We recently had a solar panels installation done and believe me it was a big decision, as they aren’t a cheap don’t worry about it if they’re no good item. They can’t be pushed to the back of the drawer like all the clothes I’ve bought on a whim and then discovered don’t fit me, if we discovered solar panels weren’t a ‘good fit’ for us, then we’d have wasted a lot of money.
Who not to buy solar panels from.
However a month in and I’d say we definitely made the right choice. Before I let you know the ins and outs of how well our system is performing and how much it has cost us, I’ll let you know a little about which company we chose to install them and why.
Originally Si did some enquiries online, which led to cold calls non stop with people trying to sell us solar panels and various other home insulation ideas and somewhat random products. I never buy anything off anyone who cold calls me, in fact it puts me off the company full stop, as I find it very intrusive and if it wasn’t for needing the internet and some relatives who call on the phone I would happily get rid of our landline because of this.
The first company Si booked to come and give us a quote sounded great, until the man arrived didn’t leave until 11pm and was less than truthful about some of his companies credentials. I looked online after he left to check these out, and officially he wasn’t actually registered with any of the schemes he claimed to be such as the MCS (Microgeneration Certification Scheme).
You can check the credentials of some installers online via places like the MCS website, and I would definitely advise it personally.
For this and a few other unsettling things about the company we didn’t go ahead with ordering solar panels, and we or rather I was put off the whole idea for a while.
My advice would be to look online for reviews of the company you are considering using, don’t agree to the first cold caller who shows up at your door or over the telephone, most reputable companies don’t need to tout for business by harassing you. Don’t just accept their credentials and accreditation at face value, check they add up, and if they come for an appointment and you feel they are staying too long or being too pushy just tell them to leave.
If you don’t feel comfortable with the company, or have any worries about them, then don’t agree to installation.
After our bad experience with a solar panel company, we were at the Royal Cornwall Show and happened to see a stand there being manned by representatives from Solarlec. I pretty much tried to steer Si away, but he was keen to chat to them despite me being dubious of the whole solar panel idea by now.
The men from Solarlec explained that their company did everything themselves from sales, roof assessment to fitting and after sales care. They also told us there was a cooling off period even after the panels are fitted, where if you change your mind they will remove them. He did say he’d never known anyone to need to though.
We decided to make an appointment for Solarlec to come and see us, so that we could make a decision based on the quote. This time we researched their website thoroughly before they arrived, they had all sorts of accreditation listed on the site, which all checked out.
Not only that, but they actually phoned us a few days before the appointment, to make sure that we definitely wanted the appointment, and to give us the chance to cancel if we wanted to, and to make sure we’d been happy to make the appointment in the first place. Much less pushy than other companies I’ve dealt with!
The gentleman who arrived to create a quote for us was friendly, helpful and very professional. He answered a lot of questions that we asked, and told us a lot of information that we didn’t think to ask.He was in no way pushy, and although due to our roof being a funny shape he did end up staying quite late in to the evening, he told us more than once that we could tell him to go at any point and he would come back another day. Definitely a different experience to the first solar panel meeting!
Can anyone have solar panels?
The Solarlec man told us that although in theory anyone could have the solar panels, they will work much better if they can be put on a South facing roof, and that the size of the roof determines how many panels you can have, and how much it is worth having them. He didn’t lie to us and say yes you can have solar panels and they will save you 1000’s every year without actually measuring our roof or even looking up at it.
He was very fair in his appraisal of how many panels we could fit on our roof, what power they would generate, and in advising us which panels to go for. He didn’t automatically say we should definitely have the most expensive ones, and nor did he push us to sign up that evening if we didn’t want to.
We did though, as Si had that glint in his eye and even I was convinced by now.
How much do solar panels cost?
The price of solar panels vary greatly, as obviously the brand of panel you choose, and the number of panels you can fit on your roof makes a big difference.
As an example though our system is made up of 15 top of the range Panasonic panels, some on the front of our roof and some on the side and cost us just over £8000. This may sound like a lot of money, but I’ll let you know below whether I think they are worth it. Obviously though, the more panels and more efficient the panels are (which is what we chose) the more power they can generate.
