Your home

  • What am I agreeing to?

    There are no catches in the customer agreement you sign. By agreeing to HEMS you are just agreeing to: 1) Have HEMS installed with no upfront payment; 2) Granting air rights to North Star above your roof for the solar panels to operate; 3) The costs of installing the equipment and its installation on your electricity meter.

    We know the costs of the equipment and installation over the 23 year period and in addition add a 20% saving on your current electricity costs. The energy savings repay the costs of the equipment and installation to pension funds over the 23 years.

    In the background the solar generated electricity will be used to charge the battery and using Economy 7 or Economy 10 means if you need extra electricity from the grid, because your roof is not large enough to support a larger number of solar panels, you will only be paying off-peak prices for electricity whenever you consume electricity throughout the day.

    An average home will need around 20% to 30% of electricity from the grid which will come from your existing electricity supplier. More in the winter as days are shorter, less most likely none in the summer.

  • Will the equipment affect my mortgage?

    Not at all. Your mortgage company might have a reason to question this if we had any form of lien on your property but we do not, the costs sit on the electricity meter only. Should you move you leave the equipment in your home.

  • Why 23 years?

    23 years is the optimum time which allows us to fully repay all the costs of equipment and installation and at the same time give you a 20% reduction in electricity costs from today’s price.

  • What happens at the end of 23 years?

    At this point the equipment will be fully paid for and the house owner or landlord owns the equipment. Solar panels have a life span of 30 to 40 years and will still be working at 80% efficiency. The battery might need replacing depending upon how many cycles have been used but battery costs are forecast to fall substantially so a replacement should not be very expensive.

  • Can I still switch electricity suppliers?

    Yes, you are free to switch to any electricity supplier you wish. Though North Star’s price for electricity will be lower than anyone else, ranging from 5.48p/kWh to 9.03p/kWh, we do recommend you finding the cheapest supplier of off-peak electricity. Using Economy 7 or Economy 10 gives you cheapest way to charge your battery if it needs extra charging for the National Grid via your electricity supplier.

    We strongly suggest Economy 10 if it is available as the E10 tariff gives you 3 opportunities throughout the day to charge the battery, Economy 7 or E7 gives you one opportunity, during the night.

  • Who do I pay my electricity bill to using HEMS?

    You carry on paying your existing electricity supplier for HEMS and they pay North Star, it makes absolutely no difference whom you currently pay. Your electricity bill will just reflect the new lower costs. There are no added costs from your supplier for using HEMS, this is legislated in the governments Energy Act 2011.

  • Do I need planning permission to have solar PV on my roof?

    Generally no unless you live within a conservation are or your house is listed. If you do need permission we will help you get approval. You have permitted development rights and solar PV falls within this right.

  • Will HEMS affect my house price?

    Yes, most likely positively. Once HEMS is installed the electricity price is locked-in and rises only by the rate of inflation (Retail Price Index – RPI). Between 2008 and 2014 electricity prices rose 9.2% year on year while inflation was less than 2%.

    This saving builds in value over the years to come and if you sell your house you will be leaving the equipment behind – and leaving the new buyer the benefit of the low electricity prices. Having HEMS potentially adds value to your home.

  • What happens if I elect my Right To Buy option?

    This makes no difference. We are comfortable with houses of all types: owner occupied, private or socially rented. There is no difference in service from North Star, we carry on maintaining your roof as before. No hidden fees in fact no fees or charges for anything.

  • What happens if I need roof repairs or need to replace my roof?

    The solar panels sit in very versatile racking. You just tell us when your roof is going to have work done on it, when the scaffolding is erected we will send around our engineers and they will remove, store and replace the panels after the work has been completed before the scaffolding is removed. There are no costs for doing this, we have allowed for these costs already.

  • What happens in the event of a fault?

    HEMS maintenance costs are inclusive in the free option and payable for paid-for installations, £100 per annum. Insurance for any damage caused by flooding (a possible issue for the batteries which are ideally installed beneath the stairs) or storms which might affect the solar panels is included.

