Thanks to their economic and ecological benefits, PV solar panels are an increasingly popular choice with homeowners. Anyone who is interested in lowering their energy bills, taking some of the strain away from the depleting reserves of fossil fuels, and reducing their home’s carbon footprint, will find the prospect of having solar panels for your home extremely attractive. Add to this, the prospect of grants for solar panels, as well as the chance of making money thanks to the government’s Feed-in Tariff, and it’s no wonder that so many UK citizens are choosing to go solar. If you have decided that this kind of renewable energy is right for you, the next question is: Will my home be suitable for the installation?
The good news is that the majority of homes in the UK are perfectly suitable for solar PV installation. Here is a quick guide to the most significant practical elements involved in deciding whether or not a property is right for solar panel installation.
Solar Panel Installation – Location
The truth is that the sun doesn’t always shine on the UK, and this leads many to suspect that solar panels efficiency will be diminished. In fact, the panels need daylight, not necessarily direct sunlight, so even on cloudy days solar panels UK -wide are able to capture solar energy.
The south of the country receives more light over the course of a year than the north, and so homes in the south of England will be able to generate a little more energy than homes in the north of Scotland, but that doesn’t mean that if you live north of the border you can’t benefit from having solar PV installed.
Solar panel efficiency
Where the panels are actually placed is significant, and it stands to reason that a south facing roof provides the optimum position for solar panels to catch the most amount of available light. If your roof is not south facing however, there is no need for you to give up hope. South-west and south-east facing roofs will suffice perfectly well. Even if your roof is facing directly east or west, you will still only lose about 15% of the amount of light the panels will be able to capture.
No matter which point of the compass your panels will be facing, make sure that they are not shaded by trees or other buildings or chimneys.
Best angle for solar panels
A pitched roof is ideal for solar PV panels, and the fact that the majority of UK homes have them goes some way to explaining why solar PV has been such a runaway success in this country. The ideal angle is between 30 and 45 degrees, but panels can be mounted with minimal loss of light capture as low as 10 degrees and as high as 50 degrees.
If you have a flat roof, it is possible to have panels mounted on an angled support structure, or even as a standalone installation away from the house. In either instance it may be necessary to obtain planning permission, and there may be an increase in the solar panels cost.
Space and weight of a solar installation
Typically a solar PV installation on your roof will need about 24 square metres, which is about the same size as a parking space. The panels and the frame they sit on are likely to have a combined weight of just under 300kg, which is no problem for the majority of roofs. Solar panel installers will be able to check if your roof is strong enough to hold the weight.
You will also need to have enough space in your home to hold the rest of the equipment needed to help turn the captured solar energy into usable electric power. The largest piece of kit is the inverter, which needs a space around it so that cool air can circulate. An area that is one and half metres tall and a metre wide will be enough; a garage is an ideal option, a loft is another possibility.