How are solar panels installed? - thumbnail image

How are solar panels installed?

As the UK takes a leading role in the global transition to renewable energy, solar panel systems are becoming an increasingly attractive option for businesses and households alike. With government grants and financial incentives for going green, installing a solar panel system has become an attractive and viable option for both energy savings and environmental protection. But, you might have found yourself wondering, how exactly are solar panels fixed to houses? Surely they can’t be attached to the tiles…?

If you’ve got questions, we’ve got answers. In this blog post, we’ll look at the various methods of installing solar panel systems, such as fixed over the roof coverings, integrated into the roof coverings, ballasted or fixed on a flat roof, and free-standing ground-mounted systems. We’ll examine the suitability of each one for different buildings and highlight the benefits and potential drawbacks.

Over the roof coverings

Over the roof (or ‘on roof’) coverings refer to the fixing of a solar PV array over the existing roof covering (i.e., the tiles or slates). In this instance, your installer would temporarily remove a few tiles so they can fix brackets to the roof. Mounting rails would then be fixed to the brackets and your solar panels would be fastened to them, with clamps to secure them. Over the roof coverings are nice and flexible, allowing you to choose from a range of layout options, depending on the shape of your home. Because they leave a gap between the panels and the roof’s surface, they allow air to circulate, which keeps the panels at a lower temperature and leads to greater efficiency.

At this juncture, it’s worth pointing out that, with all four methods of solar PV installation, your solar panels would be wired to an inverter, which converts energy from direct current (DC) into useable alternating current (AC). And the solar PV system would be connected to the electrical panel of the building, allowing the energy generated to be used within it.

Integrated into the roof coverings

Solar PV systems can be integrated into the roof covering. In this case, your installer would remove tiles or slates and replace them with solar panels. Unlike over the roof coverings, integrated (or ‘in roof’) panels require minimal mounting equipment and act just like your roof covering, protecting against the elements and water ingress. So, how are they installed? Once a section of tiles or slates has been removed, plastic trays are fitted and framed solar panels with weatherproof flashing are mounted into them. If there are any gaps, tiles or slates would be used to fill them in. Integrated solar PV systems are often deemed the most aesthetically pleasing option because they have a low profile. If the building is of historical significance, however, removing the original covering may not be permissible or advisable.

Flat roof coverings

Some people don’t consider solar energy because their property has a flat roof. They assume that, without the pitch of a slanted roof, the panels won’t receive enough direct sunlight. But it’s actually very easy to install solar panels on flat roofs and the benefit is that you can set your own pitch, creating an optimal situation! There are two common ways of installing solar panels on flat roofs. One uses ballast pods and the other uses A-frames. With ballast pods, panels are mounted onto a moulded tub that is weighed down by ballast, whereas with A-frames, they are fitted onto metal frames fixed directly to the roof. The main consideration with flat roof coverings is whether the roof can handle the additional weight. At Thrift, we would talk you through this, as well as ensuring your choice of flat roof covering is compatible with your roof’s warranty and wouldn’t raise the roofline enough to cause planning issues.

Free-standing ground-mounted systems

Solar panel systems don’t always have to be mounted on the roof of a building. They can also be mounted to a frame or pole and positioned on the ground. This can be done in the same way as a flat roof system, with ballast pods, or using an A-frame or pole secured by concrete or pile-driven foundations. A cable would run from the array back to the building’s electrical distribution board. Pole-mounted systems can even be fitted with a tracking system, which adjusts the angle of the panel based on where the sun is.

We would only usually advise ground-mounted systems in domestic situations where there is enough space for them to function efficiently. They are more prone to having trees or other buildings casting shade on them than roof-mounted systems and are, generally speaking, more expensive than roof-mounted systems due to the extra materials and increased time they require to install. Additionally, installing a ground-mounted system usually requires planning permission and grid connection permission, both of which we would help you with. There are several factors that trigger planning permission, including where the ground-mounted array is more than four metres high, less than five metres from a boundary or bigger than nine metres squared in total.

Discuss your options with Thrift Energy

We hope we’ve demystified the process of solar PV panel installation for you. At Thrift, we’re experts in renewable energy solutions, and our team is always happy to answer any questions you may have. You can read more about solar panels here or, if you’re ready to talk through your solar energy project and start saving up to 70% on your energy bills, get in touch with our team today for a friendly, no-obligation chat.

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