FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q1. What are the uses of solar technologies in the home?

There are two types of solar use in the home. One use in the UK is for solar hot water heating (in certain circumstances a system could be used to provide a contribution to the space heating, though a larger storage volume and collector area would be required). The other use is to generate electricity through the use of photovoltaic panels.

Q2. What are the planning permissions requirements to install solar panels on the roof of my home?

Under the 'Permitted Development Rights' solar panels will not be subject to planning permission on the majority of houses, however there are exceptions to this rule – conservation areas or listed buildings. Our advice would be to always consult your local planning authority before the installing a solar system.

Q3. Why should I be considering renewable energies in my home?

Climate change is now fully recognised as a global problem that needs addressing. With this there has been a series of International, European and National targets which the UK needs to meet to show it is committing to reducing carbon emissions. A breakdown of annual UK carbon emissions shows that domestic emissions are the third biggest contributor, marginally behind transport, with business emissions being the highest. This means it is vital to decrease our domestic energy usage if the UK is going to commit to the targets set.

There is a range of renewable technologies available with financial support for electricity generating systems (such as PV) and expected commitment for heat generating systems (such as solar thermal) shortly, with payments to begin in April 2011.

Q4. What accreditations should I be looking for when hiring an installer?

The Micro generation Certification Scheme (MCS) is an independent scheme that certifies products and installers against a rigorous set of standards. The MCS is hoped to enable confidence in consumers for both the products which they purchase and in those who install them. To qualify for government grants all both the product and the installer have to achieve the MCS standards.

If your installer is able to self-certify their installation they will need to hold a Competent Persons Scheme (CPS), managed by the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG). This allows the competent installer to self-certify that their work complies with Building Regulations without needing to call out a Building Inspector, thus reducing fees and increasing competence of installers.

Q5. Do solar farms emit any noise?

There is hardly any noise emitted from a solar farm. Solar PV technology does not use any moving parts, and in many cases nature and solar complement each other, with insects, sheep and small wild animals living side by side. There are a number of 'inverters' on solar farms to convert DC into AC and these machines do emit a humming sound, but they are housed in sound-proofed boxing, making them unlikely to be heard.

Q6. Do solar farms emit any light?

There are no visible lights on solar parks. Security lighting, as used for railway lines, generally uses only infra-red light.

Q7. Are solar water heating systems viable for large commercial use?

Yes. Solar water heating systems can be incorporated into commercial buildings, the capacity of the boiler and the size of the collectors will need to be increased, but this is dependent on what solar system is being used for. It would be recommended to contact one of our member companies who specialise in larger systems to obtain more information

Q8. Will solar panels replace my energy bills fully?

No, you will not be able to totally replace your current energy or power supply to the use of solar energy, but you could get with a realistic budget and the implementation of different energy sources such as a biomass and solar panel combination.

In terms of costs, with a well installed solar thermal system you would expect to save between 30-70% on your annual heating costs (if the occupant carefully follows the installer's advice, higher solar contributions will be obtained).

A photovoltaic system will contribute to your electricity consumption with excess energy feeding back to the National Grid (for grid connected systems). Depending on the size of collector area you could contribute to a large proportion of your annual requirements – the average domestic property uses

Q9. How long does solar technology last?

Solar technology has been around for a century now, but evacuated tubes have a lifespan of around 30+ years. PV solar panels last much longer as they have no moving parts – PV panels installed in the 60`s are still working.

Q10. Do solar systems produce hot water in the winter?

Solar systems will operate and produce hot water during the winter months; all systems contain an anti-freeze protection where applicable. The output of the system (or temperatures reached) will be lower during the winter months, though a contribution will still be received, reducing the amount of work needed by the secondary heat source (gas condensing boiler for example).

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