Why solar panels, why Zero Chippenham’s scheme?
We were interested in getting solar panels through the Zero Chippenham scheme as we had heard good things from others that had been through the process, and we would always prefer to go with local businesses when we can.
We hadn’t been living in our house for very long and we are planning to stay long term, so we knew we had time to recuperate the initial investment. We didn’t have any building work planned that would change our roof.
We had been seeing more and more panels in Chippenham and other places around the country, and knew that solar panels would be a worthwhile investment for cheaper, reliable energy for our family, as well as contributing to a cleaner environment more generally, by selling any excess back to the grid.
We were a one car family, but thought that might need to change sometime soon (ramping up the parent taxi cab business!), and if we had panels and a charge point fitted we knew an electric car could then be an option, when the time came.
Getting a quote
We registered with Zero Chippenham’s solar panel scheme in October 2022, knowing that their suppliers were very busy, with a waiting list. We had the initial quote through in November, which was explained well to us, and were told installs would be around March time, but it might be later if bad weather over the winter pushed their existing jobs back.
As part of the quote Beazers visited us and answered lots of questions and presented both sides of the case for different options we were considering, for example around batteries, EV charge point and a hot water diverter. They were available to answer follow up questions by email afterwards too. We don’t have any technical knowledge or expertise in this area but the choices were made easy to understand.
We were able to have panels on two different parts of our roof. We didn’t go for a battery at this time, but did opt to pay a bit extra to have a hybrid inverter fitted, to work with a future battery. And also to have an EV charge point and hot water diverter called an ‘Eddi’ installed into our hot water tank, so any excess is used to heat our hot water before going back to the grid. This was a few hundred pounds (we were very pleased with our immediate savings from the Eddi, over the summer after fitting we were using hardly any gas at all, as no heating was on and the water was heated by the sun).
We then had a bit of a waiting game, with a particularly freezing and wet winter over 2022 and into 2023 we expected that our install might be a bit delayed. With the soaring prices for gas and electricity we were glad to have at least started the process.
Our overall experience with Beazer was very good, but communication was patchy. The delays didn’t particularly bother us as I know they are inundated with demand for panels, and are a small local business. Also, Beazer’s didn’t take any money at all from until it was all done, and I think it’s easier to not mind delays if you haven’t given a deposit.
At the end of March, I emailed and they explained they were a bit behind schedule and hoped to be with us first week of May. Once it got to May, Zero Chippenham did a bit of chasing for us and things started to move along.
There was a build up of activity from the beginning of June. Scaffolding went up (included in the quote), and Beazer’s helped me find a plumber to remove the very old water heater from our roof (who was reasonably priced). They confirmed how many panels and the details of our quote, and checked we were happy with the scaffolding.
There were some initial visits for early work, where they were preparing for install. These were short and there was no mess afterwards, including hooks, fitting electricity boxes, positioning charge points, and I was very pleased to hear that included in the quote was a roofer going up afterwards to check and make good.
I contacted our electricity supplier Octopus at this time, and they told me I didn’t need to do anything – which turned out to be untrue, but more on that later.
I think the total install took about a week or just over. We were very impressed by the two young men who did most of the work, very polite and good communication about what they were doing, when and making sure we understood what we needed to.
We were very happy with the install. We are probably on the easier end of customers in terms of expectations, we know jobs get delayed and things don’t always go exactly to plan but we are OK with that as long as the job progresses well once it starts and stays in budget – both of which happened.
I think Beazer’s probably just need a bigger team for the amount of demand!
I know that several of my neighbours have had quotes far in excess of what Beazer charge, there seems to be a perception that solar panels will cost in the 10s of thousands, even friends in the building trade had that perception.
Everything has worked very well with the panels and Beazer’s install. We did have some problems with Octopus, who having said we didn’t need to do anything to prepare for selling back to the grid, then told us we had the wrong Smart meter and they couldn’t fit the right one. After I complained, they did come and fit the right one and by December we were ready to join one of their outgoing tariffs.
We have also purchased a second hand EV, but very recently, and are just in the process of working out how to change the order excess solar is used so any excess generated goes to the EV point first, and then the hot water tank.
Overall very happy, and very grateful to have had the peace of mind from using a pre-vetted supplier.