning or evening so that water doesn’t evaporate too much during the heat of the day. Save the water that you use to wash salad leaves, fruit and veg to add to a bird bath outside. Look at installing water saving devices such as an aerator for your taps or a timer for your shower. Put a jug of water in the fridge for people to help themselves when they feel thirsty or hot. When we run the tap to wait for the water to cool down each time we want a drink, this can waste a lot of water.
When you invest in a solar panel system, you inevitably want it to last as long as possible and to perform effectively in order to maximise your investment. One key way of doing this is to extend the life of your solar battery. You can do this by keeping it clean and well-maintained. In addition, it is a good idea to learn how to use it properly in order not to place undue stress on it or cause it to deteriorate more rapidly. Here are some ways to ensure your solar battery remains in tip-top condition for longer.
Get It Right From The Start
Always follow an expert solar panel installer’s guidance when choosing how many solar batteries to install and how much power you need them to be able to store and discharge. Overloaded systems can be very dangerous. Always choose the best quality solar batteries you can afford. It is better to buy batteries capable of more capacity than you think you need. You may end up needing extra capacity later on as power requirements increase. Voltages change over time, and adding newer batteries with different voltages can adversely affect a system’s overall performance.
Depth Of Discharge
Depth of discharge means how much power you can get out of your battery before you need to recharge it. This can vary from type to type, depending on the chemistry of each battery. Your solar panel system installer can tell you which chemistry your solar battery has, and how best to charge it. Some are designed to be recharged daily to gain energy from the sun during the day and discharge it to power your property after dark. Others may need to be charged for a longer or shorter time period to be more effective. Once you know this, it will be easier to work out how to use your solar battery and panel system most efficiently.
Storage And Temperature
Some batteries are designed to be stored indoors only, while others can withstand being kept anywhere. Again, check with your installer what you need to do to protect the particular solar battery your system incorporates. You may need to install your battery somewhere enclosed, such as a garage, outhouse or cellar. If you position it in the wrong place, exposure to harmful temperatures can seriously affect its performance and even cause safety issues. So, avoid scenarios where it could freeze in sub-zero temperatures, or overheat in the summer months. Also, avoid overly damp or brightly lit locations. Make sure it is accessible for maintenance, repair or cleaning.
Cleaning And Maintenance
Speaking of which, keeping your solar battery clean and well-maintained is also important. This can be carried out by solar power engineers during their annual servicing visit. However, in between appointments, there are other ways you can ensure your solar battery remains free from dirt and debris.
- Disconnect the battery for safety before starting to clean it.
- Use a damp cloth to gently wipe the battery surface.
- Don’t let any water pool on the battery, especially not near the top, as this can cause damage.
- Always wear gloves and safety goggles, as there could be acid on the surface.
- Allow to dry naturally or pat with a dry cloth. Keep the general area free from dust, garden debris etc.
- Never attempt battery maintenance without expert input and advice.
Cleaning can go a long way to help prevent corrosion – a major problem for batteries of all kinds. However, there are also other ways to help prevent your solar battery terminals from becoming corroded.
- Wipe away any dust or moisture regularly with a dry cloth.
- Avoid locating batteries where the rain can get in and make contact.
- Keep them out of direct sunlight.
- Aim to bring the batteries to a full state of charge roughly every three weeks. This helps to reduce internal deterioration and corrosion and stops the battery from degrading through lack of use.
- Avoid spilling anything on the battery’s surface and wipe anything that does fall on it away immediately.
- Include the solar battery in your annual solar panels maintenance appointment – ask for a corrosion check and a full clean and service.
All solar power systems need solar inverters to function. They are the element that converts the direct current (DC) power produced by the photovoltaic panels into alternating current (AC) power that is then directed to power electrical appliances, lights etc. Solar inverters tend to be installed either in between the solar panels and the property’s electrical panel, or as a component that’s built into a solar generator.
These inverters perform the vital DC to AC conversion by adjusting voltages to make them usable as electricity. They also monitor and optimise the solar panels’ performance. Without them, the system would be unable to function and you would be unable to benefit from renewable, clean energy directly sourced from the sun.
Different Types Of Solar Inverters
There are a number of different types of solar inverters that suit different properties according to their power needs or geographical position. Some come already built into a solar power system. Others are purchased separately and then installed on-site afterwards.
