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Solar Energy Guide Everything you need to know about solar panels

Solar-Help Solar Energy for Home & Business

Why is everyone talking about solar? Although the climate in the UK may not be as sunny as the Mediterranean, there is still a surprising increase in the number of households and businesses investing in solar panels, with over 16,000 registered installations in the UK during 2010. For many people the motivation to install solar panels has been to decrease their energy bills and reduce their carbon footprint. However, there is now a whole range of government incentives to encourage homes and businesses to invest in renewable technologies. This guide will explain all about the benefits of investing in solar panels; including understanding the technology, the installation process and the financial considerations. It will also explain how we can help you buy your own panels, including providing you with a free quotation and a site survey from one of our MCS accredited installers (Micro-generation Certification Scheme).

The Feed-in Tariff and Renewable Heat Incentive The rapid uptake of solar panels has been mainly driven by the availability of a rebate from the energy companies, which pays for the energy you generate. This government-backed scheme is called the Feed-in Tariff (for electricity generated by solar photovoltaic or PV panels) and the more recent Renewable Heat Incentive (for installation of renewable heating systems, such as: solar thermal, which generates hot water from the heat of the sun). Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels are the most popular type of installation because the electricity they generate can be used in the home (or business), or sold into the grid. On the other hand, the hot water generated in the solar thermal panels can only be used as part of a heating/water system. The Feed-In Tariff comes in two parts - the generation tariff which pays based on how much electricity you generate and the export tariff which pays bonus amounts for electricity you feed into the National Grid.

Solar-Help Solar Energy for Home & Business

The smartest investment under the sun

How much money could I make from solar panels? This is a key factor in deciding to adopt solar technology in your home or business. Solar PV makes you money whilst at the same time reducing your carbon footprint; good for your wallet and the environment.


The energy that the PV panels generate is measured in kWh – the same units you use when you buy your electricity. Currently domestic electricity is charged at around 12-15p per kWh or unit. You need approximately 8-10m2 of solar PV panels on a south facing roof to produce 1kWp. Electricity generated by panels on your home will currently receive 43.3p per kWh from the feed-in tariff, whether you use the electricity or not. Although this does not sound like very much, over a year this could be up to £1500, plus you also receive the savings you will make by using the electricity yourself. The initial investment for typical domestic systems is between £8,000 and £16,000 depending on the size of your photovoltaic system, however, this is partially offset by the increase in the value of your home (£6,000-£10,000). It could take as little as 7-8 years to recover the cost of your investment. Most households see a typical tax-free return of 8-10% per annum, guaranteed for 25 years with the payments linked to inflation. However, you should invest before March 2012, as after this date the starting tariff will be lower for new entrants to the scheme.

Consumer enquiries call: 0116 2987467

£0.12 kWh ❄❄❄❄

£0.433 kWh

£0.031 kWh

“Expect a typical tax-free return of 8-10% per annum, guaranteed for 25 years with the payments linked to the rate of inflation.”

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Why should I invest in solar panel technology? Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels for home owners.

Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels for business owners.

• A residential solar PV panel system will normally be a 2kW to 3.68kW system - depending on the size of your roof (typically 20-40m2) and how much you can afford to invest.

• Installing solar panels for your business can bring bigger returns, even though the tariff is banded and is lower for systems above 4kW, 10kW and 100kW.

• Your energy company will pay the Feed-in tariff (or FITs) payments of 43.3p per kWh of electricity you generate (for retro-fit installs from April 2011-March 2012 up to 4kW). However, the tariff for new builds in lower (37.8p per kWh).

• This is because the economies of scale mean that the cost of the install is £2,500 to £3,500 per kW.

• You will also receive bonus payments of 3.1p for the electricity you don’t use (and export into the National Grid).

• However, there are a number of other issues you will need to consider, such as planning permission. • There is additional information at the back of this guide for business owners.

