Solar Photovoltaic: A Homeowner’s Guide

Solar Photovoltaic: A Homeowner’s Guide

How does Solar PV work?

The sun provides an abundant, free source of clean energy. In the UK we receive a vast amount of solar energy which can be compared to the annual output of 1,000 power stations. One of the most popular ways to harness this free energy in your home is by installing a solar photovoltaic (PV) system which converts sunlight into electricity. This electricity can be used in the home or exported back to the supply grid. Solar Photovoltaic Systems will give you a new income via the Government’s Feed in Tariff (FiT), as well as reducing your electricity bill. If you’re thinking about installing Solar PV to generate electricity – read on.

How do Solar Panels work?

A solar panel is formed from an assembly of solar cells. Typically in the configuration of 6 x 10, solar PV cells work by converting absorbed light into electrical power. Specially treated to create an electric field, solar PV cells are formed of one positive and one negative side. When light energy reaches the cell, electrons are knocked loose from the atoms in the semiconductor material. Electrons can be captured in the form of an electric current once electrical conductors are attached to both sides. Although cloudy conditions will result in generating approximately 15% of the energy achieved in clearer conditions, solar panels only need light to work, and so will still function regardless of the weather.

The voltage produced by a single Solar Cell is quite small, which is why many, typically 60, are linked together to form a module which can then produce a useful voltage. An inverter is required to convert the electricity from DC to AC to allow it to be used within the home.

House orientation and tilt for Solar PV optimisation

Your roof should ideally face due south at a roof pitch of between 30° and 50° to give the best overall annual performance. Solar PV Installations facing anywhere to the south of due east and due west are feasible, although output will be reduced. Read more in our ‘Is my home suitable?’ section.

Solar Photovoltaic cost maintenance

The cost of solar PV will depend on how many panels you have installed and their size. Prices typically vary from £4k - £8k, but Rexel offers finance options to help you fund your installation. With the Government’s Feed-in Tariff scheme, you will have an income as well as savings on your electricity bill, making the cost of solar PV significantly lower. 

Very little maintenance is required if a well-designed solar PV system is installed properly. Modules that are tilted at 15° or more have the benefit of being cleaned by rainfall but may be cleaned using tap water, should they suffer heavy contamination. Under normal conditions they will operate for 25 years or more before they need replacing, although the inverter may need replacing over the lifetime of the panels. Once fitted, your installer should leave written details of any maintenance checks that you should carry out from time to time to ensure everything is working properly. This should include details of the main inverter fault signals and key troubleshooting guidance.

Thinking of installing Solar PV for your home?

Before committing to installing a PV system, you need peace of mind that your solar PV System will generate the electricity and income that your installer predicts. Rexel’s Energeasy Solar service is designed to give you all the answers regarding solar PV installation. Using Energeasy Solar, you can simulate the generation potential of your future installation online, translate it into revenue, calculate your CO2 emissions savings and find out the equivalent in the number of trees planted. You can also use the website to find a trustworthy installer who knows exactly how to install your Solar Panels to ensure they are maximised to their full potential.