solar inverters that are ac dc

What Role Do Solar Inverters Play In Your Solar Panel System?

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.

String Inverter

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.

Micro-Inverter

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.

Hybrid Converter

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.

Solax Power solar inverters

Power Optimiser

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.

solar panels installed on a roof by solar installers

How To Choose The Right Solar Installers For Your Household

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.

solar installers working on solar panels on top of a home

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?

Engineers working on a solar panel during a servicing appointment

How To Maintain Your Solar Panels And Get The Most Out Of Your Servicing Appointment

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.

Specialist technician and professional engineer looking at solar panels during a servicing appointment

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.

Solar panels in remote and rural households - solar panels on the roof of a rural house near a forest

Installing Solar Panels In Remote And Rural Households

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 panels in remote and rural households - rural house with solar panels on the roof

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.

solar panels in winter that have snow on them

Solar Panels In Winter: Coping With A Cold Snap

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.

installing solar panels in winter

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.

woman setting goals for her New Year's Resolutions

Six Greener Living New Year’s Resolutions for 2023

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.

Paperless promises

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.

solar panels on new build

Why you Should Add Solar Panels to Your New Build Property Plans

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.

new build property with solar panels
  • 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.

solar power system

Solar Panel Myth-Busting: 5 Common Misconceptions About Solar Power Systems Cleared Up

Solar power systems are growing in popularity across the UK, with around 970,000 homes reportedly having solar panels installed (SOURCE: www.theecoexperts.co.uk/solar-panels/popularity-of-solar-power). Advantages are multiple, from lower electricity bills to smaller carbon footprints; ability to store the energy produced to the potential for making money on any unused electricity. However, as with any technology that is making its mark on the world, there are several misconceptions that exist which are causing some people to be cautious. Here, in no particular order, we address five such misconceptions and try to give some reassurances about each one.

There is not enough sunshine in the UK to make installing solar panels worthwhile

In 2021, the UK recorded a staggering 1,387.8 hours of sunshine (SOURCE: Annual sunshine hours 2021 | Statista). The summer of 2022 went down in history as a heatwave with temperatures over 40 degrees C in places, and days of glorious sunshine enjoyed across the country. While it is true that the UK’s weather experiences peaks and troughs when it comes to seeing the sun, there is more than enough sunshine available for a solar power system to be worth its financial outlay in the longer term. Today’s powerful solar power systems are able to extract solar energy from the sun and turn it into electricity on even dull and cloudy days.

Solar panels are not very efficient or effective

There are figures out there that quote solar panel efficiency at around 15% to 22%, which may not sound much at first. However, this is because the sun doesn’t hit all the panel surfaces all the time and some of the energy sourced from the sun turns into heat and not light and so cannot be collected. Never fear though, as the sun produces immense amounts of solar energy – so much so that solar panels really don’t need to be more than 22% efficient to produce enough energy for a typical household’s needs. What’s more, as with any technology of its type, solar power systems and photovoltaic panels are increasing in power, efficiency and performance all the time. The global focus on combating climate change and switching to renewable energy sources makes now a great time to see advances in solar technology.

Living sustainably and ‘going green’ costs a lot of money – not enough to be worth the environmental benefits

At first glance, solar power systems don’t appear to be cheap. Solar panels do come with an initial cost, as do other forms of renewable energy installed as part of a sustainable living drive. However, the savings you can enjoy on your electricity bills after getting solar panels will help offset that cost. As can becoming involved in schemes to sell any unused electricity that you generate back to the National Grid and so help reduce the use of fossil fuels further. Adding a battery to your solar power system can also help you store excess electricity and use it when the sun is not shining. This helps save money on the fuel bills at night or during darker days, as you don’t have to rely on expensive conventional electricity sources to keep the lights and heating on.

Installing photovoltaic panels can damage my roof

Solar panels are normally not attached directly to the roof, and therefore will not damage tiles, chimneys or roofing materials. Rather, they sit on special frames that keep them pointing in the right direction with the right amount of space between and under each panel to ensure their optimum performance. Solar panels are highly durable and can actually do a good job of protecting your roof from damage caused by heavy winds, storms, rain etc. The panels can be taken off the roof easily for maintenance or replacement without harming the surface underneath. You can even remove them temporarily when replacing your roof.

