Solar panel installations have been one of our most popular products since the advent of the feed-in tariff. And within Essex we are one of the most experienced installers operating. Solar PV is still proving extremely popular. Despite the reduction of the feed-in tariff, a good installation can represent a 12% return on investment, far more than savings accounts. Furthermore recent developments such as immersion controller units (which heat your water when the sun shines) increase potential energy savings.
The interesting thing about the solar installation on our eco house is that the panels are fitted into the tiles. This allows a closer mount to the roof itself. Behind the panels the roof is not tiled, instead the panels fit into a tray mounted on the rafters. This allows for the requisite airflow (to aid cooling) whilst providing for a close fit to the roof itself. The advantage of this is purely aesthetic, there are no performance gains. This set-up is popular with new builds which have been designed with solar in mind, which is increasingly becoming the case. It is less popular with existing roofs, i.e. retrofits. Due to the extensive amount of work that has to be carried out to an existing roof to fit the trays, it is more often than not cost prohibitive.
As the attached photo shows, flush black panels set against a slate roof creates a handsome look. On a related note I do believe that peoples attitudes to the attractiveness of roof mounted solar panels are changing. Initially they were considered something of an aberration on an otherwise perfectly nondescript roof (lets face it, most roofs are wholly unexciting). However as they have become more prolific, not only have they gained acceptance, but they also create a feature. When installed thoughtful, i.e. not disrupting the natural symmetry of a roof, they provide a focus point for attention. They reveal a forward thinking home owner, someone interested in make steps towards protecting the environment and themselves from rising energy bills.