Planning, insurance and maintenance

For many home solar installations, there are only limited requirements for planning permission, insurance and maintenance, as outlined below.

Planning permission

The Government’s planning portal states that installing domestic solar panels “is likely to be considered ‘permitted development’ with no need to apply to the council for planning permission” but there are some “important limits and conditions”.

For panels on a building restrictions include:

  • Panels should be sited, so far as is practicable, to minimise the effect on the external appearance of the building and the amenity of the area.
  • Panels should not protrude more then 200mm or be higher than the highest part of the roof.
  • Panels must not be installed on a building that is within the grounds of a listed building or a site designated as a scheduled monument.
  • If a property is in a conservation area or World Heritage Site, panels must not be fitted to a wall which fronts a highway [so roof-mounted panels are OK].

Check guidance on the planning portal for further advice, including for stand alone (ground-mounted) panels. Taunton Deane residents can check online if their property is a listed building or in a conservation area.

Consent can be given for solar panels on listed buildings, such as when they do not damage the structure and cannot normally be seen. As examples of what can be done, the National Trust has installed solar panels on Dunster Castle and there are a number of churches in Somerset and the UK with solar panels.

Insurance

Many building insurance policies cover solar panels installed on your roof, but you should check with your insurance provider first and check what they will cover and it is best to write to inform them when you have had panels installed.

Maintenance

Solar electricity systems need very little maintenance, but you should check with your installer what will be required.

Solar panels should be kept clean, but rain will wash off most debris if the panels are tilted at 15° or more. If needed, the top surface of panels can be cleaned with a high pressure hose or with a long-handled soft brush, water and maybe a gentle cleaning agent, such as washing-up liquid. Some window cleaners can also provide a solar panel cleaning service.

Your installer should provide details of any maintenance checks and a guide to inverter fault signals. The amount of electricity generated is a good guide to whether the system is working properly and you will soon get used to how this varies with the seasons and roughly what can be expected if you take regular readings, even if only monthly or quarterly.

Solar electricity panels should continue working for 25 years or more, although their output will reduce a little over time, probably by about 0.5-0.8% per annum. During this period, possibly after 10-15 years, the inverter is likely to need replacing. These currently cost about £1,000 for domestic systems and this should be the only significant maintenance required during the lifetime of your panels.

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