This is the original solar inverter technology and can be a more competitively priced option. An inverter links to a string of connected panels, turning DC energy into AC to use in the property. This is very effective – unless part or all of your roof, or the area where the panels are installed becomes obscured by trees or shade. In that situation, if one or more panels are not performing well, this will affect the entire system’s output and prevent the solar inverter from functioning.
This is a far more recent innovation in solar inverter technology. Smaller, individual solar inverters connect to each panel, converting the DC energy produced into AC energy and then sending it on to be stored as usable electricity. Micro-inverters are a better option for shadier areas or difficult roof angles to navigate, as the overall system is not quite so reliant on every single panel receiving optimum levels of sunlight. They are therefore seen by many as being more efficient; however, the initial installation costs tend to be higher than string converters.
This type of solar inverter, as the name might suggest, enables homeowners and businesses to use both solar electricity and power from the National Grid. While it still converts DC energy into AC power, hybrid solar inverters can also convert AC power from the National Grid into DC power to charge the batteries. The system tends to represent an easier option for retrofitting projects in difficult locations, as it takes up less room and is more straightforward to fit into an existing panel set-up. Hybrid converters normally need a connection to functioning grid power to work so will most likely not be operational during power outages.
This is technically not a type of solar inverter, but it does perform a vital role in how energy is monitored and converted. Power optimisers are connected separately to individual photovoltaic panels in the same way as a micro-inverter. However, they operate more like a combination of a string inverter and a micro-inverter. They increase the amount of energy produced by a solar power system by measuring the maximum power output of each separate panel and then adjusting its DC characteristics so it can produce the most energy possible. Ideal for areas experiencing a lot of indirect sunlight and shade.
How Big Is Too Big For A Solar Inverter?
The best size for a solar inverter will depend entirely on how big the rest of the solar power system is, the size of the property it is servicing and the weather conditions that the photovoltaic panels are exposed to. It is vital to select a solar inverter that is big enough to cope with the DC to AC conversion demands put on it by the output from the solar panels. Go for something too large or powerful, on the other hand, and this will result in paying for excess capacity that may not be needed to power the property.
Always ask a solar panel expert for advice when choosing which solar inverter to buy. They can assess your property, its location and your electricity needs and make an informed recommendation. There are also inverter size calculator tools available online to help you work out exactly what you need to order.
As with any significant investment, it is very important to find a suitable solar installer to fit your solar panel system. This will help you avoid scams, keep the costs lower and ensure a quality installation with, hopefully, decent after-sales care. So, how do you sort out the wheat from the chaff and find a company that is trustworthy, efficient and affordable? The answer lies in carrying out plenty of research in advance and asking the right questions to the right people. Here are some tips to get you started on finding the best solar installers for you.
Look for MCS accreditation
The best way to ensure that your solar installer is adequately certified for the work is to check that they are MCS accredited. MCS stands for Microgeneration Certification Scheme and is a required industry standard for manufacturers and fitters working in the renewable energy sector. Such is the importance of this certification that you will not be able to take advantage of the UK Government’s Feed-in Tariff unless your solar panels have been installed by an MCS-accredited company.
Check online reviews
We have become accustomed to searching online for reviews from people who have previously bought a product or used a service that we are interested in. This is a crucial step to take when considering employing solar installers too. Always look for third-party reviews from an unbiased review site, rather than only relying on what the company’s website says. After all, anyone can invent their own reviews and make them seem as glowing as possible!
Get in-person solar installer recommendations
Despite the ubiquitous nature of online reviews, there is still a lot of value in seeking ‘real life’ opinions as well. Ask the solar panel companies you are interested in if they can pass on the details of previous satisfied customers for you to speak to. If you happen to see solar panel installation work taking place in your neighbourhood, knock on the door and ask what the householders think of the work being done. You may even be able to negotiate a discount if you can offer the company more work in the same local area.
Beware of pushy sales techniques
Again, reputable companies won’t need to fall back on pushy sales tactics to secure customers – the quality of their work should speak for itself. If a sales representative tries to offer ‘quick decision’ offers, such as on-the-spot discounts or very short windows of time to buy at a certain price, avoid taking the bait! You should be given enough time to think their quote over and ask any questions you have before committing to the work being done.
