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Power from the sun

September 2017

solar panelson a house

Remember when solar panels first came in? So many people laughed and said we simply don’t have enough sunshine in the UK for solar panels to work.

Well since those days solar panels have come on leaps and bounds and today they are a terrific source of heat for a home, harnessing the sun’s energy even on cloudy days.

Modern solar panels really do work and their popularity is increasing year on year. Over the last two years alone, according to online site labelbar.co.uk, over 500,000 households in the UK have had solar panels installed and this figure is expected to continue to grow over the next few years.

Even better, the designs have improved amazingly from the original systems which often stored the hot water in cylinders on the roof to beautiful looking new flat systems that sit snugly amongst the tiles or other roof coverings. Today they are even developing solar panels in traditional looking roof tiles that will blend in with any property.

But of course it is not all good news, there are still many people who have concerns over solar panels, and it is just about cost.

A useful blog at leading insurance broker and financial consultancy Jelf summarised the benefits and risks as below:

Benefits to using solar panels

Renewable energy source
Solar energy is a completely renewable energy source, it can be placed in any area of the world, there is no wait to use the energy, and we cannot run out of it.

Diversity
Solar energy can be used for both electricity (Photovoltaic Panels) and heat (Solar Thermal Panels). It can be used to generate electricity in areas of the world with limited access to an energy grid, sanitise water supplies, and power satellites.

Low maintenance costs
Maintenance costs and efforts are minimal with solar panels. As they are stationary and there are no moving parts, there is no wear and tear, they only need cleaning twice a year, and panels are expected to last between 20 and 25 years. Only the inverter component needs to be changed every 5-10 years, so after the initial purchase, costs are minimal.

Reduces electricity bills
How much you save depends on the size of the system and your electricity usage, but despite this your energy bills will reduce. You may also receive payments for generating extra electricity that is taken back into the grid.

Technology
Developments in the solar power industry are continuously evolving. Improvements and innovations in this technology could increase effectiveness of solar energy in the near future.

Risks involved with having solar panels 

Installation costs
Although costs have decreased significantly over the last few years, new solar panel systems cost between £5,000 and £10,000, however actual costs depend on the system and the installer. Larger systems are often more cost-effective.

Productivity
Panels degrade over time and the percentage of productivity reduces.

Health and safety risks
Common risks involved from installing and maintaining solar panels include:
Working at height
Interruption with gas and/or the National Grid
A major health hazard from solar panels is exposure to toxic chemicals which can happen during manufacture, transport, storage and disposal
Manual handling
Water risk if installing solar thermal panels
Electrical safety
Operational risks and challenges
Building regulations need to be complied with when installing panels
The weight of the panels may pose a threat to the structure of the roof of a building. Liability from construction errors.
Once installed, a number of challenges may be faced:
The amount of sunlight and low efficiency
General roof maintenance

Disposal
Recycle where possible. Solar panels contain materials that can be reused to make new models or other products. Panels that cannot be recycled will end up in a landfill; solar panels contain toxic and carcinogenic materials and there is a high risk of leaching into surrounding soils and into the groundwater. If discovered, someone will be held liable.

Fire
Fires involving solar panels are infrequent but they present a number of additional challenges. Panels should have a DC (direct current) switch disconnector which switches off the panel when a fire starts. To decrease the damage created by a fire, it is good practice to install a smoke/fire detection system in the roof space.

There is lots of information available on solar panels so that you can make a really informed decision about whether to go down this route or not. If you do decided to install solar into your home, one thing some people forget is that it is important to let your home insurance company know.


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