How to Choose a Solar Panel Installer

Tips on how to choose the right solar panel installer and an introduction to our trusted network of installers.

Toby
February 14, 2024
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One of the problems people face once they’ve decided to go solar is finding the right installer. That’s no surprise, really – domestic solar panels are still a relatively new thing, at least as far as the mass market is concerned. Most people might know of only a handful or people (or perhaps none at all) who have had them installed.

So word of mouth, which is a trusted and reliable source of recommendation, isn’t always available. Everyone in an area knows who the good garages and double-glazing companies are because they’re established parts of the community. Solar installers are, let’s say, a little thin on the roof. Also, bear in mind that of those few people who have had panels installed, some will have had bad experiences, so wouldn’t recommend their installers.

Another drawback of being a new industry is that people often don’t know what represents good value for money. If a local garage charged you £200 to fit a new wiper blade, you’d know that was not a good deal. But if a solar installer quoted you £20,000 for full fit, would you think that was cheap, reasonable or expensive? (For the record, an average install is in the £6,000 to £8,000 range, but the cost depends on how many panels and extras like batteries you get.)

So, let’s have a look at how to choose a solar panel installer to make sure you get a good deal and the best possible workmanship.

How to choose a good solar panel installer

The most important factors to look at are:

We’ll go into all these factors in more detail below. But as a homeowner, it can be difficult to find the right balance between pros and cons, and make sound, long-term commitments based on science and the state of the industry.

That’s why MakeMyHouseGreen was founded. Put all the relevant information about your home into the calculator, and it’ll give you an estimate on the amount of energy you’ll be able to generate over the course of a year. 

It uses information such as:

  • Your geographic location (different locations get different amounts of sunlight through the year).
  • Which way your roof is facing (in the UK, you’ll gather more light if your solar panels face in a broadly southerly direction, although any direction will work). And don’t worry, you just have to draw a shape on a map – you don’t have to get your compass out.
  • The angle of your roof (as the sun never passes directly overhead in the UK, a steeper angle facing south might generate more energy than a flatter roof facing south).
  • What type or property you have.
  • How many people live in your home.
  • What your general power consumption is.
  • How warm you need your home.

From that, the calculator works out whether you would benefit financially from solar panels by weighing up the installation costs with the potential savings over time.

But it doesn’t stop there. The website can also put you in touch with approved local installers who must pass a strict vetting process before they become part of the network. Then, we leave it up to you. No pressure at all.

Factors to consider when choosing a solar panel installer 

Here are the factors that can help you decide on the right equipment and installers for your solar setup.

Accreditation / MCS certification 

MCS (Microgeneration Certificate Scheme) certification is an accreditation given to manufacturers and installers of renewable equipment. The organisation, MCS, aims to promote high quality in the industry, from factory to home. It assesses the build quality and efficiency of new products, and if they pass its stringent standards, it will be granted MCS certification.

Similarly, installers can take MCS-approved courses so that they themselves can offer the same peace of mind to homeowners. So whether you’re looking for equipment or qualified installers, make sure they are MCS certified.

MCS certificates

To get MCS certification, an installer must also have HIES (Home Insulation & Energy Systems) approval, granted by a body that covers trading standards in the domestic energy installation industry.

Reviews

Independent review websites are a great place to look for information on both panels and installers. The quotes and feedback that companies put on their own websites might be useful, but they are of course biased, and aren’t likely to publish the bad ones.

Sites like Trustpilot and Which? let customers and professional reviewers give impartial scores for products and services. While they can be a decent guide, remember that they are only people’s opinions, often those who don’t fully understand the systems. 

Transparency around what’s included in the quote 

It isn’t just airlines and restaurants that spring little surprise charges on customers – it’s present in all sorts of industries, including builders and, yes, solar panel fitters. So, for example, your quote might not include scaffolding or cherry picker hire. Perhaps the initial quote might be for cheap panels, then once you’ve agreed, you might be offered an “upgrade” to better panels for a higher price than competitors were offering.

It pays to do your homework on what kind of power you can expect from your panels, and what the current state of the technology is. Then you’ll be able to read the quote and know you’re getting the best possible service and equipment.

Aftercare

What kind of after-sales service does the installer offer? Do they fit the panels then drive off into the sunset, or will they show you how to use your panels to get the most out of them? Some installers might also offer services like basic repairs and maintenance at no extra cost, or annual services to make sure everything is working at full throttle.

Aftercare is also linked to the warranty (see below), and both are directly affected by whether or not the company is still trading a few years after installation. That might seem unknowable, but we can help make sure you choose a financially stable installer.

Warranty 

Good quality, modern solar panels are efficient and well made, but like any device they sometimes break down or malfunction through no fault of the user. That’s when your warranty kicks in – if it’s long enough.

Replacing a solar panel isn’t just about the cost of the panel. It can take several hours, with the potential for requiring scaffolding and specialist lifting machinery. Does the warranty cover everything, or just the equipment itself? And how long does the warranty last? It will probably be in the region of 25–30 years, but you might be expected to perform certain actions, such as cleaning or other maintenance tasks on your solar panels, for the warranty to remain valid.

Price

The cost of the panels and installation will of course be a factor in your decision. It’s worth noting that these are items that will pay for themselves eventually, and generally speaking, the better the equipment, the quicker it’ll pay for itself. It might be worth spending more now to pay it off quicker, even if that means getting finance. Also consider that if you plan to get half your panels now and half in a few years, it will cost more than having them all done at once. It’s like doing a “big shop” rather than going back and forth to pick up your groceries.

Beware high pressure sales tactics

It doesn’t matter whether you’re in a clothes shop or getting a building quote. There’s a big difference between a helpful member of staff addressing your queries and someone putting pressure on you to make a purchase that you don’t want. 

Unfortunately, the solar installation industry is not immune from such tactics. A customer makes an enquiry and the floodgates open, with salespeople turning up, cold calls, emails and text messages coming in. The idea is simple – to make customers think they’re getting a great deal (if they act fast), but not give them enough time to research the business or the offer. You can probably imagine the quality of workmanship and the value of the warranty from businesses that operate this way.

When you find an installer through MakeMyHouseGreen, you can be assured that they’ve been vetted by us and that they adhere to all the relevant technical and consumer standards. The only pitch they’re interested in is the angle of your roof – they’ll answer your questions and give you honest advice, but then it’s up to you. We trust the installers in our network. Our business depends on it. 

Ready to raise your roof?

Choosing an installer for solar panels is probably something you’ve never done before, and you might not know anyone else who has had it done. That’s understandable – it’s still a relatively new industry. So you need all the help you can get, in terms of both finding out what the technology can do, and tracking down expert installers who can make sure your system is installed and maintained professionally.Your journey to solar can start today if you want it to. Simply use our solar calculator and installer directory to get started, and if you have any questions at all – please ask.

Recommended Guides:

- How Many Solar Panels Do I Need?

- Pros and cons of solar panels

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