Secure multiple quotations
Always ask a few different companies for quotes before choosing which one to give the work to. This means that you can get a better idea of the going price for the type of work you need to have done in your local area. This stops you from being taken in by an overinflated quote or opting for a suspiciously low offer, which doesn’t contain everything you need it to. While this can take a little longer in the early stages of the project, it can pay dividends later on. You can be more confident that you have chosen a suitable solar installer by comparing the different options side by side.
Clarify what’s included
Always get a quote in writing and sent to you, for example by email or post, for your records. This allows you to have a record of what is being offered in case of any discrepancies later on. Check what is included in the quote and what might be extra, such as any electrical work, after-sales care and clearing away of rubbish and ‘making good’ at the end of the project. You should also ensure that the terms of any guarantees or warranties associated with the job are laid out in the details of the quote for full transparency.
Find out what after-care is on offer
After-sales care is important for the ongoing maintenance of your new solar panel system., Find out what is offered and for how long. For instance, does the company offer an annual maintenance service and is this included in the installation price? If so, for how long? How much will it be to continue the service after the agreement comes to an end? Finally, can the company offer you any related energy-saving advice, e.g. ideas for improving the overall Energy Performance Certificate score for your property?
Solar panels are relatively simple to look after. There are no moving parts, for example, which makes them less likely to succumb to an engineering fault. If they are looked after properly, they should remain problem-free for many years. However, like all systems of this kind, it is a good idea to arrange regular servicing appointments to make sure that any issues are spotted and fixed sooner, rather than later. It is advised to book a servicing appointment at least once every five years, or more often if you prefer.
Get installation advice from your servicing appointment
Much can be done to protect your solar power system when it is first installed. Make sure the panels are fitted correctly and securely so they don’t slip or break. While they obviously need to be positioned in a location that catches plenty of sunshine, take care not to put them anywhere that could be overly exposed to storms, winds and bad weather. Set the right angle to help any snow slide off, rather than collect on the surface and cause damage over time.
Always choose a professional installation company that will take time to ensure the perfect fit and talk you through how to care for the panels correctly. If a servicing package is offered as part of the installation price, or an option is given to include this on ongoing aftercare, take it, as this can represent better value for money than going elsewhere.
Check for issues on your solar panels yourself
Don’t wait until your servicing appointment to take a look at your panels yourself to make sure nothing is going wrong. While you are not likely to want to scale the house to inspect the panels close up, you can still look at them from the ground to see if there is anything glaringly wrong. Use a pair of binoculars to check for an excess build-up of dirt or debris, cracks, slipped panels or loose fittings or bolts.
Pay attention to how the system is performing too. Is the amount of electricity being generated reducing, or is it taking longer to fill up the storage battery than before? Keep an eye on your metre readings to see if there are any issues arising with the electricity supply. This could signal that there is a problem with the panels themselves, or the wiring and internal connection systems. Always check performance at the same time of day to give a better idea of how well your system is working over the longer term.
Remove the risks to your solar panels
Where possible, remove anything that could cause damage to your solar panels, such as overhanging branches. These could not only break off and fall onto the system in high winds, but they are also a great place for birds to perch and release acidic poo down onto the panels. Leafy trees could also be causing more shade to fall onto the surfaces where the panels are installed than you would like – this can compromise their ability to capture energy from the sun’s rays.
Any climbing plants, such as ivy, vines or creepers, which look like they are going to encroach onto the panels should also be pruned back or removed altogether before they cause damage further up. This can also help keep gutters free from foliage to improve your drainage system and protect roof tiles not covered by photovoltaic panels or their mountings.
Things to tell your servicing engineer
When your servicing appointment is drawing near, take another close look at your system. Make some notes about what to tell your engineer when they arrive to carry out the work. For example, take down some details about how the electricity performance has been recently. If there is an instance of bad weather and it is safe to do so, go outside to see how the panels are coping with the adverse conditions. Let the engineer know of any concerns you may have around your system’s ongoing durability or state of wear and tear.
Check that the inverters are still flashing green, which tells you that all is working correctly. If they are not, note this and tell your engineer on their arrival. Point out any areas which are particularly dirty and may need more attention. Finally, set aside some funds to pay for any repairs that might be necessary. The longer you leave repairs to a solar panel system, the costlier the issue will be to put right when you eventually sign up for the work.