    While most companies take a reactive approach to problems only making repairs when a compliant is received, we take a pro-active approach and use optimised solar panels so we can monitor their performance in real time. We compare the electricity output to known irradiation data (the amount of sunshine hitting the panels) and an algorithm tells us if any panels are faulty. This guarantees your roof will always be operating efficiently.

    An issue will be detected by us before you even notice it. An engineer will respond within 72 hours, contacting you to make an appointment to repair the problem.

Technology and Equipment

  • How much electricity do solar panels produce?

    Your roof size determines the number of panels (called an array) that can fit. While our aim is to match the electricity consumed to your solar electricity generated, sometimes this will not be possible as the roof will be too small. This means excess electricity will have to be purchased from your existing electricity suppliers though by having the battery and choosing an Economy 7 or 10 tariff it ensures excess electricity is only ever bought at off-peak rates.

    Solar panel technology has improved significantly over the years and research continues to improve efficiencies. Five years ago the kilo watt peak (kWp) rating of a standard solar panel was around 180 to 190 nowadays it nudges 300. Watts peak is a standard measure of output assuming a constant irradiation (number of sunshine hours per year) of 1,000 (from 8,760 hours in a year) per square metre of solar panel. The irradiation in northern Scotland is on average 850 and in Cornwall 1,200.

    To calculate the output of a panel the kWp of the solar panel is multiplied by the irradiation.

    Specialist companies provide irradiation measurement, we use data accurate anywhere in the UK to within 90 meters.

    We know the costs of the equipment and installation over the 23 year period and in addition add a 20% saving on your current electricity costs. The energy savings repay the costs of the equipment and installation to pension funds over the 23 years.

    In the background the solar generated electricity will be used to charge the battery and using Economy 7 or Economy 10 means if you need extra electricity from the grid, because your roof is not large enough to support a larger number of solar panels, you will only be paying off-peak prices for electricity whenever you consume electricity throughout the day.

    An average home will need around 20% to 30% of electricity from the grid which will come from your existing electricity supplier. More in the winter as days are shorter, less most likely none in the summer.

  • Is solar viable in the UK?

    Yes, completely. Solar panels operate without direct sunlight, they operate in cloudy conditions too. Further, the lower temperatures in the UK make solar panels work more efficiently.

    To date over 800,000 homes in the UK enjoy solar electricity from northern Scotland to Cornwall.

  • Are solar panels safe?

    Solar panels are completely safe though we take added steps to ensure this. Of the hundreds of solar panel manufacturers we narrow this to the top panel manufacturers, Tier 1’s. We narrow this further still having analysed the balance sheets of all these and have selected only those with the strongest financials, we have 2 or 3 panel manufacturers we prefer.

    In addition we use optimised panels for different reasons but safety was key for too for this decision. In the event of a fire, while panels can be turned off at the inverter, isolating electricity to the grid they remain generating DC electricity. Optimisers allow us to turn off each individual panel removing this problem.

    Equipment quality

    Tier 1 solar panel manufacturers are vertically integrated. They produce every component of the panels rather than outsourcing parts of the process. They oversee the entire manufacturing process from the receipt of silicon ingots to production of solar cells to the final assembly. Quality of all panels is ensured by the company and all panels from Tier 1 manufacturing companies receive a 10 year manufacturer’s warranty and a 25 plus year performance warranty.

    We are confident, and so are pension funds which supply the finance, that these panels will remain operational and performing well in excess of 25 years, more likely 40 to 50 years. Since we intend to use equipment for at least 23 years we want you to have solar panels that will last at least that long.

    Additionally, only the best inverter manufacturers are considered and chosen. Typically these have 10 to 15 year warranties so we factor in a replacement inverter in our 23 year horizon.

    The same applies to the battery storage. We have poured over the specifications of all the battery manufacturers narrowing the battery chemistry choice to just one. Safety, reliability, lifetime were all considerations.

  • Do solar panels lose efficiency over time?

    Yes, it is called the ‘degredation’. Tier 1 solar panel manufacturers guarantee that this rate will not be more than 10% by year 10 to 15, and no more than 20% by year 20 to 30. If any panel fails this test it will be replaced free of charge. Since we monitor the voltage output from each solar panel remotely we will know if any panel needs replacing. Should this happen the installer will be contacted and they will contact you and make an appointment to fix the problem.

