Hidden Costs of Installing Solar Panels

Hidden costs of installing solar panel systems are usually related in some way to the ongoing care of the system. Fortunately, roof mounted solar panels have no moving parts, which reduces the risk of damage or malfunction. Solar panels are made of ultra strong materials and robust
mountings that are designed to be waterproof and withstand extreme temperatures, high winds and snow load over a long period of time.

Each solar product often comes with its own specific guarantee including a 5 or 10 year workmanship and materials warranty; 20-25 year performance warranty, guaranteeing 90% of rated production for between 10 and 15 years and 80% for 20-25 years. However, it’s important
that the panels are kept operating at maximum efficiency for the length of their life and a budget should be in place for cleaning and maintenance and consideration given to how you would deal with any problems, should they arise.

Cleaning and Maintenance

The glass casings of the solar modules are often designed to include selfcleaning properties and a combination of angle and rainfall usually works well to keep the panels free of dirt to some extent but rain alone is not sufficient, as it will be impregnated with grease and grime from traffic and the environment in general. Similarly, bird droppings and a build up of wind-blown leaves and airborne debris, if left unchecked, can greatly diminish the output of the panels. It’s estimated that you could risk losing around 25% of your electricity production if the build up is allowed to continue indefinitely.

In the chapter on Surveying Your House For Optimum Usage it was suggested that you consider mounting the panels low down on the roof in order to make them as accessible as possible for cleaning and routine maintenance. But the final decision on their positioning must rest with where they will be able to perform most efficiently without the possibility of becoming overshadowed with neighbouring buildings trees and other obstructions. Panels go through stringent tests to ensure they are able to withstand heavy snow loads. Having a covering of snow on the panels may not pose a problem when it come to damaging them and snow will
melt in time, but all the time it’s blocking out the light it’s also preventing the panels from producing the desired power. If heavy snowfall occurs you will want to be able to remove it swiftly and safely.

The Hidden Cost of Keeping Your Solar Panels Clean

The frequency, method and products used in cleaning your solar panels can be discussed with your installer. This not only helps to decide the best way to keep your panels generating the maximum power but ensures you meet the manufacturer’s requirements for proper usage and do not infringe any rules that may affect your warranty. The hidden cost of keeping your solar panels clean so they can continue to perform at their most effective needs to be taken into
consideration when calculating your return on your investment. That cost will be largely determined by your own personal circumstances and preferences. Here are some ways you might consider:

Clean Them Yourself

If the panels are low mounted it may be possible to use a telescopic cleaning kit for ensuring they are kept free of debris and dirt. It’s also possible to get cleaning products that include dirt and rain repellent to help keep your panels cleaner for longer.

Ask Your Regular Window Cleaner

Telescopic window cleaning equipment has been used by professional window cleaners for some time now in order to access high windows and glass conservatory roofs that can be particularly difficult to access. More and more cleaning companies are adding solar panel cleaning to their
list of services so, if they’re there to do your windows anyway, it may be cost-effective to work in a panel clean from time to time.

Automatic Solar Panel Cleaning Systems

You could install a system that can be programmed to automatically wash and rinse your solar panels. This involves attaching nozzles to your solar panels then using an existing water source like a hose bib to provide the water. A special reservoir containing soap concentrate is also available for use when necessary. Although this may seem a worthwhile addition attaching cleaning nozzles may make your warranty void and could be more expensive than it’s worth.

Does Your Installer Provide This Service?

Your installer may offer an ongoing maintenance service which could include cleaning. The benefits are that they should be very aware of any manufacturer’s instructions and familiar with their own systems. They, if anyone, should have the experience and practical knowledge of the best way to keep their products operating to maximum performance.

Caring for Components

We have already seen that solar panels do not require a great deal of servicing and for on-grid systems there are no batteries to replace but there are other electrical components to the system. As with all technology electronic components can malfunction at times and it’s fair
to say that during the long life expectancy of the system, something like the inverter for instance, may eventually need fixing or even replacing.

What Part Does The Typical Solar Panel Warranty Cover?

As mentioned above solar panels come with their own guarantee from the manufacturer which usually includes a 5 or 10 year workmanship and materials warranty. This type of warranty means that if some sort of malfunction is caused as a result of defects found in materials or workmanship of the panels it will be repaired or replaced by the manufacturer and the choice of whether it’s repaired or replaced is theirs. Some installers may offer an option to extend this warranty for a further 5 years. They may offer this free, as part of a promotional deal or as an added extra which you will have to pay for if you take the option.

As with all warranties there are always exclusions and limitations that you need to be clear about to decide if an extension is worthwhile. For instance the warranty won’t cover damage caused by what they would term as abuse or misuse, which may include modifications that don’t strictly follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Insurance Cover

If the 5 or 10 year warranty only covers defects of materials and workmanship, an insurance should be in place for the rest - like accidental damage; lightning; fire, flood and vandalism. This usually means adjusting your buildings insurance. If the panels have been financed through a
mortgage lender or some other third party then they will no doubt insist that they’re included in the building insurance. Possible theft of your panels is also something that can be covered. Claims are rarely made but the whole point of insurance is to be ready for the unexpected.
This is also where having a servicing contract with your installer could also come in handy. Not just to ensure the upkeep of your panels but, in the unlikely event that accidental damage may occur, you know you’ll be up and running again quickly and with the minimum of inconvenience. Because it’s one thing having the cost covered by insurance but you will also want to get the repairs done as quickly as possible. Having your system inoperative is not only inconvenient but it’s leaving you out of pocket. If your installer provides this kind of service how long will it take to get a response to a call out?

Are There Any Extra Costs Hiding in Your Roof?

Any repairs needed to the roof should be done prior to installing solar panels and if, during the survey of your home, it’s considered that the roof needs strengthening this will be an extra cost before the solar panels can be installed. Strengthening can be done without the need for
replacing the roof and usually with little disruption to the home as the reinforcements are usually constructed underneath the roof with fairly easy access from the loft. The cost for this will vary depending on the amount of work required but it could cost a further £500 or more.

Frequently Asked Questions About Hidden Costs

Q: Will I have to pay tax on the generation and export tariff
that I receive?

A: Income received from the Feed In Tariff scheme is tax-free for
householders.