Back in the summer my son and I worked together on a piece of his optional school homework. The project was to create a renewable energy system in which batteries are charged by a small Solar panel which then lights a set of LEDs. I was amazed how much power the small Solar panel outputted, and I wondered if having Solar Panels installed on our house would make sense?
The front of our house faces East, the rear of our house faces West. This means that at least one of the roofs will receive sunshine all day. With Solar panels on both roofs, even the one that is in the shade will generate some electricity. This theory worked on my son’s optional homework; would it work scaled up to a house?
We wanted an installation company that that would listen to our requirements and not rely on high pressure sales and slick marketing. We contacted a number of Solar panel installation companies, each with varying levels of success. Several companies didn’t listen to our requirements and tried to sell a Solar system we didn’t want. One company started the discounts during the initial survey, then rang us on a daily basis offering ever an increasing discount. These companies weren’t going to be the right ones for us.
Once we’d had three quotes we selected a Hampshire company called SunSmart Energy. SunSmart Energy’s quote provided a Solar system that met our requirements and their package worked out to be the best value for money given the number of Solar panels we wanted to be installed. There was no hard-sell, they used simple language to explain their offering and I felt confident that we’d end up with the Solar system that was right for us.
The install date was booked, and deposit for the work was paid.
The day before the install, the scaffolding was erected at the front and the back of our house.
The installation team arrived promptly the next day at 7.30am. We discussed the installation, routing of the cables, and location of the inverter.
The panels and rails were then delivered on a separate lorry.
Once the install was complete, I went up with the install team to take a look at their work. The panels were installed neatly and evenly. A ‘U’ shaped bracket hooks underneath the tile and connects to a rafter.
A couple of days later the scaffolding was removed.
The inverter; the box that converts the electricity generated by the panels into household electricity, was located at our request in the garage. The cables that connect the panels to the inverter were run through an internal cupboard and cannot be seen. The inverter is the large box with the letters ‘ABB’. This box emits a quiet humming sound when converting the electricity.
From top left to bottom right the boxes are boxes on the wall are:
- Pre-existing usage meter for our 32Amp electric car charging point; transmitter for the SOLAR iBoost
- Pre-existing Doorbell, ABB Solar Power Inverter, Isolation switch for the Solar panel’s DC electrical feed
- Pre-existing Household fusebox
- Combined generation meter and solo III data circuit, Circuit breaker for the Inverter 240v feed, 240 isolation switch for the Inverter
The inverter has a readout that gives, amongst other readings, power output from each roof. (In case you were wondering ‘Pin’ refers to ‘Power In’. Pin1 is the West roof, Pin2 is the East roof. This photograph was taken in the afternoon. The East roof is in shade and the West roof is in cloudy sun)
We elected to also install a ‘Solar iBOOST’ device. This device re-routes spare electricity generated by the solar panels to heat our domestic hot water. The water is heated via the electric immersion heater using excess energy from the Solar panels. The SOLAR iBOOST varies the current electronically.
We also chose to have the ‘solo III’ display installed. This device shows power generated, power currently being used, and power being exported to the grid. This gadget will help us in our decisions when to use the dishwasher, washing machine, tumble dryer and other high-usage appliances and equipment.
The solo III has a very useful web application which provides much more detail than the standalone display. This screen capture shown below was taken whilst the microwave was running hence the higher energy usage. The web application has a history of solar power generation which will become very useful; as the days become longer we’ll be able to schedule appliances such as the dishwasher or washing machine to start earlier.
No mess was left post-installation, no water leaks, and everything worked as it should.
From the initial survey, pre-sales, discussion with the designer, to installation and post-sales, the team at SunSmart Energy were polite, patient and prompt with their communications. I should also add that the pre-sales documentation exceeded that of the other companies that provided quotes. Based on our requirements two different installation configurations were offered by SunSmart Energy, each install was described in it’s own 32 page PDF. In addition the factory specification sheets of the equipment to be used was included.
Having had friends and family sold inappropriate Solar systems I would recommend SunSmart Energy. We haven’t been paid for this review, we haven’t received any discount or any incentive for writing it.
There is a lot more detail that I haven’t included in this blog post due to trying to keep it fairly brief. If you have any questions regarding our installation or experience, please add a comment below!