Many of the big electricity companies opt to invest more heavily in more densely populated areas. Therefore, some of the more remote villages and rural communities do not always receive such comprehensive coverage or services from them. One solution for homeowners living in remote areas is to install solar panels in remote and rural households. This enables them to capture energy from the sun and convert it into electricity for their own use. It lessens their reliance on the National Grid for power and supports those wishing to live more sustainably.
Sustainability also makes solar panels highly attractive for people seeking to live as ‘off-grid’ as possible. Often, such households will be drawn to remote areas and rural living. Being able to have solar panels installed on the roof or a flat surface can help ensure a steady flow of electricity to provide lighting, heating and power on a day-to-day basis. Adding a storage battery to the solar power set-up can also allow any electricity not used straight away to be stored and used when the sun is not providing enough energy for the photovoltaic cells to work, such as at night.
Here are some more reasons why remote communities and rural households interested in living off-grid should consider investing in solar panels…
Solar panels in remote and rural households provide power anytime, anywhere
Formerly the preserve of larger homes, solar panel technology has become increasingly diverse, meaning that smaller dwellings can now take advantage of the versatile technology too. The ability to sell back surplus electricity that a smaller rural household doesn’t use can also help boost the coffers and provide an additional income stream. Solar panel systems needn’t spoil the look of a countryside home either – the panels themselves come in discreet, attractive designs and can be fitted to a roof or flat surface in the best way to reduce the visual impact.
Solar panels still work on rural households on a cloudy day
There doesn’t have to always be bright sunshine for solar panels to power a home in a remote location effectively – they can work on cloudy days too. Storage battery solutions also enable solar power to be stored in readiness for powering the property at night. This provides homeowners with an excellent ROI – being able to generate their own electricity will, over time, reduce power bills and pay back money spent on the initial installation of the solar panels.
Solar power protects against power outages
Another way in which solar panels can benefit rural households is that they provide protection against power cuts and interruptions caused by problems with the National Grid. When power cuts happen, rural areas often take the brunt of the resulting chaos, since towns and cities are normally prioritised when it comes to restoring power and fixing damage. Knowing that remote properties can still access the electricity being produced by a solar panel system can be extremely reassuring.
Solar panels free up funds
There is often a correlation between rural households and higher levels of domestic poverty. Managing to reduce energy bills and possibly even sell unused electricity back to the National Grid might be able to assist with balancing the books in the longer term.
Clearly, installing the system in the first place will represent a financial outlay, but there may be help available in the form of grants or loans to help pay for this – check out your local council in the first instance to see if there is anything suitable. Plus, as photovoltaic technology advances, the costs will fall and the efficacy of the system increase, helping free up rural households funds even more.
Easy to look after
Finally, solar panel maintenance overall is not complex, as solar panels tend to be robust and easy to care for. The photovoltaic cells that capture the solar energy are normally encased in tempered glass and strengthened by steel frames. Additionally, the converters and other technology required to generate electricity are also very well insulated and protected against damage, general wear and tear and adverse weather conditions.
This also helps keep repair and upgrading costs down for rural and remote households. However, that said, investing in annual or other maintenance contracts for solar panels and associated technology can offer peace of mind and help spot potential problems early before they cause more serious disruption.
If you are interested in investing in Solar panels for your rural household, contact us at UPS Solar to see what we can do to help you.
Once again, the British weather is top of the UK news agenda. January 2023 is seeing plummeting temperatures, as well as plenty of frost, ice and snow across many parts of the country. So, talking about solar panels in winter of year may not seem like the most obvious course of action. However, when the cold weather descends, it is important to think about how it might affect solar panels exposed on rooftops in sub-zero temperatures. Also, solar panels don’t stop working in the winter. There are still many ways in which the electricity generated can power people’s homes and businesses, as well as reduce fuel bills and contribute to sustainable living goals.
Solar power in winter weather
It is a common misconception that solar panels need strong rays from the sun to operate. In fact, they can still generate electricity when the sun is weaker or partially obscured by clouds. They also carry on working even when temperatures drop below zero. The only thing that could affect their efficacy in a big way would be if heavy snowfalls on the roof completely cover the panels, blocking their contact with the sun. In that case, efforts to remove the snow – but only if it is safe to do so – could help them return to normal service. When installing solar panels in winter, bear in mind that snow can melt and slide off those placed at an angle far quicker than from totally flat layouts.
