Deadline for solar PV installations approaching

Once again our industry has an impending Feed in Tariff deadline, this time it’s the closure of the scheme as we know it from 31 March 2019.

At the time of writing this, RED Electrical still has availability to install new systems before the scheme is wrapped up.

The deadline of 31 March 2019 means that your system needs to be installed, commissioned and MCS certified by that date. However, once you have your MCS certificate you have until 31 March next year to apply to a Feed in Tariff licensee (i.e. apply to an electricity company). You therefore don’t need to panic.

Ordinarily we wouldn’t advise that you should rush into any installation arrangements and that you should take your time to make your decision. However, installation work is getting busy and stock is moving fast, therefore if you’ve decided that you’re having solar panels installed then please don’t leave it until the 11th hour.

Revolutionary new electricity tariff from Octopus Energy pays you to use electricity!

We’re a fan of 100% renewable electricity which is why we buy our electricity from Octopus Energy.

We’re on the new Agile Octopus tariff. It’s different from other tariffs in that the rate you pay changes half-hourly and the prices are set every day at 4pm for the following day. The prices are set according to the wholesale price of electricity.

The Agile Octopus tariff is ideal for those with an a.c. coupled battery storage system such as the Tesla Powerwall 2 because they can set the battery to charge on cheap rate electricity to avoid the peak rate between 4pm and 7pm.

Click here to join Octopus Energy and get £50 credited to your account.

From their website:

Enjoy cheaper electricity prices when wholesale prices fall

With Agile Octopus, you get access to half-hourly energy prices, tied to wholesale prices and updated daily. So when wholesale prices drop, so do your bills – and if you can shift your daily electricity use outside of peak times, you can save even more.

Over the last 12 months, a typical UK family would have saved £210 on Agile Octopus compared to the average Big 6 variable tariff – and could save another £120 by shifting their electricity use outside of peak hours.

Plunge Pricing pays you to take excess energy off the grid

Across the UK, whenever more electricity is generated than consumed, energy prices fall – sometimes to the point where prices drop below zero, and suppliers are paid to take energy off the grid.

Agile Octopus introduces Plunge Pricing – a world first that lets you take advantage of these negative price events, and get paid for the electricity you use. Receive SMS alerts whenever prices drop below zero, or use our API to program your smart devices.

Over the last 12 months, unit prices dropped below 2p / kWh 31 times and below 0p / kWh 4 times.

Solar PV scammers on the increase

We have had a recent upward trend in the number of enquiries from customers regarding direct mail or phone calls that they have received from a handful of national companies.

The usual spiel refers to expired inverter warranties or installers that have ceased trading (even if they haven’t), then they offer a “free health check” for your solar PV system. Many people see through this and don’t go any further, but I have spoken to a lot of people who have let them send round their “engineer”.

The “engineer” usually wears a suit and arrives in a car. He or she then (without any test equipment) tells the unsuspecting householder that their system needs an expensive upgrade. The reasons for this upgrade are always either to significantly increase the system yield, or that the system is no longer working properly.

The most effective sales strategies rely on the most powerful human instincts, in this case greed and fear. If they can’t appeal to one of these instincts they will try the other, and all too often people fall into their trap and place an order with the villains.

The “upgrades” tend to be either solar panel optimisers (usually manufactured by SolarEdge) or a voltage optimiser.

It’s important to note here that solar panels will produce what they produce regardless of what they are connected to. Your inverter is already about 97% efficient therefore there’s little improvement to be had by “upgrading” it.

Solar panel optimisers

In a standard system all the solar panels are connected together in a chain. When connected in this way their voltages add together and depending on the number and type of solar panels, the inverter usually gets between 200 and 500 volts. It then alters the voltage and ‘inverts’ it to a.c. so that it can be matched to your household mains supply. A drawback with the solar panels being connected in this way is that, if any panel is shaded by surrounding objects or excessively soiled, it reduces the overall current in the array, and thus reduces the yield.

Optimisers are devices which are fitted to the rear side of solar panels in order to modify their voltages individually. If a solar panel is producing less than the others in the chain, it will lower its voltage which then increases the current to match the others. In this way optimisers are an effective way to combat the mismatch due to shading or soiling.

