Solar installation work isn’t for the faint-hearted. Armed with a few tools and a scaffolding tower, solar installers must fit thousands of pounds’ worth of equipment to roofs safely, securely, and usually high off the ground.
Here we outline what needs to be done before the solar installation, before taking you through the conventional way how to install solar panels. You’ll soon see why it’s best left to the professionals!
What to prepare before the solar installation
Finding the right installer is important for a smooth and certified solar installation. MCS accreditation is necessary if you plan on signing up for the Feed-in Tariff. On top of that, the installer will need to carry out a brief survey prior to the solar installation. The survey is primarily to assess whether your home is suitable for solar panels. This includes whether your roof’s pitch, aspect and strength are fit for purpose.
A suitable house to install solar panels on will have a structurally sound, 10 – 60° pitched roof that faces east, south or west. That’s around 10 – 12 million UK homes that are ideal for solar panels!*
Remember to gather several quotes from different installers to find a competitive price, and to check your installer’s MCS accreditation. You can find out whether your installer is certified here: MCS installer search.
9 times out of 10, homeowners don’t need planning permission to install solar panels; they’re classified as “Permitted Development” (PD). Your qualified installer will help to ensure that the solar installation meets with all the relevant PD criteria. Some of this criteria includes:
- You can’t install solar panels higher than the highest point of the property (not including the chimney).
- The solar installation mustn’t protrude more than 200mm from the surface of the roof.
- If you want to install solar panels, the change in the building’s appearance must be kept to a minimum.
The criteria for listed buildings and houses in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty may differ slightly. For this reason, it’s always best to double-check with your local planning authority before you install solar panels.
The article “Do I need planning permission for solar panels?” covers this matter in more detail.
“Will the solar installation damage my roof?”
No – roof anchors are designed to fit between roof tiles. Once securely fixed, the installer puts the roof tiles back into place. There are several kinds of roof anchor to suit various types of roof tiles. For some roofs, you may need purpose-built tiles for the wires to connect to the inverter within your house.
Process of how to install solar panels
Standard solar installations take no longer than a day or two, and prior to the installation, the MCS-certified installer will have carried out a comprehensive survey to find out all the details. The installation team comprises 2 or more roofers and an electrician for the wiring.
1. Erect the scaffolding
This is imperative for the safety of the installation team. It’s worth checking that the cost for installing the scaffolding is included, and that there’s enough room outside your house for the scaffolding tower.
2. Attach roof anchors
The roof anchors are there to hold the frame for the solar panels, and the type of anchor used will be determined by the type of roof tile fitted. The installation team will start by lifting some of the tiles on your roof and fixing the roof anchors to the rafters. The installer should have already gone into the loft during the survey to check that the rafters and the roof are suitable for installing solar panels.
3. Attach the frame
The aluminium frame (or solar panel rails) attach to the anchors, which run vertically and horizontally across the roof.
4. Install the solar panels
Finally, it’s time to attach the panels onto the frame. The panels clamp loosely to the frame, then they’re tightened once the installer has positioned them in their optimal angle.
5. Solar panel wiring
This is where you’ll need a certified solar installation team. The panels usually come prewired from the manufacturer, but they still need to be connected to an inverter.
Whilst the installation team are busy installing solar panels onto the roof, the electrician will set up the inverter in your house (usually in the loft). The inverter converts generated electricity – direct current (DC) – into usable alternating current (AC). After that, your free electricity is ready to be used by electrical appliances in the house. You’ll need to switch off the electricity at the fusebox before this step. For more information on inverters and micro-inverters, take a look at the article “What is an inverter”.
6. Final checks
The electrician makes the final connections to the consumer unit. (S)he’ll then install the generation meter near the fusebox for convenience. After which, the electrician switches the electricity back on to test the solar installation. This is to ensure there aren’t any faults, and that the solar panels are generating as predicted.
7. Receive MCS certification
You’ll receive your certification usually within two or three days, once the installer has registered the solar installation with MCS.
As you can see, the process is quite short, but it’s clear that the solar installation is too technical for homeowners to tackle alone. On top of that, it’s imperative to use an MCS-registered installer to receive an income from the Feed-in Tariff.
Thinking about a solar installation?
If you want to install solar panels for your home, we can put you in touch with a professional and MCS-certified solar installation team in your area.
*Sourced from the Eco Experts.