What should I consider before installing solar panels on my home?

With the cost of utility bills on the rise, more and more people are considering the addition of solar panels to their home. Drive around any residential area and you will see a substantial increase in the number of homes which have opted to utilise solar energy.

Residential installations saw a significant rise in popularity after April 2010 when the government introduced its ‘Feed in Tariff Scheme’. This in turn led to a high number of companies offering to both supply and fit solar panels free of charge. For many homeowners, benefiting from free electricity without having to cover the cost of an initial investment was an appealing option.

With all of the above in mind, it is understandable why so many people have opted for this route. However, as with all things in life, there are a number of less positive aspects which all homeowners should bear in mind when considering taking this step.

 

The legalities

In many cases the supplier of the solar panels will lease the roof from the homeowner, in return the homeowner will get free electricity and any excess generated will be sold by the supplier to an energy company. This lease will include the air space above the roof. Any contracts are likely to be around 20-25 years and will be legally binding. If you are in any doubt about the legalities regarding solar panels, a local conveyancing solicitor will be able to assist you, for example in Plymouth there is gasolicitors.com – you’ll find most solicitor practices have a specialist conveyancing department.

Over this time the owner will need to consider key aspects, such as the ongoing maintenance of the roof. A lot can happen in such a long time period so it is quite likely the roof of a property would need maintenance, or perhaps even a complete recovering. This can only be done with agreement from the supplier and can take time.

 

The logistics

Roof installed solar panels will need building regulation approval and usually a structural engineer’s report produced. If the installation does not have this approval and report then there is a real risk that the house could become, or already is, structurally unsound. Should this happen then the house will of course be unsellable and impossible to mortgage.

If the property is listed or located in a conservation area, then necessary consents such as planning permission and listed building consent will be essential. In addition, to ensure it is safe, working effectively, and fully covered by insurance, all electrical works need to be undertaken by a qualified electrician. An electrical installation certificate must be issued on completion of works.

Very importantly, homeowners will also need to check if there are covenants in the title deeds which prohibit alterations to the exterior of the property. If so then the installer must have secured all relevant consents from the Local Authority prior to installation.

 

Damage

There is a significant possibility that the roof covering will get damaged during the fit out. If this happens, who is responsible? If anyone is considering agreeing a contract then they should always ensure that all repair works are included and, importantly, that the roof remains watertight. This is crucial as it is very unlikely that any home insurance provider will foot the bill if a leak occurs following the installation. A check should be made to ensure that there are no exclusions in the building insurance for damage caused by the solar panels.

 

Will you be looking to sell your home in the near future?

Whilst some buyers may be attracted to the idea of energy savings, research has previously demonstrated that panels could in fact affect the marketability of a property. This is largely due to the solar panels being seen as unsightly addition. Undoubtedly, panels do nothing for a building’s kerb appeal.

So, if you put your house on the market and have a purchaser who does not want to take on the lease, what happens then? Some contracts may include buyout clauses, however, depending on the size of the roof and the number of years remaining of the contract, this could end up costing tens of thousands of pounds.

And who should foot the bill for this additional cost? You? The buyer? Or will it make the house sale simply unviable, so you have no choice but to turn them away?

To summarise, homeowners need to take great care when considering installing solar panels, or when buying a property with leased solar panels already installed. They could end up facing a ticking time bomb of problems at a later stage. A huge range of factors need to be considered to ensure they receive the greatest return and the least amount of damage or risk.