Solar panels continue to be the most popular and viable option for homeowners looking to generate their own renewable electricity. There are lots of reasons behind the popularity of solar with plenty of benefits to be had, from its high level of efficiency to the vast cost-saving advantages it can offer.

Many people living in the UK who are considering installing a solar panel system may have concerns around its effectiveness, due to the predominantly overcast conditions seen here. However, the vast majority of homes across the country are compatible with solar panels, with cloudy conditions being less of a factor than people may think.

But that’s not to say that every home is necessarily primed for a solar energy system. At the very least, using solar panels on the wrong home will reduce their efficiency, end up costing more than on a comparable house, or lead to a long payback period. At worst, the panels could do structural damage to your home.

That’s why it’s so important to be aware of the requirements for installing solar panels: to ensure you can get the most out of them from the moment they’re installed, while also safeguarding your home against damage.

For the most part, you’ll be able to make a fairly good judgement yourself about whether or not your home is suitable based on an assessment of whether your roof is in poor condition and working with an expert installer to guide you on the best design for your electricity usage patterns. For an optimal setup, it’s always best to work with a trusted installer to assess your home’s suitability, production potential, as well as to optimise a system that fits your needs and comes out at the most cost effective price and lowest payback. In this guide, we look into some of the most important requirements for a solar panel setup.


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Roof condition

One of the most important requirements is ensuring the roof of your home is in good condition. Most roofs are sturdy enough to support the added weight of solar panels. This is a test your installer should perform as part of their planning process. If your roof is damaged in any way however, before proceeding with your installation, it’s important to carry out any necessary repairs to improve your roof’s condition and ensure it’s ready for solar generation.

Most roof material types are able to accommodate the added weight of a system. Different roof material types may dictate different installation methods or mounting kits required. Notably slate roofs require longer labour times and skill to install onto. At Otovo, we mainly work on roofs made of tiles which can be clay or concrete and come in different variations such as flat, single curved, and double curved. We also work extensively with slate roofs which can be natural or synthetic. Lastly we have flat roofs which will generally be made from felt or EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer, a synthetic rubber material).

Most roof types in the United Kingdom are suitable for solar panels, including flat roofs. The main consideration is that your roof is in a fit state before progressing with a solar installation. Your installer should perform a thorough evaluation of your roof on the day of installation, when scaffolding has been erected; you should also inform the installer of any known leaks/areas of weakness on the roof.

Orientation

The orientation of your home will be a major factor in determining how effective your solar panel system will be. While it’s not the be all and end all, the more exposed your roof is to direct sunlight, the easier it will be for electricity generation to take place. All else being equal, south-facing roofs will always be most compatible with solar. This is because these properties will be able to collect more direct sunlight during more hours of the day, giving the panels more time to collect energy and convert it into electricity for your home.

If you don’t have a south-facing home, this doesn’t mean you should disregard the possibility of installing solar panels. East and west-facing homes will be the next most effective orientations, with each receiving the most direct sunlight in the morning and the evening, respectively.

One important thing to consider at this stage is the payback period for your specific solar project. This information will be determined during the sales process using information you have provided, so you can make an informed decision on whether you’re happy with the projected time frame. The most accurate predictor of production comes from PVGIS, the publicly sourced satellite imagery service. PVGIS relies upon 15 plus years of data that has been updated hourly so is very reliable at predicting output for a solar PV system.



Clear of shading

Another important aspect to consider is the amount of shading that covers your roof. If your home is largely under shade from trees, buildings or any other obstructions, you will receive less direct sunlight which will inhibit the energy-producing capacity of your panels.

If you do notice some shading over your roof, it doesn’t mean your home isn’t still compatible with solar power generation; there are several things you can do to keep your system working properly.

During the installation stage, your professional contractors will be able to optimise the positioning of your panels in order to get the maximum energy output. Once your system’s set up, it’s important to keep your panels well maintained. Dust, leaves and dirt can build up on your panels over time, which essentially adds an extra barrier between the sunlight and the PV cells. Cleaning them at least once a year will help them to continue working as they should.

There are also several pieces of smart technology that can be installed as part of your system and help to minimise the impact of shading. For instance, DC power optimisers are designed to maximise the potential energy production when panels are installed in less than ideal conditions i.e. on a partially shaded roof.

Solar panels are connected in a system to form a ‘string’, and they can only produce the optimal amount of energy when each individual panel is working at its most efficient. When several are unable to produce energy optimally (like when under shade), DC optimisers can be connected to the string to maintain a higher level of output.

In most cases, since solar panels are classed as ‘permitted developments’, you won’t need to apply for planning permission. In order to take advantage of permitted development rights at private dwellings, your panels must not be installed above the ridgeline, and they can’t be positioned more than 200mm above the wall or roof’s surface.

If your home has a flat roof, you’re likely to need to apply for permission from your local authorities, since the panels will need to be angled above the limit of 200mm. There are also added requirements for listed buildings, or those in a protected area. To avoid encountering any problems during the process, it’s important to understand when added permissions are required to start generating your own solar energy.

You will also need to make your DNO (Distribution Network Operator) aware of your energy system either before or after the installation depending on your circumstances. We explain more about this topic in our article on the G98 and G99 certificates. Your professional installer will be able to advise you on this process, but the UK Government has also provided some guidelines around registering your energy device.

We work closely with a network of qualified and experienced installers who will oversee the installation, so you don’t have to worry about the finer details of the process. From the scaffolding, to the wiring, to testing, our experts will be on hand to support you from start to finish. If you’re interested in finding out more about installing a system of your own, get in touch with us today.


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FAQs


Can I install solar panels myself?

In short, it is possible to construct your own solar panel system, but it does require a range of specialist skills. In addition, there are legal requirements involved with the installation of a solar system which a professional contractor will be able to help you navigate. With safety in mind, and to ensure your system is set up optimally for efficient energy production, it’s always advisable to leave installation to the experts.

How can I get the most out of my panels?

Installing a solar panel system is a big investment, so you’ll want to be sure you’re able to get the very most out of your panels. To do this, it’s important to keep them regularly maintained and cleaned, to prevent anything from obstructing your system. It’s also advisable to focus the majority of your home’s usage during daylight hours, when you can directly use the solar energy that’s being generated.

In addition, you could look to install a battery as part of your system. This will make more energy available to you to use outside of daylight hours, further reducing your reliance on the National Grid. On top of this, installing a battery will allow you to take advantage of the Smart Export Guarantee, reducing the payback period for your system.

Can solar panels power my entire home?

Depending on the size of your home, your energy usage, and the size of your solar panel system, it is possible to power your entire property with solar electricity. As well as installing a solar array that’s tailored to your home’s specific needs, you should also consider ways you can reduce your consumption around the home. This will help to take some extra pressure off of your solar hub, ensuring you get more from your investment. Using more energy-efficient products around the home and adopting more eco-conscious habits like switching appliances off will help your solar power to go further.

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