If I don’t own my own house, I can’t benefit from solar power

While the vast majority of tenants will require their landlord’s permission to have solar panels installed on the property in which they live, there are other ways to benefit from the technology. Look into whether there is a community solar programme near you, for example. These allow multiple households to take advantage of a single, shared solar array. The arrays are installed off site and their purchase and installation costs are shared between everyone who signs up to taking part. You can buy into such a scheme at the level that best suits your budget.

solar panel install crew

6 Good Questions Ask the Experts Before You Install Solar Panel

Once you have decided to switch to solar power to provide electricity for your home, there will be a number of decisions to make and preparations to complete before a solar panel install can take place. It is well worth engaging the services of a consultant to make sure that you get the right configuration for your individual property and energy needs. This can help you avoid costly mistakes. It can also speed up the installation process so that you can start saving money on energy bills sooner, rather than later.

Areas to consider when installing solar power

As with any larger-scale project of this nature, there are several aspects to bear in mind. Here are six of the main questions to ask and factors to consider before confirming your final choices for your domestic solar power installation.

How much space do you have?

As a rule, solar panels need at least four to seven inches of space between rows when installed on a roof or flat surface. This is to allow room for the frame to expand and contract with changes in temperature and weather conditions. A further twelve inches is required between the panels and the edge of the roof or surface in order to comply with building regulations and keep the frame secure. A key first step is to measure the available space that you have and work out the size and type of solar panel set-up that will fit and best suit the space.

How much energy do you use?

Energy use in domestic properties can vary depending on the size of the building, how many people live or are based there and the type of appliances and energy usage that are involved. A solar power consultant will be able to tell you how much energy each type and size of solar panel system can produce and the best fit for your individual household’s energy usage. You can also gain useful tips and advice on cutting down on energy usage and choosing the right solar panels to reduce your fuel bills.

When do you need to use energy?

Many homes use more electricity at night, when there is increased demand for lighting and heating. That said, however, since the COVID-19 pandemic, more of us are working from home than before. So, this could affect energy use during the day as well. If you find your household using more energy at night, consider installing a solar power system that connects to a storage battery. That way, you can keep any electricity that is not used in the day in reserve for use at night, when the sun is not out. Or for cloudy or dull days when the solar energy coming from the sun’s rays is not as powerful.

What type of solar power system do you need?

Most solar panels available today produce between 250 and 400 Watts of power. More accurate figures will depend on where you have placed the panels and how much exposure they get to the sun, how long for and how well maintained (or otherwise) the system is. A solar panel consultant can let you know how each type of system performs in terms of amount of energy produced, ease of storing it and whether it will fulfil your electricity needs in full, or only partially.

What type of local building regulations are there?

This question will depend entirely on what documentation is held by your local authority, Land Registry etc. Some types of housing and local areas will be subject to more stringent building regulations and planning permissions than others. For example, listed buildings and conservation areas will have more rules to follow when it comes to projects such as installing solar panels than others. This must be carefully checked to ensure that you do not fall foul of the law and therefore end up with added costs, irritating delays, unhappy neighbours and so on.

What financial incentives are involved?

Finally, installing solar panels might represent a large investment at first, but there are a number of financial advantages in doing so. For a start, most households find that their electricity and gas bills go down as the reliance on the National Grid lessens. There are even schemes to help you sell back any unused energy and so help offset the initial investment in solar panels. Many householders can also find that installing solar panels adds value to their property when it comes to selling it further down the line.

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Rising energy prices and solar power

It cannot have escaped many people’s attention that energy prices have been rising rapidly over the past months. Consumers everywhere are growing more and more concerned about how to pay their fuel bills. So, why is this happening? Repercussions from COVID-19, as well as other global events, such as the conflict in Ukraine and its wider political fallout, have collided to place enormous pressure on oil supplies and energy prices around the world. Energy companies going bust have also had a large impact on supply versus demand. Media headlines about the energy crisis are frequent and fuel prices are increasing very quickly.

In April 2022, Ofgem (UK government department that regulates UK gas and electricity companies) announced an increase to the energy price cap of an average of 54%. At the time of writing, this looks set to rise even further in October, although the Government has just announced measures to keep the price cap at an average of £2,500 for a typical household (SOURCE: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/energy-bills-support/energy-bills-support-factsheet-8-september-2022). This will go some way to help combat the escalating costs, but it will not totally solve the problem. Particularly as winter is around the corner with colder temperatures and increased demands for energy. If not enough is done to slow down the rate of energy costs, fuel bills could reach staggeringly high amounts for many energy customers in 2023 and beyond.

Solar power: surge in demand?

The prospect of much higher energy bills could spark an increase in interest for many around solar PV panel systems for domestic and commercial use. Installing solar panels will not result in immediate energy bill reductions – indeed, the system will require an initial financial outlay to buy it and have it fitted. However, in the longer term, some experts are predicting that solar panels could save householders as much as £3,000 per year (SOURCE: https://www.homebuilding.co.uk/news/solar-pv-could-pay-off-as-soon-as-three-years-amid-energy-price-cap-rises) if conventional energy prices continue to rise at the same rate.

