We are solar panel installers for Hampshire and surrounding counties
Solar Panels = Free Energy + Lower Bills

For a no-obligation solar survey call 0800 909 8882

Where we install solar panels

Our company is based in Hampshire and we install solar panels all over the south of the UK.

Domestic Solar Panel Installations

Most of our residential solar panel customers are in Hampshire, Dorset, Wiltshire, Berkshire, Surrey, and West Sussex.

Within Hampshire, we cover Southampton, Portsmouth, Basingstoke, Eastleigh, Gosport, Farnborough, Andover, Aldershot, Horndean, Winchester, Havant, Locks Heath, Fareham, Fleet, Totton, and all the smaller towns and villages in between.

Commercial Solar Panel Installations

For our commercial customers, we design and install solar panel systems in a wider area which also includes London, Oxfordshire, East Sussex, Buckinghamshire, Gloucestershire, and Kent.

Solar Panel Installation Locations

What are solar panels and how do they work?

Solar panels convert sunlight into electricity.

This type of panel is known as a solar photovoltaic panel, or solar PV panel for short. A typical solar panel weighs 18-20 kg, and measures 1m wide and 1.6m high.

The solar panel itself is made up of smaller ‘cells’. Each photovoltaic cell comprises two layers of silicon. The majority of solar panels have 60 cells, though there are also panels with other configurations such as 54 and 72 cells.

As the sun’s rays shine on the surface of each solar cell, electrons move from one layer of silicon to the other. The electrons from each cell are then channelled by the panel and combine to form one electricity stream.

Cables on the back of solar panels then allow all the electricity from each panel to be aggregated and sent down a common cable to be converted from DC electricity to AC electricity.

Solar Panels
Solar panels convert sunlight into electricity

There is another type of solar energy produced by ‘solar thermal’ panels. Instead of generating electricity, solar thermal panels create a hot gas which then heats up your water. On this page we will be looking at ‘solar photovoltaic’ panels rather than ‘solar thermal’ panels.

Types of solar panels

Solar PV panels – the ones that generate electricity – come in two main forms:

  • Mono-crystalline solar panels
  • Poly-crystalline solar panels

The silicon inside mono-crystalline panels are made from one pure block of silicon. These silicon blocks are quite hard to grow and so mono-crystalline solar PV panels are usually more expensive than poly-crystalline panels.

Mono-crystalline panels can achieve higher efficiency levels, due to the pure form of silicon they are made of. The photovoltaic cells in mono-crystalline panels are dark, and hence they are used in so-called ‘all black’ solar panels.

Poly-crystalline solar panels, on the other hand, are made of a less pure form of silicon. This makes them cheaper to produce and so they cost less than mono-crystalline panels. They are generally a little less efficient than mono-crystalline panels, and the cells have a blue-ish tint.

It’s hard to say which are the best solar panels: mono-crystalline or poly-crystalline. It depends on the circumstances.

Poly-crystalline solar panels
Poly-crystalline solar panels
Mono-crystalline solar panels
Mono-crystalline solar panels

For example, a home-owner might opt for mono-crystalline solar panels, as the difference in price is relatively small and black panels are generally perceived to be aesthetically more pleasing on the eye.

A business-owner, on the other hand, might well decide the best solar panels are poly-crystalline.

Large commercial roofs can take a lot of panels, and with more cost-effective poly-crystalline panels, the overall project cost doesn’t get out of hand. In an industrial setting, aesthetics are also less of an issue.

There is another much smaller type of solar PV panel known as ‘solar roof tiles’. These solar tiles look like normal roof tiles.

You may have heard of the Tesla solar roof. The American company, Tesla, has developed solar roof tiles that look exactly like normal tiles and which can replace all the tiles on your roof. Your whole roof then acts as one solar energy generator.

Unfortunately, Tesla roof tiles are not yet available in the UK – watch this space.

A complete solar panel system

As we have seen above, solar PV panels produce DC electricity. However, your home or office building uses AC electricity to power lights, computers, machines, etc.

This DC solar power therefore needs to be converted into AC power. The device that carries out this function is called an inverter, sometimes referred to as a solar inverter.

The inverter has a hard job. It has to constantly chop up the DC electricity wave form and recombine it as a perfect AC sine wave.

All this electrical heavy-lifting puts the inverter under considerable stress. What’s the result? Inverters have a tendency to fail unexpectedly.

It is therefore very important to have a solid product warranty for the solar inverter in place. We would advise a minimum warranty period of 10 years. Some manufacturers, such as SolarEdge, have inexpensive warranty extensions up to 20 years. Well worth considering.

AC electricity flows out of the inverter and then passes through a generation meter. This meter records how much solar electricity you have generated since first turning the solar panel system on. If you are registered for the feed-in tariff (FiT), you will look at this meter once a quarter and send the reading to your FiT provider.

After the generation meter, the solar energy is sent to your fuse board, also known as a distribution board. At this point, the solar electricity will go wherever it is needed.

Solar Panels Generation Meter
Generation meter
Solar inverter
Solar inverter

For example, if you are a home-owner with the cooker on, the cooker will ‘call’ for electricity and your solar electricity will flow from the fuse board down the cooker electrical circuit to power the cooker. If there isn’t enough solar electricity to meet the call for electricity from the cooker, then the solar electricity will be supplemented with electricity from the national grid.

