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  • Writer's pictureCliff L'Aimable _Chartered Surveyor & Building Engineer

Demystifying Photovoltaic Panels on dwellings used for energy

Updated: Jan 27, 2023

Introduction to Photovoltaic Panels

As a building control service provider offering competitively priced building regulation approvals we deal with numerous schemes involving the installation of photovoltaic panels (PV) for clean energy to the home.

This blog provides a quick overview about PV panels to demystify them.

Photovoltaic panels are becoming increasingly popular amongst homeowners, offering them a reliable and cost-effective way to generate their own clean energy. Photovoltaics, also known as solar cells, are devices that convert sunlight directly into electricity using the photovoltaic effect. Photovoltaic panels are typically made up of a number of individual solar cells, which combine together to form larger structures and increase their efficiency.

Permissions prior to installation

Building regulations - usually apply if you want to place solar panels on your roof. It will be necessary to verify and demonstrate that the existing roof is capable of supporting the load (weight) of the panels. It might be necessary to work on strengthening. The installation work should be carried out preferably by a trained company listed on the competent person register.

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Planning Permissions - Solar panels typically will not need planning permission because they are considered permitted development. Depending on whether the property is residential or commercial, certain restrictions may apply. Nonetheless it is prudent to check with your local planning department at the council to check whether or nor other restrictions may apply eg Your building may be a listed building.

Installing photovoltaic panels on a dwelling can have numerous benefits for the homeowner, including reduced electricity bills, increased self-sufficiency in energy production and lowered emissions from traditional sources such as coal or gas. Furthermore, due to advances in technology over recent years, they now require less space than ever before and are more aesthetically pleasing than ever before.

Photovoltaic Panels on a roof
Photovoltaic Panels on a roof

How do the panels work

The photovoltaic effect was discovered all the way back in 1839 by French scientist Edmond Becquerel when he observed that certain materials such as selenium produced small amounts of electric current when exposed to light. Since then the technology has continued to develop at a rapid pace, with silicon becoming the primary material used today due to its abundance and relatively low manufacturing costs.

Photovoltaic cells work by converting incoming photons (light particles) into electrons which can then be used as an electrical current. They typically consist of two layers – an N-type layer featuring electrons with negative charges and a P-type layer featuring holes with positive charges – between which electrons can flow from one side to another through an external circuit when exposed to light from the sun or other sources.

When selecting photovoltaic panels for installation on dwellings it is important to consider the power output of each device – typically measured in watts – along with other factors such as efficiency ratings (how much energy is actually converted), size (the area taken up on the roof) and aesthetics (how it looks). It’s also worth bearing in mind that different types of cells may be better suited for certain applications or climates than others; monocrystalline cells tend to offer slightly more efficient performance while polycrystalline models may come at cheaper prices but lower efficiency ratings.

What does a typical PV home installation consist of?

Photovoltaic (PV) systems are composed of several components that work together to capture and convert sunlight into usable electricity. The most important components of a PV system include the solar cells, inverter, mounting structures, batteries, cabling and wiring, and charge controllers. Solar cells are the primary element of a photovoltaic system and are responsible for converting sunlight into electrical energy. Solar cell arrays consist of multiple interconnected cells that can range from a few watts to hundreds of kilowatts in size. Each individual solar cell is made up of two or more layers of semi-conducting material such as silicon, which absorb light particles known as photons and create an electric field when they collide. When these electric fields join together in the form of an array they create a current flow within the cell which is then converted into usable electricity by an inverter.

PV Inverter and battery store inside dwelling
PV Inverter and battery store inside dwelling

Inverters are responsible for converting DC (direct current) power generated by solar cells into AC (alternating current), which is compatible with traditional grid electricity. Mounting structures provide secure mechanical support for solar panels, keeping them elevated off the ground in order to maximise their exposure to direct sunlight during peak hours. Batteries store excess energy generated by the solar cells so they can be used at night or on cloudy days when the sun isn’t out. Cables and wiring connect all the components together to ensure efficient operation and safe distribution of energy throughout the system. Finally, charge controllers regulate energy flow between different parts of the system in order to protect against overcharging or excessive discharging of batteries.

All these components work together to capture and utilise solar energy in an efficient manner allowing homeowners to bring down their utility bills while also helping reduce carbon footprints since they don’t produce any greenhouse gases when generating electricity. With technological advancements such as microinverters allowing faster integration with existing infrastructure, PV systems represent an attractive option for those looking for ways to save money while reducing their environmental impact at the same time.

Photovoltaic Panels on a roof
Photovoltaic Panels on a roof

Overall, photovoltaic panels provide an excellent alternative for homeowners who wish to reduce their reliance on traditional energy sources and gain greater control over their own electricity production. With advancements in technology continuing apace it’s likely that this sector will continue growing rapidly in the coming years; for those considering taking advantage, it’s important to bear in mind all the factors mentioned above so that you can make an informed decision about your own installation requirements.

As always for private sector based building regulation approvals and inspections contact us by calling tel : 01992 710 763 Email for competitive fee quotes visit our website at Blog post written by Cliff L'Aimable Chartered Surveyor a member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and a Registered Chartered Building Engineer.

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