However, optimisers are not without their own drawbacks:

  1. The upgrade is expensive – each optimiser costs around £40 and the inverter usually needs to be replaced at a cost of around £800. A system of sixteen panels therefore costs around £1500 plus labour and VAT to upgrade. Many of these villains are selling such upgrades for £5000 plus. No one will ever recoup that money from increased yields.
  2. The yield increases are usually overstated – SolarEdge themselves claim “up to” 25% increase in yields with an optimised system. Most system owners will see a rise so small it’s not noticeable. Unless there is severe shading or something wrong with the way the existing system is set up, a rise of 2% to 5% is more likely.
  3. Optimisers do go faulty from time to time – we know this because we go round replacing faulty ones. They do have a 25 year warranty but can you really expect the installation company to be trading for that length of time? You’ll need to factor in the likelihood of paying to have faulty optimisers replaced.
  4. Manufacturer stability – Most optimisers require the same make of inverter, and that inverter won’t work without the optimisers. Consideration must be given to what you would have to do if you needed replacement products in the future but they were no longer being manufactured. With a standard system there are no optimisers and you have a wide choice of inverters should you require one.

One of the benefits of staying with your standard solar PV system is its simplicity. When your inverter fails you simply need another (cost circa £800 inc fitting for a typical 4kW system).

PV Voltage optimisers

The purpose of this product is to lower the mains voltage to the inverter as if it does go over 253V for a period of time it will shut down. There are two reasons that this may happen:

Firstly the inverter supply cable may be sized too small which is allowing a voltage rise to occur between the inverter and the household mains. This is easily and cheaply solved by replacing the cable with a larger one.

Secondly, it could be that the incoming mains electricity is too high. Your local Distribution Network Operator (DNO) has a legal duty to keep the supply voltage between 220V and 253V. If the voltage rises above 253V then they are obliged to make alterations to bring it back within the statutory limits. This costs the consumer nothing. Also, if your incoming mains voltage is high then this will shorten the lifespan of electrical appliances. A PV Plus device does nothing to address this.

This device wholesales for £200 or so but these companies charge £1000 for it. Rather overpriced for an unnecessary product.

External links

There are various sites on the web with similar tales:

SCAM alert – be wary of scammers miss-selling solar products & services

Beware of solar scams – Solarsense

Solar Scams in the UK

Solar scam warning in Fife as “nefarious” tactics emerge

Beware of scam callers about your solar panels

Solar Panel Free Health Check

Power One E031 fault – here is our DIY guide

Got a Power One PVI3.0 or PVI 3.6 with the dreaded E031 fault?

If you’re handy with a screwdriver then you could replace it yourself. See our new video guide below:

Click here for instructions on how a competent DIYer can change a Power One inverter for our Solis type.

We offer excellent replacement inverters in our online shop:

A great replacement for the PVI-3.0OUTD is a Solis 3.0. To replace a PVI-3.6OUTD we recommend a Solis 3.6. Both of these are available in our online shop.

Call us if you’re unsure which inverter you require and we’ll cheerfully guide you through. If you purchase an inverter from us to install yourself we’ll happily talk you through the installation.

Special offer – Top quality 4.72kW all black PV system with Samsung battery storage system just £9495

Q-Cells G1 ESS system with Samsung battery

Q-Cells 295W all black mono panel

This special offer is for a full 4.72kWp solar PV system using excellent Q-cells modules, combined with a Q-Cells G1 Energy Storage Solution (ESS) unit with a 3.6kW Samsung lithium ion battery.

These are premium quality products installed with a Schletter mounting system.

Fully fitted for just £9495.

Download the Q-Cells solar panel brochure here

Download the Q-Cells ESS brochure here

Price includes basic scaffolding and is for an on-roof type mounting system for a typical concrete tiled roof.

3.85kWp solar PV system £4500 fitted, includes full monitoring and 10 year warranty

Forget Black Friday and Cyber Monday! We offer a 3.85kWp solar PV system including online monitoring and a ten year warranty for just £4500 fitted. Valid for all orders placed before 31 January, regardless of the installation date.

  • 14 x Canadian Solar polycrystalline solar panels
  • GoodWe 3600S WiFi inverter with online monitoring
  • Excellent quality Schletter mounting system
  • Full 10 year warranty on all the above
  • Our 10 year insurance-backed workmanship warranty

We never subcontract the installation work, every installation we have ever completed was designed and installed by the company’s owner.

All our installations are registered with MCS and we even complete the FIT paperwork for you.

If you want an honest survey with no hard sell then give us a call on 01772 311016 or email us at

N.B.: This quote is for installation onto a pitched tiled roof and includes basic scaffolding. This will account for the majority of installations. If there are complex access requirements or the roof material is not tile or you require a roof-integrated system then the price will be higher.

