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22 Mar 2024
A behind-the-scenes look at solar panel installation
Anna Dearden
Home Sector Specialist

Thinking about switching to solar power? You're in good company. Since 2004, the UK's leap from generating just four-gigawatt hours to a whopping 13.3 terawatt hours in 2022 shows how many of us are turning to the sun for our energy needs. But what really goes into installing solar panels at your home? 

At SpotDif, we understand it can seem a bit daunting. That's why we've teamed up with Seamus from Project Solar. He's given us the lowdown on how solar energy works, how it can cut your electricity bills, and what the installation process looks like, from start to finish. Ready to shine a light on solar panels? 

Let's dive in with a summary of the key points from our chat with Seamus. You can also scroll down to watch the full interview.


How do solar panels work?

Ever wondered how solar panels turn sunlight into electricity for your home? Seamus from Project Solar has the answers. It's all about ambient light — contrary to popular belief, you don't need your panels to face south to catch direct sunlight. These clever panels grab the light, creating a direct current. Then, an inverter switches this into alternating current, powering up both your battery and property. 

How much can solar panels save you?

Dreaming of cutting down those energy bills? Seamus shares some exciting news. Not only can you save on your bills, but you could also earn by selling surplus energy back to the national grid. 

In our interview, we looked at Simone’s house as a case study. According to some clever calculations, we can see that Simone’s solar panels could save her around £70 a month on her energy bills. With savings like these, she could pay off her panels in just 6.5 years — maybe even sooner.

How long do solar panels last?

Worried about the lifespan of solar panels? Don't be. Seamus reassures us that most panels last up to 25 years. And guess what? Some companies are so confident in their technology they offer warranties of up to 99 years. That's a whole lot of sunshine and savings in your future.

Do solar panels require a lot of maintenance?

We can see that, fortunately, the days of climbing on the roof to clean your solar panels are long gone! Modern solar panels are self-cleaning and maintenance-free.

Solar panel installation: what does it entail?

Our video is here to guide you through the solar panel installation process. As you’ll see,  the journey begins with a comprehensive review of your roof. Specialists from the solar panel installation company employ advanced technology to assess if your roof is a perfect candidate for solar panels. This step includes ensuring no trees or structures could cast shadows over your future energy source.

When installation day arrives, a skilled team of roofers and electricians collaborate closely to ensure a flawless setup. They'll erect scaffolding and meticulously install the solar panels, documenting the process with photographs to ensure precision. Their focus is on achieving perfect alignment of the panels and securing all electrical components and the battery system to guarantee safety, effectiveness, and longevity.

Typically, the installation process takes 5-6 hours, depending on the specifics of your property. So, in just about a day, you could be on your way to generating your own solar power, contributing to both your savings and the planet's well-being. 

Find your perfect solar panel installers with SpotDif

Give our video a watch for more details and solar panel sneak peeks. Ready to get started on installing solar panels on your property? Search and compare trusted solar panel providers from across the UK with the handy SpotDif comparison tool. Simply fill out our solar panel form, and you’ll soon be on your way to renewable energy production.


Simone: How does this all work then?

Seamus: Right, Simone — so, first and foremost, we need to find out what you're actually spending. I think prior to that, we need to find out what your requirement is, and we try to service that. But equally, first and foremost, find out what you're spending and how we can help you.

Simone: So, how can I save some money?

Seamus: Well, so putting solar on your roof would be a good start. That's what I would say. So, as I said, we need to find out what you're spending. So you need to give me evidence of your bills, which you have done kindly.

So, as you can see, I've put it into my app here. I know exactly what you're using. Throughout a year, I know what you're paying, and then that's a starting point.

Simone: So once you know all of my bills, how much I'm currently paying, what's the next step?

Seamus: Right. I then need to look at your roof. And there are two ways of doing this. I go outside and have a physical look at your roof, and I'll take photographs because I need to know what the actual pitch of the roof is.

I have an app on my iPad called Roof Snoop, and that measures the roof. So it's a very smart app. It measures a roof, and I can tell how many panels I can get on your roof, and I can show the array. So whether I put it in a landscape format or a portrait format, it works.

Simone: You've just gone out, you've done my roof. Any impacts? How is it looking?

Seamus: Okay, so when we look at a roof, we have to look at all obstacles that could impact on your roof. So, for instance, trees, other properties, other houses, chimneys, telegraph poles, whatever. So whatever we see in our eyeline, we have to include. And this is a really critical point because we are guaranteeing what we get off your roof. And obviously, if there are trees or other houses that come into impact on your roof, it will diminish and minimise the amount of generation we can get off your roof.

Everything has to be evidential. I have to take my photographs, I have to work out angles, I have to prove those angles. So when I submit my contract it gets accepted because, and this is another crucial point, we have to get validation for every survey we perform. So the validation will guarantee the generation off the roof.

Simone: What can you do with the surplus energy that's generated from the solar panels and is stored in the battery?

Seamus: Okay, well if you can't use it in the property, and that would be the first port of call, sell it back to the grid. So we sell it back and there are some very good towers out there which will pay you more than what the standard export rate is.

But even so, using it yourself is greater value.

Simone: So let me just clarify. You can sell energy back to the grid and potentially make a bit of money?

Seamus: Yes, you can.

Simone: Okay. I'm a bit of a numbers girl. Can we crunch some numbers? We can. My property — let's see how much I can save.

