Make Sure Your Solar Power Is Safe
There can scarcely be a home-owner in London who has not received at least one cold call — and probably several — about solar power installation. If you do not immediately put the phone down, you will hear a spiel about the amount of money you will save on your heating bills, and how much more comfortable your home will be. The caller is also very likely to tell you that the installation is perfectly simple to do on your own, meaning you save even more on electrician charges.
There is certainly no doubt that installing solar panels can make a great deal of sense, even in our climate of very limited sunshine. Installing them in the sun-facing part of your roof ensures that, whenever the sun actually does shine, the solar power is stored by the photovoltaic or PV cells, and converted into energy to heat and light your house. Many people who have had the system installed have found not only that they can light and heat their home for little or no cost, but also that they have a surplus to sell back to the National Grid.
Wiring Is Dangerous
However, although telephone callers, and the glossy brochures, make the installation sound like something anybody can do, this is very far from the truth. Apart from anything else, the installation requires integrating the panels into your electrical wiring system. It is really important that you do not tamper with your wiring unless you have qualifications as an electrician — not only can it be extremely dangerous, but you could cause the whole system to black out. Remember too that solar panels cannot be turned off, so you are actually dealing with live electricity throughout the process.
Apart from safety issues, since the introduction of Part P of the Building Regulations (England and Wales), most domestic electrical work has to be notified to the local authority, and this includes solar panel installation. If the person doing the installation is not recognised as a competent person — that is, having a government-approved qualification such as NICEIC — this notification has to be made in advance, and the work has to be inspected, for a fee. The parts of the regulation that apply to this include fire risk, relating to overloaded cables and short circuits, and the safety of cable penetration through exterior walls and indoor floors and ceilings.
For most people, the main reason for installing solar PV panels is to save money on fuel bills, and maybe even make some. However, if the work is not done correctly, it will not only not save you money, it will cost you a huge amount in extra fees and charges — not to mention possible risk to life.