Solar panel removal

There are all sorts of reasons you may want your solar panels moved or removed:

  • Building an extension which involves changes to the roof
  • Loft conversions with dormers or roof windows
  • Poorly fitted ‘free’ systems (although we can repair or tidy these up instead)

In cases of having building work done, we can move your solar photovoltaic panels to a different roof, or even (if space allows) put them in your garden for you.

Alternatively, we can decommission and remove your solar panels (both thermal and photovoltaic) and make any necessary repairs to the roof. Contact us for a quote.


Beware the villians mis-selling SolarEdge upgrades!

Solaredge power optimiser mounted behind solar panel

Solaredge power optimiser
mounted behind solar panel

Every industry has its villains and the solar PV industry is no different. Many have been pushing voltage optimisers and all sorts of other nonsense products for years, and now their salesmen are overstating the benefits of SolarEdge in order to grab a bit more of your hard-earned cash.

As a SolarEdge Advanced Installer we install many SolarEdge systems, both for new installations and for upgrades to existing systems. The benefits of improved yields, high reliability, unsurpassed monitoring, safety and long warranties are clear.

However, in the case of upgrades to existing systems it can be quite an additional investment over and above the initial cost of the solar PV system. Scaffolding will usually be required and as it’s not a new installation the full 20% VAT rate is applicable. It is important therefore to ensure that you understand what you are getting for your money.

SolarEdge themselves state that the additional yield from a SolarEdge system compared to a standard inverter is between 2% and 25%. Only if your solar panels are badly shaded can an additional 25% yield be had by retro-fitting SolarEdge optimisers and inverter.

However, on unshaded systems the increase in yield is likely to be under 5%. If your motivation for upgrading to SolarEdge is for the monitoring or long warranty then fair enough, but if you’ve been told that your unshaded panels will generate much more electricity then the salesman is lying to you and does not deserve your business.

We’re regularly hearing from people who have been approached by unscrupulous companies offering SolarEdge upgrades who are massively overstating the benefits and also charging ridiculous money. A recent caller told us that a certain Southport-based company had quoted £4500 to upgrade their unshaded solar PV system to SolarEdge and that it would boost their yields by 25%. Total bull and a complete rip-off. If you’re sure you would like an upgrade to SolarEdge, contact us for a competitive quotation and an honest appraisal of its effect on your system yields.

You should also be aware that SolarEdge optimisers are generally robust but no product is 100% reliable. It is not uncommon for an optimiser to fail, which results in a loss of yield until it is replaced. If the company that fitted your SolarEdge kit won’t help, or isn’t trading any more, you’ll need to pay someone else to replace that optimiser for you.

The golden rule here is that companies that buy your contact details and then phone you up out of the blue are all villains, regardless of what particular products they are peddling. Next time, tell them where to go!


New! The Sonnen energy storage system

Sonnen energy storage system

The sonnenBatterie is a high-tech storage system that has proven itself in thousands of households – every day. The combination of a PV system and a sonnenBatterie will allow you to cover about 75% of your yearly energy requirement with self-produced and clean energy. Since your energy is being generated on your roof and not by some anonymous energy provider you are more independent than before.

So take your energy future into your own hands and reduce your energy costs to a minimum. The decision for a sonnenBatterie is also a decision for the highest standards in safety and quality that “Made in Germany” stands for.

Sonnen comes with class-leading monitoring using a web portal or smartphone app. This also allows you to control devices in the home to respond to surplus generated electricity, or you can switch devices on or off remotely.

The device shown on the left is the Sonnen main unit which contains one 2kWh lithium battery. Further 2kWh batteries can be added either at the time of purchase, or at any time thereafter. The system is therefore very flexible and can be adapted to any environment.

Contact us for pricing.


Special Offer! 4kW solar PV system fitted, just £4850!

This listing is an example price for a 4kW solar PV system fully fitted with online monitoring and a ten year warranty.

We use solar panels and inverters from various leading manufacturers and each installation is designed according to the requirements of the customer. We don’t just bulk buy one model of solar panel unlike other companies. We also use top quality mounting systems from Schletter and GSE that will not corrode or fall apart.

We never subcontract the installation work, every installation we have ever completed was designed and installed by the company’s owner.

All our installations are registered with MCS and we even complete the FIT paperwork for you.

If you want an honest survey with no hard sell then give us a call on 01772 311016 or email us at

The price quoted here is for a straightforward installation on a two storey house where we are able to use our own scaffolding. If we require a more complex scaffold then the cost will be higher. Upgrades to SolarEdge and/or battery storage are available.