The good news, however, is that solar panels can work well in wintry conditions. They can even be more efficient in colder temperatures than at the height of summer. This is because overly hot conditions can prevent them from working and affect the electronics they contain. Also, the photovoltaic cells rely on direct contact from sunlight – the stronger the better. The heat that comes from the sun does not come into the equation. Dull, overcast days with less sunlight breaking through the clouds, therefore, are less helpful than those crisp, frozen winter days when the sun is shining brightly, with its rays reflecting back onto the panels from the frosty, white rooftops around them.
Caring for photovoltaic panel systems
As with any investment of this nature in your home or business, taking care of solar panels in winter correctly will help prolong their working life. It will also improve their efficacy in producing electricity at a time of year when additional light and heat is usually required. As well as adjusting the angle of your solar panels to allow snow to slide off more quickly, this action can also help capture more sunlight as it sits lower in the sky on shorter winter days. Placing the panels at a steeper incline could help compensate for this change in the sun’s position.
Other tips around caring for solar panels in winter include using the right tools to clear snow, ice or frost from their surfaces. Always take great care when attempting maintenance of this nature, as frosty surfaces can make outdoor work like this more treacherous. If you do decide to tackle it, use a soft-bristled snow brush, rather than a rake or hard-bristled broom. This helps avoid scratching and damaging the panels. If the snow is stubborn and will not come off easily, don’t scrub too hard – it will melt eventually and the panels can then resume their service.
Don’t forget to protect your batteries as well during winter. They can be affected by cold weather just as much as other parts of the solar power system. Insulate them against plunging temperatures by wrapping them well if they are outdoors or, if possible, repositioning them inside the property. Watch their discharge levels closely, as you will, most likely, need more electricity than usual on colder, gloomier days.
Finally, book your solar panel and battery servicing appointment now. It is easy to forget in the frenzy of a busy working or domestic life. There may be more appointments available during the winter, so you won’t have to wait quite so long for an engineer to arrive. Likewise, if you don’t have solar panels installed, or are interested in an upgrade or replacement system, take advantage of the quieter winter months to book an initial consultation.
Contact UPS to find out more or get support with getting the most out of your solar panels in winter.
A new year is almost upon us – traditionally a time when we reflect on the past twelve months and look ahead to the next twelve. Many people find making New Year’s Resolutions a helpful way to plan, devise and publicly state their good intentions for the year ahead. So, alongside the plans to eat better, exercise more and learn a new skill, here are some ideas to help make 2023 your greenest living year yet.
Switch on to renewable energy
Many homes and businesses still rely on the National Grid for power, light and heat. However, using sustainable energy sources instead is becoming simpler and more affordable than ever before. Switching to sustainable energy sources, such as solar power systems and photovoltaic panels, brings benefits to your pocket thanks to lower energy bills, while helping the planet at the same time. Other options for switching to renewable energy include air source heat pumps and biomass systems.
Use electricity wisely
Even after switching to solar power for electricity generation, there is still more that can be done to reduce energy usage and live more sustainably. Turn devices off at the mains when not using them, or switch them to eco mode if they have this feature. Use LED light bulbs instead of the older filament types for more cost-effective and efficient domestic or commercial lighting. Dial the thermostat down a couple of degrees and put on a jumper if you feel cold. Choose appliances with higher energy efficiency ratings for longer-term electricity savings.
Recycle, recycle, recycle
We have all taken to recycling the packaging of common items like plastics, cardboard and tin cans. However, there is still plenty more that can be recycled and reused to help keep things out of landfill and reduce the energy use required to make new items. Clothing is one example – visit charity shops and second hand online markets to see what ‘preloved bargains’ you can find. Pass children’s clothes on to others to get more use out of them. Cut up really old clothes and use them for cleaning cloths. Save glass bottles to take to the bottle bank and reuse glass jars for keeping small bits safe, such as screws and nails.
Savvy shopping skills
Another way to keep landfill sizes down is to buy reusable products wherever possible. Shops are gearing up more and more to help people fulfil this goal. Some examples of reusable products now readily available include sustainable water bottles, cloth nappies, cotton shopping bags and metal straws. Avoid fruit and vegetables with excessive packaging and instead bring your own bags to take them home in. Be prepared to pay a little more for products built to last, such as better quality shoes or toys that will last longer before needing to be replaced.