• This is equivalent to £750 to £1500 per year for a 2kW to 3.68kW system. • In addition to your tax-free tariff payments, you are likely to save 40-70% off your energy bills (currently £150-£250 per year). • You can save more by switching to electric heating systems or using appliances during the day. These savings will become more significant as electricity price increase in the future. • A typical household will also save around 1 tonne of CO2 per year.

Solar-Help Solar Energy for Home & Business

The smartest investment under the sun

“You can make money, save money and reduce your carbon footprint!”

How does it work?


Solar Thermal To Taps


Solar thermal Tank

• Solar heating systems use energy from the sun to heat liquid contained in tubes in the panels on your roof.


• Solar thermal can provide around 40-60% of your hot water requirements throughout the year. • Through the Government’s Renewable Heat Incentive, you will receive a set amount for each unit of energy your solar heating system generates, whether you use it for your home or not. ❯ Phase 1 (2011) – one off payment of £300 per system.


The Solar Thermal system.

This begins in Summer2011. ❯ Phase 2 (2012) – on-going tariff – payments to be confirmed.

This will begin in 2012.

“Solar thermal can provide around 40-60% of your hot water requirements throughout the year.” Consumer enquiries call: 0116 2987467

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Cold Water Feed

How does it work?


The Photovoltaic (PV) system. SUN BUY IN FROM NATIONAL GRID



Solar Photovoltaic







• Solar PV panels are made from photosensitive solar cells, each containing a semi-conducting material (typically silicon) which generates an electric field when the sun shines on it. This is based on the sun’s light energy, not heat energy. • This generates a direct current (DC), which is then converted into an alternating current (AC) via an inverter.


• The electricity can be used by you and can save you 40-70% off your annual bill, or fed into the National Grid for bonus payments. • A small meter is fitted to the system to measure how much electricity your solar PV panels generate so that you can receive money through the Feed-in-Tariffs, a government backed scheme guaranteed for 25 years.




“You can save 40-70% off your annual bill, or feed into the National Grid for bonus payments.” Solar-Help Solar Energy for Home & Business

The smartest investment under the sun

The Photovoltaic (PV) system in detail.

Installation methods and panel configurations

Making the right choice

On-roof panels This is the most costeffective system, but can look like an add-on, and needs a gap below the panels for rain run-off. No planning permission is required (except in conservation areas)

In-Roof panels (integrated) The panels lie flush with the roof. This is slightly more expensive and requires ventilation, but no planning permission is required (except in conservation areas)

Consumer enquiries call: 0116 2987467

Solar tiles

Flat-roof mounted

Ground mounted

This requires a complete re-roof and is more expensive and slightly less efficient, but no planning permission is required (except in conservation areas). This method is particularly suitable for new-builds or where a new roof is required.

Often used for commercial properties, this method needs blocks or A-frame mounting, with spacing to prevent shadows. Planning permission is required

Generally for commercial use, this method requires large amounts of land and planning permission

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Installation of on-roof panels - step-by-step

The panels need to be mounted on roof rails. Depending on the type of roof material, different roof rails are available.

Once the rails are installed on the roof, the panels are mounted. It is important to ensure the panels are properly ventilated as high temperatures can lead to poor performance.

Mounting the panels is usually a relatively quick process, although this depends on the height and type of roof. It is important that this is done properly as it can affect the performance of your panels.

Once the panels have been mounted, the installer will wire them up and install your inverter. This is a small unit which converts the direct current (DC) generated by the panels into the alternating current (AC) used by household appliances.

In addition to the inverter, you will also require a meter which records the amount of electricity generated by your system. This is essential if you are claiming Feed-in Tariff payments, but also very useful for tracking the efficiency of your system over time.

The entire job usually takes 1-2 days. Once installation is complete the panels require very little maintenance and most panels have a guaranteed efficiency of 80% at 25 years into their life span.

Solar-Help Solar Energy for Home & Business

The smartest investment under the sun

Installation in detail. Integrated (in-roof) panels and roof tiles Solar Photovoltaic • Integrated panels and roof tiles require the removal of existing roof tiles. • This makes them particularly suited to new builds or where a new roof is needed, as no removal is then necessary – cutting down on expense and time. • Integrating panels on new builds also tends to allow for greater freedom of design, meaning you have greater aesthetic control for a more stylised finish. • Generally the cost is 2 to 3 times higher than on-roof panels due to the cost of individual tiles and installation process.