Seamus: So first and foremost, this is based on your roof generating around 2500 hours in a year.I know currently you're using about 5200, so we can generate probably about half of what you're currently buying.

So if we don't use up all your energy, we're going to go into a level where it's a reasonable amount of energy. So we're going to say you're going to use about 1800 units of that 2005.

So if we look at year one, you can see that I'm going to save you probably the best part of £850, which is £70 pounds a month.

And for your expenditure on this system, that gives you a return on your investment of 13% in year one — which I'm sure you would agree is pretty good.

Simone: That is pretty good. When will I pay off the solar panels?

Seamus: Well, in this projection in front of us now, it's showing about six and a half years.

Simone: Okay.

Seamus: But you can improve on that if we generate you more.

And going back to the way the panels work and the low-level light, everything else,

we expect to generate you more energy. So the more we generate and the more you

use will impact the return on your investment and also your payback period of time as well.

Simone: So it could be less?

Seamus: Absolutely.I think this is the worst-case scenario.

Simone: So how long will the solar panels last for on the roof?

Seamus: The panels that project solar sell are warrantied for 99 years and that's a total difference from the most of the UK.

The standard warranty for a panel in the UK today is between ten and twelve years.

However, there are some given more, but 25 would be the most — but we give 99 years.

Simone: So you really believe in your product?

Seamus: 100%.

So how much would the grid charge me if I did not have solar?

Okay, Simone, as you can see in front of you, I've got a 30-year expenditure.

So, say after ten years, for example, you'd be paying £22,600. And then after 30 years, that goes up to £159,000.

So you can see the steps along the way.

Simone: So this figure here, the accumulated total for 30 years is £158,000 pounds?

Seamus: Exactly.

Simone: Wow. That's a lot of money. That's a house.

Seamus: That's a small house. It is.

Simone: So how do solar panels work?

Seamus: Well, they work on the ambient light. A lot of people think they have to face due

south and direct sunlight, but there's the ambient light, and as we talked about earlier, this is the low light level

That's how they work. 108 cells in the panels pick up the light, it creates direct current. The inverter converts it to alternating current and it feeds into the battery and feeds into the property.

Simone: So the UK isn't sunny all the time. Will this have an impact on the panels?

Seamus: Yes, it will. However, I have mentioned that we have the panels made with that in mind. So we use a technology called Perksell technology, which has a reflective back into the panel, which we know we over-generate energy.

So we know that when we deliver a solution, we know our returns will be greater than what we're showing in the contract.

Simone: Talk about maintenance. Will there be any maintenance on the panels? Do we have to go off on the roof, like scrub them?

Seamus: No. Long gone, the days where you have to apply maintenance. They're maintenance free and they're self-cleaning.

So you put them on the roof and you just look at them and they make you some lovely energy.

Simone: Can you get flexible finance options on solar panels?

Seamus: Yes, you can, and that's a very good point, because most people don't have the physical cash to buy it upfront or outright, and everybody pays for their energy on a monthly basis.

So there are finance packages available. And the good news is, through Project Solar, you can take out a finance loan where you also qualify for section 75.

So you got further protection. It's like when you buy your credit card and you get protection because the finance company has to match what's in our contract, so the customer is further protected.

So in all cases, double the protection.

Simone: So we've done the evaluations on the house and we're pretty much good to go. What are the next steps from here?

Seamus: Well, you got to sign on the dotted line and you have to give a commitment and pay for it. And then what I do, I would do my full survey, or I go in your loft, I would see where the inverter and battery will be positioned.I look at where your incoming meter is.

So everything has got to go back to the incoming meter so that the house is set up to use.

Solar is very seamless. So when you come into your property today and you turn on your switch, you're telling your meter, I need energy.

When you've got solar and a battery, it's the same thing. The solar and battery are delivering the same solution.

So we come in, we got a team of experts, we got roofers, we got electricians, and it's a very seamless task.

Simone: Excellent. Well, I cannot wait to get my solar panels. So where do I start?



Simone: So it's finally installation day. How long, roughly, do these things take?

Seamus: Yeah, we usually tell our customers between five and 6 hours, but they can do it in less time or sometimes more. It depends on the house and the installation.

Simone: Today is a really nice day, but does weather impact insulation?

Seamus: Yes, it does sometimes, and we would prefer it if it was nice — sometimes in high winds, people wouldn't want to get on the roof. So safety is paramount.

Simone: Installation looks like it's going really well. I cannot wait to see the final product. So let's get the drone in the air.

Seamus: Absolutely.

Simone: So, as you can see, today, we've had blue skies and sunshine. Let's see how the solar panels have performed.

So, the solar panels themselves have generated 2.4 energy. 98% is stored in the battery. And we have sent back 0.7 to the grid, which means we have made a little bit of money today.

But it's not all about that. My house hasn't cost me a thing to run today. And that's what we will be trying to do. Lower those bills so they're back down to normal.

There we go, guys. I really hope you enjoyed this video. If you want to check out solar panels for yourself, check out the SpotDif website link down below.

But as always, guys, just make sure that you click like and subscribe, and I'll see you next time for another video. Bye.

Anna Dearden
Home Sector Specialist
Combining in-depth research with an interest in all things home improvement, I aim to keep SpotDif readers up to date with interior design trends, renewable energy options, and more.
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