Interest in renewable energy, such as solar power, heat pumps etc., is high right now, not only because of the rising costs of electricity. Sustainable living and working is a major agenda item for businesses, government departments, charities and other organisations. Switching away from fossil fuels to renewable alternatives could play a large part in reducing carbon footprints. It could radically change behaviours around energy production and consumption too, as people wake up to its possibilities.

What’s more, the energy produced by solar panels can be stored for use when the sun is not so strong, or at night. Excess can be sold back to the National Grid to help ease pressure on electricity supplies. This is possible through the Government’s Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) scheme. The SEG scheme replaces a previous feed-in tariff (FIT), which was slightly more generous. However, it still helps households generating solar power to get paid for the electricity they do not use themselves.

While energy prices have soared, the costs of installing solar panels have remained far more stable. They can also be reclaimed within a family’s budget, thanks to a reduced reliance on the National Grid for power. They can also add value to a property when it comes to selling up and moving home or commercial premises. It is thought that the financial ‘break-even’ point for an installed solar panel system is around 15 years. Therefore having an existing system already in place can help add value to domestic housing or commercial premises prices.

Solar powered home

The best way to set up solar panels

The best situation for a solar panel system to be installed is on a south-facing, sloping roof that receives direct sunlight between the hours of 10am and 4pm. There should be plenty of space for the panels to be installed and the area should not be shaded by trees, other buildings etc. This is ideal for harnessing the maximum amount of solar power. The roof should be in good condition so that the panels can fix strongly to it without being able to fall or wriggle loose during heavy winds or storms.

You normally won’t need to seek planning permission for installing solar panels, but it is wise to double check if you are unsure. Always get multiple quotes for solar panels, or consult an expert advisor, such as UPS Solar to find the best match for your property and energy requirements.

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How solar panel systems can help you sell your house

Installing solar panels brings many benefits. These include promoting a greener way of living and reducing reliance on the National Grid. However, when it comes to selling a property with solar panels attached, these benefits could prove even more compelling. There is more and more evidence that solar panels help sell a home. It has been estimated that homes with solar panels can sell for around 4.1% more than those without (SOURCE: https://www.theecoexperts.co.uk/solar-panels/buying-or-selling-a-house-with-solar-panels). A National Home Energy Survey also revealed that 65% of those asked revealed a preference for buying somewhere that already had a working solar panel system installed (SOURCE: https://www.theecoexperts.co.uk/solar-panels/buying-or-selling-a-house-with-solar-panels).

Why solar power sells

Once a solar panel system is up and running, it saves the householder, or property owner money on their electricity bills. It does this by powering the property via the sun’s rays, converted into useable electricity via photovoltaic (PV) panels and associated technology. However, the initial outlay of buying and installing a solar PV system is not insignificant for most household budgets. In fact, it can take a few years for the investment to break even and start saving money – as many as ten or 15 years.

By having everything in place when you buy a property, this outlay has already been made by the previous owners. So, this need not feature in the new owner’s budgeting plans, beyond general maintenance and upgrades as required. Here are some more reasons why solar power systems already installed can be a draw for house hunters.

1. Save on electricity bills

As the solar panel system is already in place, savings can start to be seen on energy bills from the start – when compared to conventional energy sources. It is thought that the average household with a solar energy system installed would only need half the electricity from the National Grid than those without photovoltaic panels on the roof. Buying a house is an expensive time, with all the extra costs that accompany the purchase. So, any extra help with paying the utility bills will be very attractive to prospective buyers

2. Make money on unused electricity

In addition to saving money on bills, new house owners could enjoy an income from the electricity they do not use. This can be sold back to the National Grid under the UK Government’s Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) scheme. For houses that had their solar panels fitted prior to the SEG scheme overtaking the previous Feed-in Tariff (FIT) arrangements, which ended in April 2019, the financial benefits could be even higher. Check out the latest position with regards to this online when you come to sell the property to keep potential buyers informed.

solar panels help sell a house
Solar panel on a wooden house

3. Help combat climate change

It is a well-known fact that sustainable energy sources are a powerful weapon in the fight against climate change. Solar panels can help a household save significantly on the amount of carbon it produces every year. Additionally, the reduced reliance on the National Grid means that fewer fossil fuels are used up to power the property. This could be a very compelling reason why someone keen to lead a sustainable lifestyle may wish to buy a new home with solar panels already in place.