There are various different options and choices, but the lovely people from Solarlec can advise you on what’s best for you. They did offer us a system for around £5500, but we decided we preferred the more expensive option personally for our situation.
We had a visit from another lovely man associated with Solarlec a few days after this, he came over to do some measurements and double check that we could definitely fit all the panels we wanted on our roof and that the plans for the installation were fitting to our situation.
Everything was fine, and we gave the go ahead for scaffolding to be put up and the installation to go ahead.
Do I need to take time off work to organise scaffolding?
The answer to the question above is no! Solarlec organised the scaffolding for us, and it was included in the solar panel quote that they gave us. The scaffolders arrived and put it all up in no time at all. Working from home meant that I was home anyway, but there was no disruption, although they did seem very grateful when I made them a couple of rounds of hot drinks.
The poor scaffolders got the worst of the weather, the day before was lovely, but the day that they came was tipping it down. They did a good tidy (as scaffolding can be!) job and we were all set for installation!
Solar Panel Installation
On the day of installation, the installers do need someone to be home as they will need access to your electrics and loft. I was already home, but Si stayed off work anyway in case there was anything vaguely technical that they wanted to know, and I suspect because he was a little over excited as he’d wanted them for years.
They showed up at the exact time that they said they would though, so there was no waiting around, and they worked quickly once they were here. One of them was actually hysterical he was singing along to the radio to the Pet Shop boys and hitting all the high notes, which I admit did have me and Si laughing.
They were all friendly guys, one of whom was telling us about his own system and told us a few tips about solar panels, including to space out our bigger electrical loads to keep only using the ‘free’ electric during the day. We have a smart meter that tells us how much electric we are using and following his advice we’ve used a lot less.
As well as the solar panels, they installed a new box inside our electricity cupboard that is a generation meter for our solar panels, that tells us how much power we have generated in total and an inverter in the loft. The inverter tells us how much power our panels are currently generating….and yes as you can imagine Si has been in the loft rather a lot to check this out.
This is what our panels look like, Si got up on the scaffolding to take photos just before the scaffolders came back to collect their scaffold.
Are solar panels worth the money that they cost?
In our opinion, they definitely are. I can’t go in to a huge amount of detail about the money-saving and earning from the tariff side of things too much yet, as our panels have only been up for just over a month. We have though already produced around £80 worth of power in this one month already despite it apparently being one of the wettest Julys on record! This is without taking into account our energy bill savings as well.
We receive a feed in tariff, which is the rate that we get paid for every kilowatt of energy we produce, and we also get an export tariff, where we get paid for 50% of the energy we produce, as it’s expected that we will use half of the energy we produce.
According to our meter we are producing a good amount of energy, and our smart meter tells me that for most of the day we are using electric for free until obviously it gets dark and we aren’t generating any power.
I am washing clothes for free, ironing (rarely if I can get away with it) for free, cooking tea for free and even using the tumble dryer without guilt for a nice change! Si has even stopped telling me off when I boil the kettle twice during the day because I’ve gotten distracted and forgotten it’s on.
With the feed in tariff, the export tariff, and the reduction in our electricity bills, we aren’t really going to be very much out-of-pocket and once our loan for our system is repaid, the feed in tariff and export tariff will then become a proper income and we will still have very cheap energy bills. Our feed in tariff rate is a fixed guaranteed rate for 20 years, and the export tariff is index linked so goes up with inflation.
Why use Solarlec?
They cover pretty much all of the UK, and they handle everything for you including arranging scaffolding. They are the most trustworthy solar panel company I have had experience of or heard of from others. They don’t sell you anything that won’t work for you, and tell you straight what system is best for you without flogging you in the most expensive.
Their team members are friendly, helpful and not pushy at all.
By now you’ll probably be thinking that I was asked or am being paid to write this, but I honestly am not. I actually told Solarlec that I was going to write a glowing review of their service as we were so impressed.