I added Ecovision Energy to the list of free solar installers back in June. They are part of the Ecovision group who also install paid solar. Their free solar offer consists of a 25 year contract where they rent your roof. They will install one of their solar PV systems on your roof and maintain it for the 25 year contract period. Over that time you get the electricity the panels produce and they claim the government feed-in tariff payments.
As with all free installers there are certain requirements that your roof has to meet. These requirements are generally more or less the same from installer to installer although most installers prefer large south facing roofs, the larger the better. Ecovision requires a clear roof space of at least 19 square metres and up to 30 square metres for their larger systems. Your roof must be between a 30 to 45 degree angle, the slope of your roof cannot easily be determined but most homes in the UK have sloping roofs between these angles.
The weight of the solar panels can sometimes be a problem when fitted to a roof. A 4 kilowatt solar installation consisting of about 22 panels can weigh over 500 kilograms. Whilst this may not make your roof collapse if your roof is not structurally strong enough then over time the rafters will sag causing a dip on your roof. Ecovision do state on their frequently asked questions page that they do a thorough assessment of the customers roof during the survey to determine what additional weight your roof can take. They do not state however if the homeowner will have to pay to get the roof strengthened in order for the free panels to be installed. It is good however that they do at least check.
Shading is an issue for solar, a free installer will not install panels on your roof if it is subject to long periods of hard shading. This means that if your roof is shaded for long period throughout the day it will make the panels much less effective. Shading usually comes from nearby trees or buildings that cast a shadow over your roof. Hard shadows refer to shadows that cover areas for significant periods of time. If a shadow is only brief or insignificant such as from a TV aerial or a bird landing on the roof then this would not be a significant enough factor to affect the solar panels.
Whichever free solar installer you choose you get the same benefits which is free electricity from the solar panels. At the moment there is not much that distinguishes the free suppliers so it is important to look at the other factors that will be of benefit to you. Ecovision have the advantage of being large enough to cover most of the UK and have an established track record installing solar with their sister company Ecovision Systems.
If your home does not quite meet their requirements or the roof is too small then they have a PowerShare option. This is where you contribute towards the cost of getting the solar panels installed. You contribute £500 plus £5.99 a month towards the maintenance of the system. Several companies offer similar schemes when your house is not an ideal candidate for solar. I am not a big fan of these part paid free systems for many reasons and believe it makes more sense to invest in a small solar system yourself so that you can benefit from both the free electricity and the FIT's payments that you get for generating solar electricity.
If you are looking to get free solar then it makes sense to apply to another company if you get refused by the first. The reason that you get turned down by one installer may not be a reason for getting refused by another. Always make sure that you understand the obligation that you are entering into. A good company like Ecovision will be able to explain your commitments in pain English.
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