How to become an installer of solar systems

Malcolm Wicks, the Energy Minister, recently announced that there would be seven million solar thermal systems in the next ten or so years. It is a wonderful aspiration because in the long run it will save us money, stop us emitting as much carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases as we do and lower airborne pollution. The aspiration will, if fulfilled, improve our lives immeasurably but it needs people to turn dreams into reality.

The solar manufacturers will be able to keep up with demand. At Genersys we can ramp up production to fulfil a genuine large scale demand of 200 times our existing UK market.

But it will take much more than the panels and all the ancillary equipment that a solar system needs to get seven million systems on roofs throughout the United Kingdom; it will take the men and women who will be the installers.

Every single solar system will have to be put on every roof by people. Of course much of the processes used installation are designed to be as pain free and trouble free (and therefore as inexpensive) as possible but in a typical British street of semi detached houses built in the 1930s you could find as many different plumbing and heating systems as there are houses, so you will never be able to remove the human installation element.

Seven million solar systems means hundreds of thousands of jobs. You can work for an installation company but there are excellent opportunities to start your own business as a solar installer. The capital start up costs involved as a solar installer, if you have an existing plumbing business, are moderate. Over time you could build a very successful business as a solar installer without having to invest hundreds of thousands of pounds.

What qualities do you need to become an installer of solar systems? Probably the most important quality is common to all trades people and to all lawyers doctors and other professionals – common sense. You will need common sense in good measure every day you work.

You will also need some trade qualifications. A solar installer will need to know how to plumb. These days plumbing can be easy with snap fitting that push together, but these will not be strong enough to endure the temperature ranges that a solar system will generate in the course of its working lifetime. Knowing how to solder would be helpful but again soft solder will not withstand the heat of a high quality system because the heat will gradually break down the solder causing cracks and weeps.

That means that a solar installer must know how to braze copper pipes together. Brazing was quickly becoming a forgotten art until the solar industry revived it. If you do not know how to braze or want to avoid working at the high temperatures brazing generates in people’s homes then you can use crimping fitting with solar quality O rings. This is an equally strong alternative to brazing and is becoming very popular among existing installers for its speed and durability of pipe connection.

As a solar installer you will have to work on roofs. This is not suited to everyone but again taking commonsense precautions and having the right equipment helps and we find most solar installers soon get the hang of working at heights and enjoy it.

You will need some specific plumbing skills; the key ones are the various solar qualifications, and qualifications to enable you to work with pressure vessels and on unvented cylinders. It helps to have electrical qualifications too, as you may have to do some wiring to installer the pumping station and the electrical digital controller.

In addition to the qualifications you will also need to work with one or sometimes more types of solar panels. At Genersys we have now trained around 150 installers to fit Genersys systems. Our training is free but it is product specific and is practical and “hands on”.

Well, so much for the “hard” skills. They are very important to ensure that you do a good job, but you also need the “soft” skills. You or your employees will be working in people’s homes, with their plumbing. This, as every plumber knows, is sensitive.

You will need to have to explain to your customers in whose home you are working, what you will do, how long it will take, and stick to it. Generally it is better to tell your customer that the job will take two and a half days and surprise them by finishing in a day than do it the other way around.

You will have to train your employees to show respect for people’s homes – it needs a different approach from that of working on a building site and as a solar installer you want your customers to bring you as much positive feed back and recommendations as possible. People will always be concerned about the cost of the installation but would rather pay a bit more to have it done in a trouble free manner and without future problems.

Those are, I think, the key points involved in developing a business as a solar installer. We now have a very clear signal from the government that solar installation is a business which will be successful in the future. If you are interested in this then why not look at our Genersys website, and enquire about becoming a Genersys installer. We want the best people to install our products and we think that solar system installation will be a very good business in the long term – not only as a way of earning your living and supporting your family, but also as a way of making a very positive contribution, through your work, to our future.

14 Responses

  1. Please contact me if possible about working with my construction company to start doing solar panel installation. I need to get certified here in the US – New Jersey but am unsure as to the requirements or process.

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