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At Solarsense we try and make renewable energy as simple as possible. You can view a list of common questions and answers below, or grouped into sections on the left.
Hopefully this page will provide answers to most of the questions you have but if we have missed anything, or you would like us to go into more detail please contact us.
Your PV system is performing as we would expect. The reduced output is due to the increased temperature of the modules. PV panels lose about 0.5% power for every degree above 25deg. C. On hot summer days the panels can reach 70deg C or more, so this would equivalent to a 20 - 25% loss, compared to the rated power of the module (250w - for example). A 4kWp rated system might therefore only produce 3 -3.2 kW peak output on hot days.
The rated power of the PV panels is a laboratory measurement, at 25deg C, and 1000w per metre squared, (midday summer sun in the UK). These laboratory conditions are rarely achieved in practice, so the instantaneous power is not a good indication of the overall performance of the system.
To measure system performance more accurately you need to consider the number of kWhs (units of electricity) the system generates over a whole year. This is the industry standard way of calculating our estimates for system output, which take into consideration the changes in temperature throughout the year and historical weather data for your location.
We would expect our systems to generate within +/-10% of the annual estimates provided to you when we installed the system but if they don't please do contact us.
We generally install within a two hour driving radius of Bristol. This helps keep our milage low and ensures we can offer a more personal service. If you think you might be outside of our area please feel free to contact us to check.
We offer national coverage throughout the UK.
Concise planning information is supplied by the Microgeneration Certification Scheme - please follow this link.
Generally planning permission is not required, it is only required if the building is listed or if it is in located in National Park. In the case of AONBs (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) the planning laws with regards to solar panels have relaxed considerably in recent years, but it is always best to check with the relevant local authority.
In conservation areas solar panels are permitted under Class C of Part 1 of Schedule 2 to the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995. The GPDO is the part of the law that allows solar panels to be let into the roofs of dwelling houses (i.e. houses not divided into flats), provided the panels or arrays do not project significantly above the roof plane. This is the same Class which gives permission for skylights and roof lights and replacement roofs. For the purposes of Class C, it is not relevant whether the roof is at the front or back of the property.
Nearly all buildings have a roof that faces a suitable direction. Ideally south facing roofs are the best but systems can also be fitted on an east or west facing roof. If there are no suitable roofs a system can be fitted on a floor standing "A" frame for example in a garden or hard standing area.
A typical domestic solar installation will take place over two days. On the first day we would work on the roof and the on the second we will be connecting the supply within the property. Depending on the building we would also need to set aside a day to erect access scaffolding and a day to take it down.
With all jobs we will let you know exacly when you can expect us, and which memebers of our team will be completing your install.
People often ask whether there is a new breakthrough on the horizon that they should hold-out for. In reality, over the 18 years we have been in business we have found that technology moves slowly and breakthroughs in the lab rarely translate to practical solutions for people's homes or businesses.
At Solarsense we only install tried and tested products, the majority of which we test at our Technology Park before going on to install for our customers.
That said, if you have heard about something new that sounds interesting to you please let us know - our technology experts are always interested in discussing the latest entrants to the market.
Generally, the answer is yes. Renewable technologies have been designed to be installed in existing buildings and the process is generally quite straightforward.
As with all changes to an electrical or heating system we wil be able to give you a full assessment when we survey your property.
A vacuum tube solar system can pre-heat the water for a house boiler in winter and can provide virtually all hot water requirements for the rest of the year. Most systems come with a digital controller that shows the hot water temperature enabling customers to work with the solar system and keep their boiler shut off completely for months.
See our Solar Thermal page for more details.
This is the one question that causes the most arguments in the solar industry, with each manufacturer apparently distorting the figures to suit themselves - or so it seems.
Basically as independent installers of 18 years now, we would say there is virtually no difference in summer, but in the cool cloudy conditions of the rest of the year, the vaccuum tubes do produce more power from a smaller installed area.
So, if the use is summer only i.e. holiday home, campsite or pool, then a flat panel is perfectly OK, but if you're looking for year-round performance, then tubes are the best choice, particularly now they are as cheap to install as flat plate collectors.
In Europe, you will find that flat panels are more widely installed, but continental Europe has far more sun than we in the UK; furthermore in Northern regions where there is high snowfall, flat panels are preferred as the snow can be melted from them, which cannot be done with tubes - although this is not a regular issue here in the South West of the UK.
The simple answer is yes. However, as a professional company with a high regard for the health and safety of our staff, there is a due (and published) procedure that we must follow.
If, during the initial sales survey, our surveyors perceive any risk that asbestos containing materials (ACM) may be present, we will arrange for a specialist company to take samples and test them. The turn-around from the laboratory on this is 3-4 days only.
Thereafter, if asbestos is found to be present, we will still be able to complete the installation, but we will have to add a £500 premium to the cost of the job.
This covers the cost of providing respiration equipment, and disposable full-body suits, gloves and shoe covers for all workers. We also have to pay for a registered asbestos disposal company to remove the material from our base, after is is bagged and removed.