Go green with your toiletries
This is a really good place to start with greener New Year’s Resolutions. It needn’t cost a lot of money to start making a real difference. For example, switch to eco-friendly toilet paper made from bamboo to help save trees and water. Choose plastic-free soaps, shampoos and conditioners for a further sustainable impact. Solid soap and shampoo bars can also be more environmentally-friendly, as they cut down on the amount of packaging needed as opposed to liquid alternatives that come in large plastic bottles.
Offices up and down the country are pledging to cut down the amount of paper they use in a bid to eventually become paperless. This is something that can be replicated at home. Some examples of easy changes to make include no longer printing out emails, requesting electronic bank statements instead of paper ones, using pretty material to wrap presents and using cloud-based storage for important files and apps for to-do lists and reminder notes. Send loved ones photographs and digital greetings cards to help them reduce the amount of paper and cardboard entering their homes as well.
Finally, don’t just plan out your New Year’s Resolutions – act on them as quickly as you can. If you are interested in finding out more details about installing solar power in your business or home, contact the experts at UPS in early January for an initial, no-obligation consultation. It may be dark outside right now, but getting started now will mean that your photovoltaic panels can be in place in time for the longer daylight hours of spring and summer 2023.
The benefits of solar power for domestic properties are well known. From reduced energy bills to a more sustainable way of living, switching wholly or partially to renewable energy can reap homeowners many rewards. So, what if you are planning a new build property project and are considering what type of power to install? All of these advantages still apply. Plus, there are several other benefits that can help your new build to meet regulations, increase resale value and ensure its sustainability credentials from day one.
Here are some key reasons why new builds and solar panels can make a great match.
- Improve SAP calculations
Recent changes in Part L of the Building Regulations and Standard Assessment Procedures (SAP) have meant that renewable energy measures such as solar panels are increasingly sought-after for new-build homes. All new homes are now required by law to include enough energy saving measures to pass the SAP calculation score and become as energy self-sufficient as possible. SAP calculations go from 1 to 100 and indicate the annual cost of energy associated with the property, as well as its overall environmental performance. Factors include heating, lighting and overall structure. While the SAP calculation system has been in place since 1995, the changes to the regulation now means that properties must secure a ‘pass’ score, with a minimum of 10% of consumed electricity on site now required to be self-generated.
- Enhance the property’s BREEAM score
Another assessment system for new builds is the BREEA score (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment). This scheme was established in 1990 and calculates the sustainability rating of a building. It helps construction companies rate the sustainability of their work and to reduce the negative effects that construction processes have on the environment. Having solar panel included on a new build can help increase the BREEAM score and thus add even more to the property’s proven green credentials and sustainability factor.
- Lower installation costs, now and in the future
It stands to reason that, having solar panels incorporated into the roof from the beginning means that the roof will require fewer tiles and, potentially, lower labour costs. The photovoltaic panels sit flush with the roof and are larger than single tiles. As a result, they will not be as time-consuming to place in the correct position and line up with the rest of the surface. Additionally, if the solar panels are already installed before the first resident moves in, they will no need to have a solar energy system added later on, and neither will their future buyers. The infrastructure needed to live more sustainably when it comes to generating electricity will already be up and working.
- Reduce overall carbon footprint
Increasingly, people seeking to buy a house, new build or otherwise, are becoming concerned with the carbon footprint that the property will generate. Stringent targets set by the UK to reach Net Zero by 2030 are driving increased interest in energy saving measures like solar panels. Many people are keen to do their bit to contribute to this worthy cause and help fight the effects of climate change. Having solar panels already in place will be an attractive addition and powerful marketing message for any new build company wishing to show their commitment to the green agenda. Adding storage batteries to allow homeowners to store excess electricity and use it at night or on duller days is another incentive well worth considering.
- Encourage wider use of renewable energy
Finally, the more new-build properties that are constructed with solar panels firmly in place, the quicker the idea will spread to other homeowners and property professionals in the area. As with any desirable feature on a building, having solar panels not only up and running from the start can help to add value to the property and hence its surrounding neighbourhood. They will also look far more attractive if they can be installed flush against the roof, rather than added later and resting on tiles. If your new-build property can lead the way in starting a trend locally for switching to renewable energy and a greener lifestyle, this can only be a good thing for both your property and its neighbouring buildings and community.