Consumer enquiries call: 0116 2987467

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Is your property suitable?

Property type & location • Size of property – influences the size of the roof and the maximum area of the panels. You will need approximately 8-10m2 for each kW system. • Roof aspect – a south facing aspect provides the maximum output. It may be necessary to have two separate systems of panels (or strings) plus 2 inverters if the roof faces east or west. • Roof type – angle of pitch, tile or slate, condition of rafters. • Shading – moderate or high shading may prevent installation. • Height – over 3 stories requires specialist scafolding. • Effect of climate – your location will influence hours of sunlight, cloud cover and wind. • Conservation area – generally planning permission is not required unless you are in a conservation area (or you want to install panels on a flat roof).

Solar-Help Solar Energy for Home & Business

The smartest investment under the sun

Average generation rate (kWh) throughout a typical year

Is your property suitable?

300 Generation Per Month (kWh)

The effects of climate


250 200 150 100

• Hours of sunlight – the more hours of sunlight, the more power produced. This is affected by the time of year and where you are located – consequently you may need to use more electricity from the grid during the winter.


• Cloud cover – the further west you are the more rain and cloud cover you are likely to have – this affects the overall output of your system. • Cold – your system should work even at low temperatures. • Heat – high temperatures can adversely affect the efficiency of your system. • Shading – can reduce the effectiveness of panels.

Consumer enquiries call: 0116 2987467

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• Low light levels – different panels operate more effectively at lower light levels, significantly increasing the number of hours in which electricity is produced.


• The amount of sunlight – the power output increases with more sunlight.

Factors affecting solar technologies and types of silicon technology in solar panels Affecting Factors Many factors can affect the effectiveness of solar panels, below are the most common main factors that are regularly taken into account. • Size and number of panels used and power output per panel (150-300W). • Type and grade of silicon used in cells. The better the raw material the better the panel efficiency. • Panel efficiency is typically between 5-18% • Quality of other components within the panels, manufacturing processes and quality control.

Mono-crystalline silicon

Poly-crystalline silicon

• Produced from a single block of silicon.

• Poly-crystalline silicon is also produced from a molten silicon, but using a casting process. It sets as an irregular poly or multi-crystal block. The block is then cut into 0.3mm slices.

• This silicon is cut into thin wafers between 0.2 and 0.3mm thick.

• Level of daylight before panels start to operate and negative effects of high temperatures.

• However, they require more time and energy to produce than poly-crystalline silicon PV cells, and are therefore slightly more expensive.

• Quality of wiring and other components, such as the quality of the inverter(s).

• These PV cells have efficiencies of 13-18% and are the most efficient type of silicon PV cell readily available today. • Typically require 8m2 per kWp.

• The typical blue appearance is due to the application of an anti-reflective layer. • Panels receive chemical coatings and the fixing of the conducting grid and contacts. • An efficiency of 11-16%. • They are cheaper to produce than monocrystalline units. • Typically require 8-10m2 per kWp.

Solar-Help Solar Energy for Home & Business

The smartest investment under the sun

Installation Partners

Accredited & trusted MCS Accredited Contractors

REAL Listed Contractors

NICEIC Accredited Contractors

MCS stands for Micro-generation Certification Scheme. This is an independent certification scheme formulated to certify installers in compliance with consistent standards.

The REAL Assurance Scheme has been set up by the Renewable Energy Association (REA).

The National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting (NCEIC) is the UK electrical contracting industry’s independent voluntary body.

The scheme was launched by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and provides consumers with a mark of expertise and quality when looking for solar PV panel contractors. To qualify for the Government Feed-in Tariffs and Renewable Heat Incentive, your installation must have been completed by fully MCS-accredited installers. With SolarHelp you can be sure that you are getting great service from experienced professionals who know what they’re doing.