We feel that this minimal extra cost is justified in protecting our most valuable asset - our work teams - from the very serious potential health effects of ingesting ACM's.
Once you have a solar PV system installed you will need to register it with your electricity supplier - or another registered Feed-in Tariff Supplier - in order to start receiving the Feed-in Tariff. Although we can offer advice and help with this process, it is something that the installer (Solarsense) cannot carry out on behalf of the system owner (you). Click for a list of Registered FiT suppliers.
This means you will need to apply to become a microgenerator (someone who generates their own electricity on a small scale.) It is a good idea to request your application form as early as you can so as to be well prepared, but the forms themselves are quite straightforward.
We will notify the regional Distribution Network Operator (DNO), which is the organisation that controls the operation of the electricity grid in your region, when we have installed, connected and commissioned your solar PV system. you will then be able to register for the Feed-in Tariff.
The majority of electricity companies will request a copy of your Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) certificate to support your application. We will send this to you once your system has been installed, but don't worry if you happen to misplace it - we keep a copy on file so we can easily send you another copy, just give us a call.
We want this registration process to go as smoothly as possible for all our customers, so please don't hesitate to contact us if you have any queries.
A micro inverter is a good means of allowing a partially shaded PV array to maximise yields, where a string inverter would not be able to perform this well. They bolt or otherwise attach to the back of each module on the roof, and then AC power is fed down into the house, as opposed to DC power from a string inverter.
Solarsense have been testing micro-inverters for some time now, and we tend not to use any product that we have not first tested and vetted ourselves. We have noticed a lot of micro inverter-related issues arising recently in the trade press, and as a result our current policy is that we do not install micro-inverters. We do not want our customers to be contacted by manufacturers who request that they disconnect their PV array, or worse still, have to send products back following a recall.
Until any remaining issues have been thoroughly and properly cleared-up by any involved manufacturers, we would prefer to stick with the tried and tested string inverters that we have used in over 6000 installations over 18 years. This is a highly efficient and globally accepted system design protocol, and one which should work on any array where shading is not significant.
NB – shading should be minimised on any array, regardless of the inverter technology employed.
In basic terms, shading is anathema to a PV array - it should be avoided wherever and however possible, before looking at how to manage it where it cannot be avoided.
Technologies, which include bypass diodes, have reduced the effect of shading in recent years, but the principal is still to avoid wherever possible.
Inverters with Multiple Power Point Trackers (MPPT) can deal with two (or more) strings of panels in series as separate items, and therefore one shaded string need not affect another which is not shaded.
In a string of panels, shading can be described in simple terms as being analogous to a torch with a series of batteries in it - we all know that if you have a torch with one new battery and two old ones, the overall performance is only as good as the lowest common denominator- the same is true for a PV string. So, if a tree, building or landscape feature shades on part of an array, it will certainly affect the rest of that string at least.
We perform a shade analysis as part of our survey, and our either one of our surveyors, or a member of our technical design department can model the potential output for you to check if the array is worth installing.
In Britain all bat species and their roosts are legally protected, by both domestic and international legislation. This means you will be committing a criminal offence if you:
If you are going to have solar installed and there are bats living in the roof space which will be directly affected by the solar installation, this is an issue that should not be ignored, and needs to be dealt with before the installation work is due to take place.
The UK Bat Convservation Trust, on building and remedial work:
'Having bats in your roof does not necessarily preclude work being done. What it does mean is that the work will need careful consideration, especially in terms of time and materials, so that the structure can continue to be shared by bats and people. Therefore the earlier in the process the bats are taken into account the less disruption to building plans there will be.'
If there is a bat roost in your home, you need to contact the Statutory Nature Conservation Organisation (SNCO) through the BCT Bat Helpline.
The SNCO will send a volunteer on a free-of-charge visit to check whether the roof is used by bats, and if it appears that it is, or you know already that it is, they will write and advise on how best to go about the work, causing minimal disturbance to the bats.
Please visit the Bat Conservation Trust to find out more.
Yes. Even if your electricity is supplied by company A, you can still ask company B to be your Feed-in Tariff Supplier.
Click here for a full list of Registered FiT Suppliers.
Solarsense cannot install export meters for systems that are under 30 kWp as
Feed-in Tariff suppliers and electricity companies will only accept readings from export meters that they have installed.
In our experience most customers benefit from the default ‘deemed’ export tariff – which means your supplier will assume you use 50% of what you generate and export the other 50% back to the grid. Your FiT supplier will offer a figure for payment for 50% of the estimated export, based upon your installed PV system size.
However, if the property where you have a PV installation does not have a regular usage in the daytime (e.g. if you have extremely low daytime energy consumption, for untenanted properties or larger systems still under 30kWp) it may be worth choosing an export tariff.
Should an export meter be required, your FiT supplier will have to arrange for this to happen. There is normally an installation fee and an additional management fee associated with the export meter from the FiT supplier. Please contact your FiT supplier for further details on the specific cost.
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