4. Increase your EPC rating

By law, buildings that go up for sale or rent must have an EPC, or Energy Performance Certificate in place. This tells potential buyers how energy efficient the property is and flags up any possible areas of concern. Ratings go from A (the best) down to G and gives an idea of how high the energy bills are likely to be for the property. Landlords seeking to let a property must have an EPC rating of C or above. EPCs are valid for ten years. Solar panels can help increase the energy efficiency of a home, as they help lower energy bills and the associated carbon footprint.

Questions to ask when buying a house with solar panels

For buyers, therefore, choosing a home or property with solar panels can be extremely advantageous. However, it is important to make sure that they are correctly installed and performing as required. Some questions to ask vendors about their solar panels could include:

  • Are the solar panels fitted securely, and have there been any problems with them?
  • When were they installed and how much time remains on any warranties in place?
  • Is there a FIT or SEG arrangement in place to sell any unused electricity back to the National Grid?
  • Do you have a maintenance contract in place and with whom?
  • Does the property come with a solar battery to store energy for later use?

For any further questions on selling or buying a home with solar panels, contact the experts at UPS Solar.

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5 Advantages of Installing Flat Roof Solar Panels

When you think of solar panels, we’re betting you conjure up images of a sloping roof with panels fixed on firmly to capture the sun’s energy at an optimum angle. However, the system can work just as effectively on flat roofs as they do on slopping ones. Depending on the type and size of the system you choose, flat roof solar panels can actually work more effectively than some sloping ones. So, whether you are interested in flat roof solar panels for a domestic property or commercial premises, read on to find out the advantages of flat roof solar panels and why they are such a great investment.

Why Choose Flat Roof Solar Panels?

In some cases, the choice of which type of solar panels to invest in is made for you – if you only have space for them on a sloped or flat roof, for example. However, if you do have some flexibility, it is well worth looking into flat roof solar panels. Here are the advantages of flat roof solar panels and why they can be a winning solution.

1. Versatility in How They Are Installed

When you fit solar panels to a sloping roof, you need to work with the existing angle and pitch of the roof. This is not the case for flat roof panel installations. As there is no pitch, the system can be angled as you choose, in order to capture the most sun and work as efficiently as possible. A good angle for solar panels is somewhere between 30 and 60 degrees.

UPS Solar Commercial Solar Panels - advantages of flat roof solar panels

Panels can go in the middle of the flat roof or to either side with no obstacles in their way. Installers use specially designed brackets to fit the flat roof solar panels securely and then angle them exactly as they need to. If there are concerns over whether they will withstand heavy weather conditions, metal frames or ballast can be added for extra support and weight.

2. Self-Cleaning and Safer Maintenance

One concern that many people have about installing solar roof panels is how they can keep them clean and free from damage and general wear and tear. The UK sees a lot of rain, which helps the panels to ‘self-clean’ as the water runs down them. This is still possible on flat roof solar panels, as they can be angled slightly to allow the rain to do its work. Maintenance and repairs can often be easier on flat roofs too, as there is generally enough space around the panels for someone to stand safely for as long as they need when checking and working on the panels.

Solar panels and bad weather

3. Better Looking Configurations

Solar panels can be hard to hide on a sloping roof, as they will stand out visually from many angles. When installing them on a flat roof, however, the angle can be adjusted so it is less intrusive to the surrounding views. They are more discreet from street level and do not require homeowners to remove attractive tiles or terracotta embellishments from a sloping roof. Flat roofs tend to be fairly practical and simple in design, making the addition of a flat roof solar panel less of an intrusion. In fact, some modern, industrial flat roof designs can positively benefit from having stylish flat roof solar panels installed on top of them.

4. More Wind-Proof

We have already mentioned how the rain can still help keep flat roof solar panels clean if they are angled up enough to allow the water to run down them. Conversely, however, the wind can be far less useful to solar panel systems, especially if they are fitted to sloping rooftops that are too tall to withstand high winds without sustaining damage. Choosing your own angle for a flat roof can enable you to adjust the slant to account for high winds and keep the system safer and less prone to storm damage.

House Roof with Solar Panels

5. Easy Access to Green, Renewable Energy

Flat roof solar panels are just as effective as sloped roof configurations in providing renewable, sustainable electricity direct from the sun’s rays. They are made up of the same type of photovoltaic cells, which capture the solar energy before the system converts it into useable electricity for the home or workplace. An additional battery for solar power storage can also be connected to the system so that any surplus electricity that is not used right away can be stored and used later. For example, when the sun’s rays are absent at night, or weaker or obscured during a cloudy or dull day.