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Remote Survey: What we’re looking for and why

Before we provide you with an updated quote, there are a few things we need to assess. Pictures of your property are often enough to tell us what we need to know; we call this process a remote survey. If it’s difficult to gain full visibility of the roof, or if access to certain places is restricted we might have to rely more heavily on the in person survey. But your Guru will discuss this with you in your remote survey, so that’s nothing for you to worry about.

So what will we be looking at and why? And how will we do this?

Your roof

Why do we need to assess your roof before a solar panel installation?

We need to check whether your roof is in suitable condition to carry the weight of solar panels, and is safe for the install team to walk on. We’ll also confirm the number of solar panels that can fit on your roof. Any obstructions that could cause shading on your roof will also be noted. In case of shading we might need to install optimisers to the panels to minimise the impact of these shaded panels on the rest of the array in poor light conditions.

What information do we get through satellite images? And why do we need to see more?

Satellite images show us the direction and size of your roof. It may even be able to tell us the angle of your roof. This is really useful at an initial stage but we need a bit more accuracy in order to proceed. Specifically, we need to be able to see the condition of your roof and roof tiles a bit better.

What exactly are we looking for?

The photos should include a view of your whole roof where we can see the condition of the tiles and any obstructions that may cause shading. This includes chimneys and tall trees.

How can you actually tell through a picture?

Satellite images can warp perspective so we use your pictures to be able to see what your roof actually looks like. We’re also able to see details that are not visible in satellite images. These include what type of roof tile you’ve got, any obstructions on the roof (such as soil stacks), its pitch and if there’s enough room for scaffolding access.

What is a good/bad roof and does it determine whether I can get solar panels?

Almost all roofs are suitable for solar panels. A bad roof would have tiles or slates in poor condition, or rotten timbers. Unless it is very obvious that your roof is in poor condition, we would need to conduct an in person survey to properly assess its condition. Fortunately most roofs are suitable for solar panels, but there is a chance you won’t be able to install panels on your roof.

Roof accessibility

Why do we need to check your roof accessibility before a solar panel installation?

Your installer needs to be able to get on your roof to install your panels. We need to understand whether you will need special equipment like scaffolding and how we can best get this ready for your property.

What exactly are we looking for and how do we check for it?

We’re looking for how we can access your roof. Some of the questions we want answered are:

  • How high up is your roof?
  • Is there tower access? That is, is there direct vertical access to the roof? If there’s not, we'd have to build over a conservatory or similar extension.
  • How do we get the scaffolding into the garden? Is there side access?
  • Are there any power cables in the way?

In the case of really complicated installations we might need to up the scaffolding cost. The remote survey will give you a heads up about this so that you’re able to make an informed decision about whether you’d like to proceed.

Please note that we currently need a surveyor and an engineer to confirm if scaffolding is necessary or not.

How can you actually tell through a picture?

You can tell a lot from a picture! We can see how high a building is, what the ground looks like around the building, and the distance between your property and the next (to name a few things!). For example, scaffolding won’t fit if there’s only 50 centimetres between you and your neighbour. 3 metres would be fine though, for example.

Bear in mind that it’s not so much that we can tell with absolute certainty from an image, but we get a better understanding than we could from a satellite image. Also remember that it’s a conversation, not just a picture. This means that we can ask questions in a way that we couldn’t from just looking at satellite images.

What happens if I need scaffolding but there’s no room for it?

If there’s no room for scaffolding there might be another solution. Could your installer access your roof via your neighbour’s roof? Would it be possible to put scaffolding on only one side of your roof and gain access to all relevant areas that way? Safety comes first so we’d never do anything to compromise that, but if there’s a safe work-around we’re more than happy to accommodate.

What if I don’t need scaffolding?

Sometimes we’re able to tell straight away that a property almost certainly won’t need scaffolding. This would be for either bungalows or garages. If that’s the case we can take scaffolding off your quote. For all other installations, we are including scaffolding in the invoice pack even if it’s not needed, until after the in-person survey. In either way, we’ll have a look in person too to confirm.

Your loft

Why do we need to see your loft before installing solar panels on your roof?

Looking in your loft will allow us to understand more about your roof structure and your rafters. This is important as we need to confirm that your rafters are safe for an installation.

What exactly are we looking for?

We’re looking at the condition of your rafters, and their sizing and spacing. We’re also looking at your insulation type. So the photos should give a view of these things but please also include photos of any walls in the loft that we could potentially mount your inverter and/or battery on.

How can you actually tell through a picture?

The age of rafters and timbers is something you can see quite easily from a picture. But we’re also able to ask you when your roof was made, of course! So, again, it’s about the combination of the pictures and conversation.

What is a bad loft and what is a good loft?

Almost all lofts are suitable for solar panels. The exceptions would probably be if your rafters are rotten or broken, if you have an incorrectly installed spray-foam insulation (without membrane), or if your rafters are tiny and really spaced out (probably not even in line with modern building regulations).