If your on-site demand for electricity is less than the amount of solar electricity being generated, then the surplus solar electricity will flow out to the national grid. For example, a large commercial solar PV system on a sunny Sunday will very likely be producing more electricity than the company needs, if the company’s operations are shut on that day.

Advantages of solar panels

Solar panel systems are now quite cheap, as the cost of the hardware has come down dramatically in the last decade.

So why would you want to install a solar panel system?

The main reason, for most people, is to produce electricity at zero cost. It works like this:

  • The ‘fuel’ source of a solar panel is the sun
  • Sunshine costs nothing
  • Therefore solar electricity is free

Of course, you have to pay to have the solar panels installed. But, once the solar panel system has paid for itself, you can then enjoy 100% free solar electricity for years to come.

Solar panels are very robust. They will generate electricity for decades, only losing a very small percentage of their output each year.

So as long as you have a good inverter warranty (see above), your solar panel system will reduce your energy costs, year after year.

Solar panels also make you more self-sufficient. You become less dependent on the national grid.

If grid electricity prices continue to rise over time, you always have a significant percentage of ‘home-grown’ solar electricity that protects you from these price rises.

Solar Panels Advantages
Solar panels offer many advantages

Given what’s happening to our global climate, and the environment more widely, people are also choosing solar electricity to reduce their carbon footprint. Local electricity generation via solar panels is much more efficient. There are no losses of electricity to heat as the energy flows from your roof to your fuse board.

By contrast, electricity that travels for miles over the national grid from a central power station undergoes considerable losses. The transmission wires heat up and valuable electricity is lost.

How to get the best out of solar panels

To get the very best return out of your investment in solar panels, you should:

Try to have electronic devices on when the sun is shining

More technically, this can be referred to as matching solar electricity generation with on-site demand.

For example, if you are a home-owner and need to put a washing machine on, you could delay the start of the wash cycle to midday, when you know your solar panels will be producing a lot of electricity.

In this way, you will reduce the amount of electricity you need to bring in from the national grid.

Clean your solar panels if they get dirty

Generally, in the UK, solar PV panels are ‘self-cleaning’. Rain will wash away any dirt, dust, etc., that might accumulate on your panels.

However, sometimes dirt – or bird poo! – will become encrusted on one or more panels. The dirt will partially stop the sun’s rays from reaching the solar cells and less electricity will be produced.

The safest way to have the panels cleaned is to invite in a window cleaning company. Solar panels have a tough, glass front and can be treated like a pane of glass. Washing them with a mild detergent will bring solar panels back to their former glory.

Check your solar panel system regularly

A solar panel system falls into the ‘fit and forget’ category. You have them installed and they then just run in the background, creating electricity, and there is nothing for you to do.

However, it is still a good idea to check your system is working at least once a quarter. The easiest way to do this is to look at your generation meter. The reading on this meter should go up every day, assuming the sun is shining. If you notice the reading on your generation meter stays the same – or if the read-out is blank – call a solar electrician.

The main faults that can occur are:

  • The circuit breaker for the solar panel circuit has tripped
  • Your inverter has failed
  • The generation meter has failed

As long as your solar panel system has been installed properly, it will last for years to come.

Storing solar electricity

When you discuss a solar panel system with installation companies, the assumption is generally that you will use about 50% of the solar electricity generated, and that the other 50% will flow out to the national grid.

If you use solar electricity to power your devices, lights, etc., this is known as ‘self-consumption’.

50% self-consumption or higher can be achieved, but very often self-consumption is between 30% and 50%. Let’s assume an average of 40% self-consumption.

This means you will typically have a surplus of around 60% of the solar electricity which – if you are not careful – will go unused and disappear into the national grid.

The trick is store this excess solar electricity in some way and then use it yourself later in the day. This will help reduce your electricity bills further.

There are two main ways of storing surplus solar electricity:

  • Battery storage
  • Immersion controller

A battery allows you to store electricity in the form of battery chemistry.

An immersion controller diverts excess solar electricity to heat your water.

Please read our dedicated pages on battery storage and immersion controllers for more details.

Tesla Powerwall
Battery storage: Tesla Powerwall
Solar iBoost
Immersion controller: Solar iBoost

Get ready for electric cars

Whether you have cottoned on yet or not, electric cars are coming – and in a big way.

Electric cars have three big advantages:

  • They don’t produce CO2 and therefore do not contribute to global warming,
  • They do not emit harmful pollutants, like diesel cars do, and
  • Electric cars have very low running costs

Gradually, traditional petrol and diesel cars are being phased out and new electric car models are being introduced.

Electric vehicle prices are coming down, and the distance they can travel on a single charge is going up very fast.

If and when you do get an electric car in the future, you are very well placed if you already have solar panels.

Solar panels allow you to charge your car’s battery with 100% renewable electricity from the sun.

If you have home battery storage, you can even store excess solar electricity during the day and charge your car in the evening when the sun has gone in.

Electric Cars
Electric cars: Jaguar I-Pace

To find out how electric cars, solar panels and battery storage all fit together, check out Electric Car Home.

There you can find information on new electric cars such as the Tesla Model 3, Renault Zoe and Nissan Leaf, together with data on second hand electric cars, confusing acronyms such as BEV / PHEV / HEV, which EVs represent best value, and the best way to buy or lease an electric car.