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Go solar yourself

Overview - Solar Power - Your own roof - Government incentives - Financial attractiveness - Go solar yourself

This chapter discusses the process of going solar, the role of CompareMySolar, and tips for choosing an installer. As the concluding chapter in our solar education, it should make you feel confident about the process towards solar panels for your roof. If you have further questions, feel free to contact us on 0800 6123 303 or check our solar FAQ or solar glossary

Process of going solar

When you are thinking about a PV system for your roof, there are five steps towards going solar:

  • Orientation: an important first phase where you learn about solar PV and government incentives, find out the details about your roof and how attractive it is for solar energy, consider financing options and define a budget, learn about the system options and local installers available and can choose to invite several installers for a free and non-obligatory site visit at your home.
  • Site visit: during the site visit the installer(s) will conduct a technical survey to develop the detailed design of a suitable solar system and to give you an accurate quote. Site visits generally take between 30 minutes and 1 hour. During a site visit the installer can for example measure required cable length, verify available roof and loft space, check your fuse board and electrical connections, further explain how the system could work in your home and provide a detailed guideline of costs.
  • Decision: take your time to compare the final quotes. Be sure not only to select on price, but also consider important factors like the solar installer’s experience and reputation, quality of materials used, warranties (on panels, inverter and installation) and aftercare options. The decision to go solar has a financial impact for the next 25 years, so it is critical your system works properly during that entire period.
  • Installation: when an installer is chosen, you usually pay a deposit and schedule an installation date. The actual installation will usually take one or two days, and includes a safe commissioning with all the required paperwork for you to apply for and receive the Feed-in-tariffs.
  • Aftercare: monitor your system outputs, and try to lower your electricity usage so you can become fully energy independent. There is very limited maintenance required for your solar panels (cleaning from dust, leaves or branches etc.). Your inverter does not need maintenance but will last shorter than the solar panels (about 15 years) so you will need to replace it.

Role of CompareMySolar:

We make the orientation phase of going solar easy and accessible for all consumers. Our website takes you by the hand through the initial stage of the orientation, and provides information you need based on your own roof and locally available systems and installers. Before we connect you with your chosen installers we call you to answer any questions and give our personal advice.

We help with a thorough selection of solar installers for a site visit in your house, and prepare you to make an informed decision. After the site visit and (if you choose to go solar) the installation phase we will call you again to talk about your experience. This feedback helps installers to improve their service, and allows us to improve our website content for other users.

Tips for selecting an installer:

Choosing the right installer is vital given the costs of a solar system and the fact that it has to last for 25 years on your roof. Within the UK there are nearly 4000 accredited MCS installers, most of which have entered the market only since the FiT was introduced in April 2010. You can find local MCS accredited installers here, and our system only uses MCS accredited installers. When selecting a solar installer, it is important you pay attention to several aspects:

  1. Certification
  2. Experience
  3. Insurance
  4. Price
  5. Quality of materials
  6. Warranty
  7. Examples / References
  8. Overall impression

Each of these factors is discussed below, and they should be assessed together when making your choice.

  • Certification: One way to ensure a proper solar installation is to check whether your solar installer is certified. In order to receive the Feed-in-tariff the government controlled MCS certification is a requirement. You can find a list of MCS certified installers on their website or search for local MCS installers here . Other relevant certificates include the consumer code from the REAL Assurance Scheme, membership of the UK Solar Trade Association, or the electrical code from the NICEIC. All installer profiles on the CompareMySolar website list their relevant certifications.
  • Experience: From the 4000+ installers on the MCS website, more than 95% received their accreditation only after April 2010. Ask your installer about how long they have been in business and how much experience do they have with solar PV installations, potentially both in residential and commercial settings. Also asses how large and professional their company is, in order to estimate whether they will still exist when you may need your warranty in the future. CompareMySolar uses an experience rating that assesses these factors for each installer that works with us.
  • Insurance: In case of an accident during installation, it is important that your solar installer has the proper licenses and insurance to ensure that you are not liable. Your solar installer should have general liability insurance and worker’s compensation insurance. 
  • Price: Request multiple competitive bids for your solar system and that make sure that each bid explicitly indicates what the payback and the monthly savings on your electric bill will be. Also, ask whether on-going maintenance is included in the cost of your solar system or whether that is an additional charge. You need to feel comfortable that economically it makes sense for you to invest in solar. Cost is an important factor for everyone, but also keep in mind the other quality related aspects when choosing an installer.
  • Quality of materials: Make sure your installer is familiar with the brand of solar panel they are installing. Make sure you verify with your solar installer which brands they prefer to use and why. Solar panels can vary greatly on their efficiency (output produced per square meter). It can also be important to choose for a larger manufacturer or one that is part of a conglomerate, as they have to be around for the next 25 years for you to be able to use the panel warranty when you need it. Quality of inverters can be assessed through warranty terms and performance guarantees. Mounting materials used can also differ per installer, and it is important that your installers uses quality materials so that no corrosion or roof leakage occurs.
  • Warranty: Conditions can vary here, so make sure you inform about it. Solar panels often come with a manufacturer warranty of 25 year. Inverters have a lower lifetime and a manufacturer warranty of around 5 years, and will probably require replacement after 15 years. Be sure to ask in detail about the warranty length and conditions on the installation itself and any issues that could happen with your roof. This warranty should be supplied by the solar installer.
  • Examples / references: Ask whether the installer did similar installations before, and request examples of installations on a similar roof type like yours. Look at the aesthetics of the example installations and ask for names and contact numbers of previous customers to follow up with them. 
  • Overall Impression: After the site visit, assess whether you felt confident about this solar installer. Designing and installing a reliable and efficient solar power system requires expertise in engineering, roofing techniques, and electrical systems. The installer should be a partner to help make sure that your investment into solar is easy, long lasting and financially attractive. In the end, beyond the assurances of experience and certification, only you can decide whether this solar installer “feels” like the right choice.

Overview - Solar Power - Your own roof - Government incentives - Financial attractiveness - Go solar yourself