If none of these exceptions apply to you, we can almost always make something work. The question really isn’t whether it’s possible or not, it’s if it’s easy or not.

In general though, bad lofts don't have any walls. This makes it difficult, but not impossible, to mount inverters and batteries.

Good lofts have walls to install the kit onto. These are typically gable end walls.

If your loft has walls it means that your roof doesn’t start from the floor of your loft. That’s why you’re likely to have walls in your loft if you have an attached house.

If there isn’t a loft or if the loft isn’t suitable for solar panels you can still get solar panels but we’d have to look for another space for your battery and/or inverter.

Your fuse-board

Why do we need to look at your fuse-board before going ahead with a solar panel installation?

We need to look at your fuse-board to check for spare slots for connection options for the electrical work. This is important because the wiring needs to be connected to the-fuse board.

What exactly are we looking for and how do we check for it?

We need a clear view of your fuse-board including any available slots. We’re also looking for the age of the fuse-board. What’s important about age is whether it’s compatible with solar installation wiring regulations.

If you’ve got a metal fuse-board, you know it’s new. If that’s the case we can install straight into it. If it's plastic this tells you that it’s old. If that’s the case we need to install a sub-board in order to go ahead with the installation. If there’s room next to your fuse-board we’d normally install the sub-board, as well as the export meter, there. If your fuse-board is located in a tight fitting cupboard we’d need to install the sub-board and meter somewhere else.

We’re also looking for where in your property your fuse-board is located. This is important for two reasons:

  1. For District Network Operator (DNO) applications, the location of your fuse-board needs to be included in the application.
  2. It helps in understanding the wiring pathway. Although this is likely to be confirmed in the in-person survey, it’s helpful to get a heads up already at this stage. For example, if your fuse-board is near an outside wall, that makes the installation easy. If your fuse-board is located under the stairs, this would make an installation more difficult. We’d have to find a way to get the wires down from the loft and under the stairs. Sometimes there’s an existing pathway, or you could find space due to cavity wall insulation or by removing and re-installing floorboards. A last case scenario would be trunking. This is essentially a white box that you stick to the wall and run cables through. This is not the most aesthetically pleasing option, which is why we like to let you know about the possible necessity of this as soon as possible. For some people this is a deal breaker and that’s okay!

How can you actually tell through a picture?

As previously mentioned, it really is about the combination of the images and a conversation. “Can you help me understand if that’s an outside wall” could be a question your Guru has for you, for example. The picture itself helps us see if there are any spare slots in your fuse-board.

What if it’s full? What if it isn’t?

Either way is fine as there are ways to create space if you don’t have any.

If there isn’t space next to your fuse-board but you’ve got a metal fuse-board, we can install a sub-board directly into it.

If your fuse-board is in plastic there will be a work around. Bear in mind this might be outside of the fuse-board, so it might not be aesthetically pleasing. Trunking would be an example of this.

Just so you know, whether we need to install a sub-board or not won’t affect the cost of installation!

Possible locations for your inverter and battery

Why does it matter where I place my inverter and battery?

We need to understand where you would want this to go to assess how we can connect all the electricals. This needs to be done before the installation to ensure that it’s possible to draw electricals to your intended location. We also need to see whether there’s space for your inverter and battery. You can read more about the sizing of them in our guide about how you know whether solar panels are right for you.

What exactly are we looking for?

We need to understand where you would want your battery and/or inverter to go and what the space around it looks like. These need to be installed on something solid, such as a wall or a pallet attached to rafters or the floor. We’re also looking for whether there’s room for the inverter and the battery and about possible wiring pathways from the battery and/or inverter to the consumer unit.

How can you actually tell through a picture?

We’re looking for size and space. We know how much space we need - is there enough?

We can see the material of the mounting wall in questions as well. Something solid such as brick is fine, but plasterboard is possible if it’s mounted to a solid wall.

The most important thing other than space is whether it’s a suitable location. For example, a location under lots of coats is not great as the inverter will overheat. Lots of air around the battery and/or inverter is great.

Again, we’re also looking at the wiring pathway to the solar panels and fuse-board from the inverter.

What would allow you to tell if it can be placed there or not?

Suitability of location, space, and whether we can do wiring pathways up to it.

How do we do this?

We allow you to upload your photos prior to your remote call. This way you can spend the call discussing them with your Guru and confirming your system design. But don’t worry if you can’t take pictures due to poor access or physical restrictions. We can still go ahead with your remote survey and plan for alternative methods to view what we need to see. An onsite survey could be a good option in this case!

To give us the best visibility of what we need to see and to make the next steps easier, it would be great if you could use these tips when taking the pictures:

  1. Get landscape pictures
  2. Make sure the lights are on
  3. Try to get the picture in focus
  4. Take as many pictures as possible

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