  • Is battery storage safe?

    Yes, the ones we install are 100% safe. We use lithium-Ion batteries but Lithium-Ion covers a large range of Lithium-Ion battery chemistries in the same manner the term mobile phone covers all the types and manufacturers of mobile phones. Lithium-Ion batteries are commonplace nowadays and are used to power all our laptops, mobile phones and other portable electronic devices.

    The batteries we install pass the ‘nail-test’ namely if the battery cell is punctured they will not explode. While the cells are encased in a metal box, in the unlikely event it is punctured, and the casing of the battery cell too, some Lithium-Ion batteries will explode. We use Lithium Titanate (LTO) batteries or Lithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt (Li-NMC) batteries which will not explode if punctured. Neither will they cause any fire which has happened in the case of some car batteries.

  • How long will my battery last?

    Lithium Titanate batteries will last at least 20 years, it depends upon how many times each day they are used. They have 20,000 cycles assuming a full charge and discharge, in most cases the battery will not charge and discharge fully which means the number of cycles is increased. 20,000 cycles means the battery can fully charge and discharge 3 times per day for 20 years.

    Lithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt batteries have a ten year lifespan and it will be replaced for free when they need replacing.

    The choice over batteries depends on your lifestyle. If you have more daytime usage a Lithium Titanate will suit you better. If you use electricity mainly during the morning and evening periods a Lithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt battery is better suited.

    Once installed there are no maintenance issues for batteries, they do not need any annual checks. The ideal place to put the battery is under the stairs if you live in a house, they are roughly the size of an old-style computer.

  • Why use LED lighting?

    LED lighting is an ideal energy saving device since lighting using incandescent light bulbs is highly inefficient (95% of the energy is lost). Typically a third of a household’s electricity bill is lighting. LED light bulbs save between 65% to 80% of this electricity.

    LED light bulbs are 3 to 4 times as expensive as normal (incandescent) light bulbs but savings makes their installation worthwhile. All lightbulbs will be replaced with LED lightbulbs free of charge.

    Like other technologies, LED lighting has greatly improved over the years. Nowadays soft colours associated with normal light bulbs is also produced by LED lights.

Installation

  • Who installs the equipment?

    North Star has partnered with Solgain UK, based in Liverpool and operating nationally, a specialist installer of solar PV and electrical engineering. Solgain has successfully installed thousands of rooftop solar PV installations. To date over 800,000 homes throughout the UK enjoy the benefits of solar PV on their roofs.

    The Microgeneration Certification System (MSC) approves reputable, trained solar PV installers and Solgain only uses these highly trained local engineers.

    Solgain will oversee local MCS engineers.

  • Who surveys my roof?

    Prior to installation your home will be surveyed by a Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) qualified surveyor to assess your roof structure and quality of wiring. The quality of the roof and wiring must be good and North Star pays this cost.

  • How long does an installation take?

    The complete installation of solar PV, battery storage and LED lighting is a half-day job with minimal intrusion as most of the work happens on the roof.

  • What happens in the event of a fault?

    North Star monitors the voltage output of panels remotely and will spot a fault or problem long before anyone else. Solgain will notify the local installer to arrange a visit to your property to fix the problem.

    The maintenance contract is free if you choose to have HEMS installed for free, otherwise thee contract costs £100 per year if you have the paid-for option. The paid-for contract also includes the costs for insurance.

  • Is the work insured?

    Yes, the installation work is fully insured. Despite using trained engineers accidents can happen and any damage to property, or if any leaks occur they are all fully insured.

  • What happens if a storm removes some, or all my solar panels?

    This event is fully insured and Solgain will strive to replace any damaged panels within 72 hours. The only caveat is if a storm damages a lot of roofs in any one area.

  • What about Health & Safety?

    Solgain pays great attention to Health and Safety and ensures all installation work is performed strictly to code.

Any other questions?

Please feel free to ask us anything on your mind: info@northstarsolar.co.uk