4 Great Questions to Ask About Solar

By Struan Dunsmore, Solar Specialist

As a solar specialist, my day usually revolves around answering lots of questions. Some good and some… less good. It’s pretty much my whole job, really. Anybody can measure a roof but what sets Greenscape Solar Specialists apart is having the answers to your questions.

The questions tend to be the same: “What’s the lead time?”, “How soon will I see a return on my investment?” and “How do the panels stick to the roof?” Often, it’s the questions you don’t ask that are far more valuable. Join me for four questions I wish more folks would ask, and the very important answers.


What should I avoid when having solar installed?

Under committing! Solar is a go hard or go home kind of thing. Get the bigger battery! In all seriousness, this cuts down overhead expenditure, you won’t need to pay the electrician twice if you install an optimal system at the outset or for scaffolding again if you commit to all the panels on day one – You get the point!

This perspective might initially seem challenging, especially when faced with an unexpectedly high initial quote. However, based on our experience, it’s likely that you’ll revisit the decision eventually. Overcoming your initial apprehension could ultimately lead to significant savings of hundreds of pounds.

Another thing to avoid is cowboy installers.  A roof structure survey, accurate measurement of the space and an MCS certification should be non-negotiable – this is the bare minimum!

This extends to avoiding desktop surveyors like the plague – if a company can’t make the effort to come out to your home, you should be asking yourself how serious they are about doing a good job. If somebody can do it for £3k cheaper without a full, in person survey, ask yourself about the quality of the install!

We are regularly called in to do damage control because customers have been left high and dry by an unscrupulous installer out to snag a quick buck.

Be demanding; it will sort the wheat from the chaff!

Should I have solar panels installed on a north-facing roof?

It depends. On a roof with a low pitch, solar panels can remain quite effective because the shadow from the top doesn’t extend far enough to substantially reduce the energy output for most of the year! We’ll usually shy away from a North-facing roof when it hits around 25 degrees pitch (at a push).

Ask yourself, ‘do I need panels on my North-facing roof?’ Not everybody needs every surface of their roof crammed with solar. A bespoke approach based on your property and priorities can mean the difference between seeing a return on investment in your lifetime or in your children’s. One of our solar specialists can build you a system suited to your needs – we’ll even whack out the crystal ball and provide year-on -year savings predictions based on your consumption and the proposed installation.


Do I need a structural survey?

The simple answer is yes. Firstly, it will make sure your roof can handle the weight! Nobody wants their roof collapsing because of too many panels on a weak roof.

And while you may not need it now, if you sell your house, the first thing the solicitors will ask for is a copy of your roof structure report. We’ve seen it countless times, folks coming to us in a bit of a panic because they didn’t get a report from another installer. Now, we’re all for helping out, but we can’t just slap our name on something we didn’t do – how do we know it’s up to standard? One customer ended up shelling out a hefty sum to get their panels taken down just so they could get their house sold. It’s a bit of a pickle, but that’s how it goes.

Will my battery work in the winter?

Of course! During winter your battery is often the most important part of your system. By load-shifting*, you can maximise your savings while simultaneously reducing pressure on the grid, even when your solar production is suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Charging your batteries up on the cheap with load shifting has the added effect of protecting your battery’s health when the cold is trying to damage it – kind of like the battery in your mobile phone turning off when it’s too cold. The internal energy involved in charging up a battery generates a small amount of heat which is enough to stave off Jack Frost nipping at your battery’s lifespan.

When buying batteries you have more options, each with their own pros and cons to consider, the Tesla Powerwall gives you a comprehensive product with everything built in; whereas a Pylontech battery needs a system built around it. The pylontech will start to struggle to discharge when it gets cold, which can be mitigated with a bit of clever load shifting, while the Tesla Powerwall will keep itself efficient regardless of the season and is reasonably un-troubled by the cold – there are Powerwalls installed in Toronto!


And there you have it! Don’t be shy, ask the smart questions and get the system of your dreams. At Greenscape we’re here on standby, ready to help guide you. Here’s to sunny days ahead, for you and the planet! Cheers!

*Charging the batteries on the cheap and letting them discharge when power would otherwise be more expensive.