Choosing the components that comprise your solar system in the UK is a crucial decision. It may mean the difference between investing in a reliable system that makes a real contribution to reducing your living costs for years to come and having a lemon on your roof that causes nothing but headaches and takes years longer to pay for itself than you’d hoped.
The good thing is that the solar industry has now been around long enough that clear market leaders have emerged and it’s not hard to figure out what the leading brands are.
These brands aren’t that much more expensive than the rubbish brands and are definitely worth the small, additional investment and will certainly pay for themselves in a very short time frame through greater production and lower maintenance costs. (And of course, less stress)
Solar Panels + Inverter + Mounting System = Solar System
Solar panels are the core component of any solar power system in the UK, they collect photons from the sun and then turn them into DC electricity.
Easy ways to check for solar panel quality:
- Does the company have a website?If the company does not have a quality website and you can not find anything about them from a simple Google search, we recommend that you exclude them from your short list. If they do not have information about themselves online, you can be pretty sure that the will be hard to find if/when you have a warranty issue in the future.
- Have the panels been used on utility scale solar farms?If a large corporation is investing hundreds of millions in a large-scale system, you can be sure that they have done their due diligence on the panel and the company who made the panel. Check their website and if they have done large scale systems, you will be able to easily find information on these.
- Are their warranties serviced in the UK?Check if the company requires you to send the panels back to the country of manufacture at your own expense if you have a problem. If you do, run a mile, there are plenty of manufacturers out there who will pay to have a panel replaced for you.This should eliminate a few choices. Next, compare these technical points.
- Country of originWhere a panel is made is not by itself a problem due to the fact that they don’t have many working parts and also because 80% of the worlds panels come out of China or other Asian countries and most of the best brands are made here. Regrettably, when it comes to inverters, those from China don’t have the best reputation and we would recommend due diligence if you decide to go for a Chinese inverter. SMA from Germany makes the world’s best inverters (40% of global production) followed by Power One Aurora from Italy.
- Power ToleranceThis refers to the percentage variation in the panel’s power production. A positive power tolerance means that the panel will produce at or above what it is labelled. E.g. a 200W with a 5% positive power tolerance will produce anywhere between 200W and 210W. The same panel with a negative power tolerance will produce anywhere between 190W and 200W. Solar cells with a positive power tolerance are selected by higher quality manufactures and generally indicates a higher quality panel.What are the differences between Monocrystaline, Polycrystaline and Thin Film panels?
The solar inverter is responsible for taking the DC electricity generated by the panels and converting it into 240V AC electricity which can then be used by your appliances. The inverter also registers how much energy you’ve produced and some higher end models even allow you to connect to your computer via Bluetooth and view much more in depth information.
IMPORTANT: The inverter isn’t an area you want to skimp on as this is the first thing to fail in a poor quality system.
Over the last 3 years, thousands of homeowners have seen inferior quality inverters fail. As well as the hassle of having to call the installation company, who may or may not charge you to have it replaced (see Choosing a solar installer) you’ll also lose money as you may not realise straight away that the system isn’t working.
In this case, compare the solar inverter prices offered carefully. A few hundred dollars more to go for a good quality system would have been more than worth it. We recommend SMA and Power One Aurora, these two companies are far ahead of all others. You’ll find that these two brands are used most on utility scale solar systems.
Micro inverters are another form of technology that you may be offered in your quotes. They represent a small proportion of systems installed nationally and are best used in specific situations. Like anything, there are advantages and disadvantages in utilising this technology.
The solar panel mounting system is extremely important as this connects the system to your roof.
There are generally 2 ways of attaching a system to your roof and this depends on whether your roof is tin or tile.
Good quality systems in the UK include: Conergy, Clenergy, Grace, Unirac and Schletter.
The video below provides and excellent explanation of how mounting systems are installed on tile and tin roofs and the components involved.