Chris Hopkins, Managing Director of Ploughcroft, the Yorkshire-based Eco-Roof™ specialist, explains why households that have had solar PV installations fitted within the last five years could soon experience costly maintenance issues that they did not sign up for.
To start, let’s do some basic maths. Pitched roofs in the UK were generally designed to last 50-60 years depending on the exposure to the elements. After which time either the back pointing fails, nail fatigue sets in, the roof tile surface wears out and crumbles, or the bitumen felt below starts to fail.
Solar PV Panel Guarantees and Feed-in Tariff Schemes (FITs) last 20-25 years and have been fitted to more than 500,000 homes in the UK*. So if you consider that in 1960 there were 20 million homes and in 2014 there are 25 million homes, then you can see that on average 8-out-of-10 homes in the UK have roofs that are 50 years and older.
This means that in the mad solar ‘gold rush’ that occurred between 2009 and 2012, the vast majority of roofs in the UK that had these solar panels fitted will soon be in need of basic routine maintenance, major roof repairs, or even re-roofs within the next few years. The bad news is the cost of this problem is certainly going to bite. Here’s a typical example:
– A standard, two-story house built in Yorkshire in 1965, which needs five slates re-fixing with no solar panels on the roof, will take two roofers with a pair of roof ladders approximately one-hour to complete. This will cost a total of £200.
– For the same house with solar panels, the cost of repair will be much higher. Firstly scaffolding will be needed to comply with “working at height” rules, costing around £400-£500. Secondly, a solar engineer will be required to isolate the solar system, and then panels will need to be removed from the area to be worked in, costing another £200. Thirdly, a roofing company will need to be used to repair the five slates, adding £200, while a solar engineer will be required to reinstall the panels and re-boot the system, costing a further £200. Finally, the scaffold will need to be taken back down, meaning the project will come to the grand total of £1,000 – £1,100.
So, all-in-all the cost is over five-times more to repair a roof with solar panels, than one without.
What’s the solution for people currently considering Solar Panels?
From our experience, which involves carrying out a lot of costly repairs on roofs that have not been properly surveyed prior to Solar PV Panels fitted, we would recommend paying for an independent qualified and competent roofing company to survey and inspect the roof surface internally and externally and give you a written report on its condition (Ploughcroft’s Eco Roof department currently do this at a cost of £199 plus VAT). Make sure the roofing company surveyor is professionally qualified and carries Professional Indemnity Insurance cover.
Make sure to get any proposed repair or re-roofing works carried out before the solar installation and remember, the Solar Guarantee is at least 20 years, so your roof needs to last that long. Try not to get the report from the solar company you are proposing to use, as there is clearly a conflict of interest, and a lot of solar companies will tell you the roof is fine in order to get the sale.
*According to figures taken from the Department of Climate and Energy Change earlier this year.