Many more homes in the UK have been fitted with solar photovoltaic panels. The technology behind this form of renewable energy source has improved considerably in recent years.
Systems are powered by daylight, rather than by direct sunlight, which means that they can be used even in the remotest and dullest parts of the country. They can be used to power a simple hot water system, or to provide power for the whole house. However, to get the best results, you do need a suitable property.
The following is a list of 7 situations where solar panels may not be ideally suited.
1 – North Facing Roof
For a solar panel to generate the most power, it should ideally be facing true south. Roofs that face south-west and south-east are also considered highly efficient, while properties with an east or west facing roof will lose approximately 15% efficiency compared to a south facing roof. Generally, a north facing roof is not considered ideal. While most properties with a north facing roof will also have an opposite roof face, the layout of the building may mean that this simply isn’t the case.
It is still possible to harness solar power in properties with a north facing roof. Panels can be pitched against the slope of the roof, although this will detract from the aesthetic look of the roofline. Alternatively, panels can be placed at ground level, but this does require avoiding areas of heavy shade.
Even a slight angle away from true north could be enough to ensure efficient solar panels.
2 – Little To No Roof Space
For a modest 3KW system, it is ideal to have 20 square metres of clear roof space, although it is possible to install an array in 15 square metres of space. Larger systems require larger arrays which, in turn, require more space. This is only about the size of a large 4×4 car, so it is likely that your roof has enough space to house a small array, at least. But you should always check suitability before investing.
3 – A Heavy Shaded Roof
Although solar panels do not require full sunlight to operate, they do require daylight. Heavy shade, therefore, still negatively impacts the efficiency of a solar panel. Trees, chimneys, and nearby buildings can all cast heavy shade, and you should look at your roof to determine how much shade there is throughout the day.
It is possible to cut trees back, but it is unlikely that you will be able to move a chimney and certainly won’t be able to move the building next door. It might be possible to move the array over to one side of the roof or have a smaller solar system installed, to avoid shaded areas.
4 – A Weak Or Damaged Roof
An old or weak roof may not have the structural strength to be able to safely hold the solar panels and mounting. An installer should analyse the structural integrity of the roof to determine whether this is the case, and they will advise you upon completion of their checks.
If you are told that the roof is not strong enough, in its current condition, to house PV panels, you can consider having roof repairs or replacements, but these can cost a lot of money and inconvenience. Alternatively, your installer will inform you whether there are any alternatives that would strengthen the roof enough to be able to house your new solar system.
5 – Too Shallow Or Too Steep A Roof
A roof with a 50°+ angle is considered too steep for a solar panel. The panel would likely be in deep shade for large portions of the day, which means that it will be unable to harness the power required.
A roof with a pitch of less than 15° would be considered too shallow. The panels would not be able to self clean, which means that they would quickly become dirty and this negatively impacts the panels efficiency.
If your roof is too flat, it is possible to have an angled frame installed which would increase the pitch of the panel and provide a viable option.
The ideal pitch for a solar panel is between 30° and 45° although anywhere between 15° and 50° is considered suitable.
6 – You Have No Loft
You need some loft space in order to house the inverter. This is usually around the size of a microwave, so if you have no loft then you will need to find an alternative solution.
Because the inverter is relatively small, it is possible to have a cupboard or other storage area built into the top floor of the property. This can be concealed behind a unit door or cupboard door, especially if you have had the loft converted. Alternatively, the cupboard can be built near the ceiling height in the top floor of the property so that it is out of the way but still provides a suitable home.
Battery storage for solar panels may also require additional storage room but, once again, this can usually be built into the ceiling line of the property’s top floor.
7 – You Don’t Use Power During The Day
Solar panels collect power during the day and, in traditional systems, the power needed to be used straight away. It could not be stored. This meant that PV tiles were not considered suitable for families that used all of their power at night. Considering most people work during the day, and night time is when we do the most cooking and turn lights on, this is when power requirements tend to be greater.
Fortunately, to redress this balance, a lot of systems are now built with battery storage for solar panels. The energy is stored in the battery until it is needed, so your panels will transfer power to the batteries during the day while you’re at work. When you get home, you can flick the light switches and run a hot bath, using the power that has been gathered and collected.
Check your property’s suitability for solar panels and see whether you could benefit from a renewable energy source for your home.
As you can see there are a lot of grey areas of when a solar panel system can and shouldn’t be advised. The only way of finding out is by instructing someone like ourselves to carry out a full & free home survey to check all aspects of the houses suitability and your potential return & electric bill savings.