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Green Building Bible, Fourth Edition
Green Building Bible, fourth edition (both books)
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    The roof should hopefully start going on my build at the start of August and we are trying to finalise the PV installation. We contacted a company to get some ideas of prices etc... before planning and either we've lost their contact details of they have closed down as we can't find them anymore.

    Can anyone recommend a PV installer in South East London / Kent? As it is a new build we are looking for one of the 'in roof' systems, where the solar panels sit flush with the tiles and not placed on top. (They are still panels and not the solar tiles.)

    Any tips on what to look out for when installing would also be good.

    • CommentAuthorsgt_woulds
    • CommentTimeJul 11th 2015 edited
    Hi Richard,

    Cards on the table; I work for [Name deleted - due to advertising rules] and we would be happy to quote for you.

    We install semi-integrated systems using a bespoke installation process that gives a very integrated look. Some of the commercial systems on the market actually don't integrate the panels very well, leaving them proud of the roof tiles / slates. The visual effect of such systems are much better than standard bolt-on types, but if you are paying extra to have them semi-integrated you want the panels to actually be flush with the roof!

    You have left it a bit late in terms of getting quotes [I would suggest getting at least 3 quotes from different companies] - have you already agreed a schedule with your roofer? You will need to keep your roofer in the loop with all the proposed works since there will be extra work they would not normally expect or budget for and which may also cause them delays which will affect their other works.

    In respect of asking for quotes ensure that the companies are MCS registered and ask if you can see examples of past installations. All MCS accredited installers have to provide performance figures based on a mandated formulas that gives no favour to differing technologies. This means that a cheap polycrystaline panel appears to give the same performance as a more expensive mono or HIT panels. In practice, performance can vary hugely - even more-so with semi-integrated systems since the restricted ventilation space means the panels run hotter and less efficiently.

    An experienced installer will be able to explain the different technologies and predict actual output figures expected for your site.

    This is an expensive investment, one which will take at least 8 years to pay-back and with predicted lifespans of panels far in excess of the 20yr warranty (probably 60 years with a decent panel) so you need to ensure that your installer will be there to help you if ever you have a problem. As such cheapest isn't always best.

    You have to go with your gut feeling on this, but my advise is stay clear of 'one man and his van' types and double glazing type salesmen. They may offer systems that seem fantastically cheap, but there is nearly always a reason. This industry is rife with companies that shut down and restart with a different name leaving their ex customers in the lurch, so ask them how long they have been trading and check them out on-line.

    Above all don't be afraid to ask questions, ask them why they use the panels / inverters that they do. Most will be happy to explain; if their answers sound like waffle look elsewhere.

    Ask to see examples of their work. Depending where you are there may be a Chelsfield install near-by that we can arrange for you to visit. Other companies should have a range of past customers installations that they can send photos of. If they can only provide stock photos available on their website look elsewhere. This is especially important with semi-integrated installs - you want to see just how seamless the integration is...

    Happy Generating,

    • CommentTimeJul 11th 2015
    • CommentAuthorsgt_woulds
    • CommentTimeJul 12th 2015
    Yes and No. Solar RAC was never formally advertised. It was set up by our directors at that time (Mike and Jim) in association with Joe who runs a light engineering firm.

    We developed a roof hook specifically for use with plain tiles - at that time a major market gap. For a number of reasons the hooks were never brought to market and the company was dissolved.

    Now that Solar Limpets are on the market that looks like a very wise decision - whilst our hooks worked very well they took about twice as long to fit as the Limpets! We wouldn't have stood a chance...

    ...but we could've been millionaires - briefly!


    • CommentAuthorsgt_woulds
    • CommentTimeJul 13th 2015
    Hello Richard and SteamyTea,

    I've just read the info about advertising on this Forum (should have done that before posting my very first input in here...) and my answer to Richard looks like a blatant advert, when I had originally set out to give some advice.

    Just wanted to give some weight to my opinions and be honest about my commercial tie-ups from the getgo.

    Hopefully I won't get kicked off for a first offense - I really need advice for my house renovation!

    Regarding my comments about PV companies that dissapear and reappear - I just clocked that SteamTea's comment may have been a dig at me?

    I can confirm that Solar RAC was a totally separate company set up for legal reasons to protect copyright for all concerned.

    My company (who I won't name again to avoid any wrath) has been in existence since 2002!

    My point on this stands; if the install company has existed for less than 4 years I would tread very carefully. Length of trading is no guarantee that any company will be around in the future (e.g. look at the shock-waves caused by Sputnik's departure after two decades) but it does tend to suggest a considered and well managed approach to business.

    I spend quite a bit of time sorting out systems for customers who's original installer no longer exists.

    Not all of these guys were cowboys - I've come across some very good installs as well as total dross -- but it is always the customer that ends up with the problems when they go bust.

    This applies to component manufacturers as well as installation companies - buyer beware and do your homework and all that...


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