Consumer enquiries call: 0116 2987467

It aims to guarantee a high quality experience for consumers wishing to buy solar panels for their home, for a community building or for a small business. REAL membership is a sign that the solar panel installer has agreed to abide by the high standards as set out in REA’s Consumer Code. The REAL logo is a symbol that denotes solar PV panel contractors of professional excellence.

They provide an MCS certification scheme to installers who have voluntarily become members. Hiring solar panel installers who are NICEIC accredited has a number of benefits for homeowners, including an insurance backed warranty and an independent complaints procedure.

The REAL scheme ensures you receive a cooling off period of 7 working days.

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Costs & financial returns Our pricing structure (capped) for on-roof domestic systems All of our partner installers have agreed to a similar price structure with the prices capped for each system size (based on retro-fit on-roof systems). These estimated figures are based on optimum performance.




Typical Panel area




CO2 savings per year




Typical Year 1 energy savings




Typical Year 1 FIT payments




(including bonus for exporting)

Cost for on-roof system




(including VAT at 5%)

Average return per year (over 25 years)

Years payback




(based on 22% tax)

(based on 22% tax)

(based on 22% tax)

9 years

8 years

8 years

* As of April 2011 the maximum size of a domestic system that can be fed into the Grid is 3.68 kW (16 A single-phase), unless G59 permission is obtained

Solar-Help Solar Energy for Home & Business

The smartest investment under the sun

There may be additional costs for non-standard installation • More than one roof aspect e.g. east and west facing (extra £1,000 - £2,000). ❯ Extra scaffolding ❯ Extra inverters

• Integrated or in-roof panels (extra £1,000 - £2,000). ❯ Removal of old tiles or slates ❯ Higher cost of the panels

• Commercial systems of 10kW and above will be £2500-£3500 per kW, excluding costs associated with G59 application. • A more detailed survey may be required for specialist installations and new builds (as plans will need to be prepared). A refundable survey cost of up to £500 may be required, however you will be notified in advance.

Paying for your system Financing your investment Solar technologies can be relatively inexpensive once you compare the cost of the system against the likely projected returns from the system over its working life. This is why solar has become more popular over the last few years, and with energy prices rising steadily, it makes more sense that ever to invest in technologies that keep your bills low as well as lowering your carbon footprint. Paying for your solar system is generally approached in the following ways. • From your savings. • Re-mortgage on your property at a low interest rate. • Loan or credit – secured on our property or even your credit card. • There are often low or zero interest loans and other schemes available to help finance renewable energy projects. However, there are usually specific criteria eg. postcode. For more information on what schemes are available either visit or visit or talk to your local council who will be able to inform of any current initiatives and grants that may be available.

Main financial consideration If you are paying for a solar system with a loan (either as part of a mortgage or a bank loan) it is important to ask the following question “Will my FITs (feed in tariff) payments exceed my loan repayments?”

Consumer enquiries call: 0116 2987467

email: or visit for more information

Why buy from Solar-Help?


£  ☺


Capped Pricing


NO High Pressure Sales

We are independent so we only work with a few handpicked and well established installers from over 2000 companies on the MCS register.

We have capped the maximum sales price for differently sized systems, so you know exactly what to expect before you meet the installer.

Our partner installers have outsourced their sales and marketing to us so they can focus on what they know best – professional installation!

By establishing most of your requirements in advance we remove the use of any high pressure sales techniques (note these practices are not allowed as part of the MCS accreditation).

MCS Accredited Solar PV Panel Contractors Solar-Help is a joint venture between Anicca Digital Ltd, a digital marketing agency (providing marketing and sales expertise), and specialist MCS accredited solar panel installers from around the UK. These include: • Aarco Electrical Ltd – 38 years’ experience in electrical contracting with over 100 solar PV installs in the last 18 months. • Forever Energy Europe Ltd – 22 years’ in the renewable energy business (installers, trainers and distributors). • TD Solar Ltd – 6 years’ experience in integrated solar panels and roof tiles for new builds, conservation areas and specialist designs.

