We understand that whilst self-build & renovation projects are thoroughly exciting, they can also be demanding and time-consuming. If you are considering building your dream home, renovating or planning an extension, we have listed below what you will have to consider and how solar PV can fit into your project.

Financing your self-build or renovation project

To begin, you will need to determine three financial factors: how much money you have, how much money you can borrow and how much your project is going to cost.

If it is a new-build, you will also have to factor in the price of the plot in your total estimate and at this point, your cost is likely to be guesswork. However, you can contact individuals or organisations in the industry for advice. There are also a number of online calculators which can provide you with an estimate. These calculations are based on factors like your geographic location, estimated build size (e.g. number of storeys), build quality and who you’re contracting to work on the project.

In regards to borrowing, you will be able to get an idea of how much you could lend from your chosen bank. However, you may want to consider a bank or organisation who specifies in the industry. For example, BuildStore offer mortgages specifically for self-build and renovation projects. You may find better rates with a building society than a bank, though.

If you are green-minded, you may want to consider a lender like Ecology Building Society. They lend specifically to those renovating, converting or building properties with sustainability and energy efficiency in mind. They even reward borrowers whose properties are energy efficient (therefore have lower carbon emissions) with discounts off the standard variable rate of the mortgage. You can save more if you fancy the challenge of building a Passivhaus, for example. With a solar PV installation, most existing properties and new-builds will increase their EPC rating by a grade.

Building an eco-efficient home is great for the planet but also benefits you with savings on your bills.

The design stage of your project

If you are building a new home or property, firstly you will have to locate a plot of land. As well as checking in with estate agents, you can research yourself either in person or on Google Maps. Make sure you are registered for the Right to Build scheme. This scheme is part of legislation introduced in 2016 to encourage more self-build projects. It basically means your local authority will help you find a plot of land to build on.

Your chosen plot of land may or may not have a grid connection. If it is the latter, you will likely need to get in touch with your local district network operator (DNO) about being quoted on getting a grid connection. If their quote isn’t within your budget, you may want to consider an off-grid energy solution. We have a dedicated department for these circumstances and they can advise you further.

You should already have in mind what you would like to achieve. This will be a mix of needs and wants — from how many bedrooms to if there is space for your man cave — that can be presented to the person who will help design your home.

Unless you are qualified, you will likely have someone else design and manage your build. For design, this may be an architect or a draughtsman, for example. For the build, it may be the same or a building manager. It is important that you have the design in compliance with your budget or you will have to make changes and waste both money/time. Though, it is cheaper to make changes at this stage rather than after you have broken ground. Your designer will help your project get through planning and building regulations permission.

At this point, you may want to ask your designer to include solar panels in the plans before submission. A member of our team can view the plans to ensure measurements are correct. All local councils now have sustainability targets to meet and renewable energy policy to enforce.

Planners will use a ‘Standard Assessment Procedure’ (SAP) calculations to ensure the new-build meets current building regulations. This is the official government approved system for assessing the energy rating of a new property.

Self-builders who fail to get through building regulations enquire asking if we can install one or two panels in order to help get their plans approved. What you should consider is accommodating a larger installation in advance so your future-proofing the property. With rising energy prices, homeowners are seeking to become more self-sufficient. It would be a waste of money installing the minimum amount of panels required to help get approval. You can also design a system which actually looks like a modern energy solution (integrated solar or PV slate).

Breaking ground and starting the work

Unless you’re managing the build yourself, you will be dealing with contractors directly throughout the build. You should meet with several builders and determine which can effectively help you achieve your goals, in terms of your schedule and budget. You may need to make some changes if what you think could be done is non-achievable.

In order for everything to run smoothly, you should try to be proactive and know in advance what is happening each day of the build. Be it a new-build or a renovation, you would want to schedule your solar installation date when you are in the process of putting the roof on. If you’re interested in having integrated solar or PV slate, we would install this once the felt and batten is finished.

The ideal time for us to install any type of installation is when the first fix of electrics is complete. For existing properties, this may already be the case, but if it is a new-build, you would possibly have to wait until a later stage in the build.

At what point should you consider solar PV for your project?

The Self-Build & Renovation Department take a consultative approach. We recommend getting in contact as soon as possible so we can provide you with ongoing information and news throughout the project. The renewable energy market is one of the fastest evolving industries.