Solar-Help Solar Energy for Home & Business

The smartest investment under the sun

Buying solar is easy... It’s as simple as picking up the phone We will provide you with a quotation based on an estimate of the size of your roof (as determined using Google Maps or any plans or drawings you have provided). In addition we will provide some SAP calculations, with the estimated return on your investment over 25 years. We will also provide you with more details about our recommended installer(s) and an example of their contract(s), so you have time to review everything in advance. We will then call you to determine whether you would like a free survey. You should only have a survey if are ready to purchase solar panels and have already secured the necessary finances.

We understand that you may wish to meet a couple of installers before making any commitment, so we recommend that you try and see everyone before our surveyor visits you. Most installers will not provide a price without visiting your premises, however you may find that the person that calls is actually a salesman who is only paid on commission. We do not employ any pushy salesman - the site visit will be carried out by a trained surveyor. Consequently the survey can take at least 1 hour to complete as it involves a full inspection of your loft and a review of your electrical system.

The survey will allow us to assess the actual size and condition of the roof (and rafters) and ensure that there are no issues like shading or problems with the existing wiring. Although we have capped the cost of the standard on-roof system to ÂŁ16,000 for a 3.68kW system, we will be able to determine a more accurate price. If you are happy to proceed, you will need to sign the contract and pay a deposit of up to 50%. There is a 7-day cooling off period, which is insured by REA (Renewable Energy Association). Then the installation can be booked, which is generally within 2-3 weeks.

The step-by-step guide to how the buying process works Your initial contact with Solar-Help

FREE solar guide and expert advice

Quotation for your solar system

Consumer enquiries call: 0116 2987467

Call back to book an appointment

A detailed survey with a surveyor

Sign your contract and pay deposit

Cooling off period of 7 days

Site visit by trained electrician

Work starts on solar system installation

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FAQs - home owners The initial Generation Tariff was set at 41.3p/kWh and increased to 43.3p/kWh in April 2011. By installing a solar electricity system now (before April 2012) you are guaranteed to be paid this rate for the lifetime of your system (set at 25 years). The Government has also ensured the Generation Tariff will track inflation rates, ensuring you get paid a fair price for your electricity year on year.

Generation Tariff rate decrease 2012 to 2020 45 40

35 30 25 20 15



Solar-Help Solar Energy for Home & Business

The smartest investment under the sun












But the Generation Tariff will drop every year after April 2012. So if you wait until 2013 to purchase your PV system you’ll get less for everything it generates, compared to if you installed solar panels now. To guarantee you get the highest possible price for every single unit of electricity your solar electricity system generates over its lifetime, you should install your system now or before April 2012. The later you leave it the less you will earn.

What do I do if I still have questions? We’re only a phone call away and always happy to help. If you have questions during any part of the process, please feel free to contact us on 0116 2987467.


How do I choose an installer? In order to receive Feed-in Tariff or Renewable Heat Incentive payments, your solar panels must have been installed by an MCS-accredited installer. This means that the very first thing you should look for is accreditations. Other organisations such as the NICEIC also provide consumers with insurance-backed warrantees and, if needed, an independent complaints procedure. In addition to accreditation, experience is a good indicator to go by – a more experienced installer is more likely to do a high quality job. All our partner installers are fully accredited and have many years experience in the field, meaning you can be confident in their expertise.

Can I move house and still receive my FITs payments? Yes, but this depends on a number of factors. Some FITs contracts with energy companies allow for you to retain ownership of your FITs contract even if you sell your house. However, this depends on you negotiating ownership with the buyer of your house and alerting the energy company to the change. The deal can be attractive to a buyer because, although they won’t receive the FITs payments, they will still be able to use the electricity from the panels and save money on their energy bills. If you are concerned about this, be sure to check the FITs contract you sign to see what the procedure in this situation is.