If you are certain you want solar PV to be integrated into your design, or even that you are obliged to install a certain amount of panels, we can help provide expert advice. We already liaise with many architects and designers who ask us to check if the measurements for a possible solar installation in the plans are correct.

There are a number of reasons why you will want to consider integrating solar PV into your project. Specifically for self-builders, you can save on the VAT for both a solar installation and battery storage. Solar PV has a VAT of 5% but battery storage has a VAT of 20%. There is a government incentive in place which reduces the VAT of battery storage to 5% when installed alongside a solar system though.

If you’re renovating or extending, you will pay the normal rate on VAT for solar PV but also all parts and labour involved. If the property has been empty between 2-10 years, a reduced rate would apply. If it is over 10 years, this would be a conversion and you would pay 0% VAT.

We really get involved once your project’s detailed planning is approved. This means one of our technicians can view your plans and design a system based on your exact measurements. What we offer as a company are completely free of charge site surveys, under no obligation. A member of our team would meet with you, learn what you would like to achieve and design a system which fits within your vision.

If you are at a later stage of your project, we can still work within your time frame. We often have customers who have agreed solar installations with other companies but eventually the agreement has fallen through. We can work with you and ensure a high-quality installation, even if under budget and time constraints.

We can also make recommendations on other companies. We work closely with various other groups in the industry so you know who to enquire with and trust. Many people wanting to develop an eco-efficient property will consider multiple renewable energy sources or technologies. For example, installing a heat pump means you don’t have any gas expenditure but your electricity prices would rise. Solar PV can help offset against the running costs of this.

By getting and staying in touch, we can consistently update our records with information and eventually, when you’re at the correct stage of the build, design you the perfect energy solution.

Why you should include solar PV in your plans

For self-builders and renovators, there are a number of reasons why solar makes sense. The main factor is reducing your energy expenditure. The UK’s energy market is volatile with little competition and rising energy prices due to the big six’s oligarchy. And even though there are positive advancements being made, consumers are requiring to protect themselves financially more. For example, will electric vehicles cause such an increase in demand for energy from the grid that suppliers will raise rates to manage this?

We are becoming more electricity dependent as a society. Many new builds will be incorporating alternative heating systems to traditional gas boilers. Solar PV can help offset any long-term running costs for the property.

With battery storage, you can be even more self-sufficient. This will help you use free energy produced by the solar system even when your panels aren’t producing. With advancements in digital technologies, batteries can complete more tasks than just solely charging from your system.

Many battery models can operate during a power outage. Giving your home, community or business constant power. Certain models can also charge from the grid. So, as the energy market is evolving, you can switch over to a time-of-use tariff and charge any remaining capacity of your battery with cheap electricity. This guarantees you the use of free and cheap electricity 24/7, throughout the year. All of this can be done automatically or controlled within an application on your smart device.

We also install the EV charger Zappi which is manufactured MyEnergi. So, if you are considering an EV, you can use any surplus energy produced by your solar system to charge the vehicle.

If you can have a solar installation completed before the 31st of March 2019, your system may be eligible for the Feed-In Tariff scheme. This is a government subsidy, paid out through the Generation & Export Tariffs, which pays you for producing solar energy. These earnings are paid to you each quarter for 20 years, tax-free and index-linked.

With improvements in aesthetics and reductions in costs, you can install a solar system which fits in with your design. By having an integrated system, you will also benefit from cost saving advantages such as less roofing materials and scaffolding that’s already on site. Self-builders and renovators both aim to use high-quality and long-lasting materials, but this can cause a strain on your budget. You would be replacing these materials with a product which actually generates you capital.

Perhaps solar PV might not be at the top of your priorities and you’re currently busy researching the perfect tiles for your bathroom or the best fridge for your new kitchen – but remember, solar panels are one part of your build that will give you a return on investment. Whilst looking sleek and modern, the panels will be busy working behind the scenes reducing your carbon footprint and energy bills. When you finally decide to purchase that fridge – your solar energy can power it and your other home appliances for free.

So, if you’re sure you want solar PV or at least want to see if it’s viable, get in contact with our Self-Build & Renovation Department. They’ll be able to provide you with all of the information and advice so you can make an informed decision.