What happens if the Government decide to cut the Feed-in Tariffs? Once you are on the Feed-in Tariff scheme your payments are guaranteed for 25 years through a legal contract. This means Government changes to the scheme will only affect new entrants and not people who are already receiving payments. In fact, the amount new entrants receive from the Feed-in Tariff will decrease after April 2012 anyway (and then each successive year) so it pays to enter the scheme sooner rather than later.

If I wait to install will I miss out? The short answer is yes. The current Generation Tariff is not a fixed tariff – it is designed to drop every year after April 2012. To encourage people to install solar electricity systems sooner rather than later, the Government has introduced a generous initial Generation Tariff for all UK solar electricity installs fitted before April 2012.

Feed In Tariff Pence Per kW Rate

Do I need planning permission to install solar panels? Generally no, unless you live in a conservation area or want to install solar panels on a flat roof or on the ground, then planning permission will be required. Your Local Authority should be able to provide additional information on its requirements and the planning permission application process.

FAQs - business owners Where can you install commercial solar panels? • Commercial solar panels can be installed on a range of buildings, including other residential properties (buy-to-let properties, holiday homes, nursing homes, or flats), farm buildings, retail units, and most other commercial buildings. • You just need a suitable roof structure, which is preferably south facing and with minimal shading. You need approximately 8-10m2 roof area for every kW of solar panels. • In addition, you can install the panels on the facade of new buildings and on frames directly on your land.

Commercial Solar Panel System Sizes and Permissions • As of April 2011, if you have 3-phase electricity you can currently install up to 12kW (3.68kW or 16A per phase), without any special permissions (G59) from your energy company (see below). • If you have a flat roof, want to install on land, or are in a conservation area you will need planning permission.

Using the electricity in your business • The scheme is particularly attractive if you want to use the electricity as well. High consumption businesses like manufacturing, offices, holiday homes etc can all make significant savings in electricity use.

G59 and the limitations on exporting electricity to the grid • The maximum amount of electricity you can feed into the grid is currently limited to 3.68kW (16A) per phase before you require special permission (G59) from your energy supplier or Distributor Network Operator (DNO). However, this is expected to increase to 17kW per phase in 2011. • As most commercial premises have 3-phase electrics the new upper limit is likely to be 50kW. Coincidently, the government’s tariff revision later this year is expected to reduce the tariff for installs above 50kW! • The cost of a G59 application can be prohibitively expensive as the local DNO can charge for the G59 relay and associated equipment upgrades, someone to test the G59 equipment and the DNO to come out and witness that test. • Consequently, the combination of the lower tariff and the need for G59 may mean that systems above 50kW may not be commercially viable. • However, if you do wish to install a larger system then our installers have extensive experience of commercial systems and one of our partners even provides training on obtaining a G59 certificate

Commercial Solar Panel Tariff Payments, Costs and Returns • The FITs payments are banded according to the size of the system (from April 2011 based on retro-fit). ❯ 4-10kW = 37.8p, ❯ 10-100kW = 32.9p, ❯ >100kW = 30.7p • This is also guaranteed for 25 years and linked to inflation once you have a contract. • The FITs payments may be subject to tax, please seek advice from a tax advisor. • For a system between 10-100kW the typical annual FITs payment for each 10kW is around £2,250 plus any additional saving on your electricity (typically another £1,000). • The cost of the install also drops to £2,500 to £3,500 per kW (depending on the size of the system), so although the tariff goes down the returns are still in the region of 7-10%. • However, it is expected that the Government is likely to significantly reduce the tariff for system above 50kW later in 2011, as they are concerned that investors will draw the FITs money away from domestic systems. This may make systems above 50kW less commercially viable.

• The savings in electricity will typically represent a third of the total amount you make each year.

Consumer enquiries call: 0116 2987467

email: or visit for more information

Solar-Help Solar Energy for Home & Business

The smartest investment under the sun Consumer enquiries call: 0116 2987467

email: or visit for more information

Guide to investing in solar panels  

This guide will explain all about the benefits of investing in solar panels; including understanding the technology, the installation proces...

Guide to investing in solar panels  

This guide will explain all about the benefits of investing in solar panels; including understanding the technology, the installation proces...