Congratulations, you’re thinking about installing solar panels! This emerging industry is already booming and it’s easy to understand why. Solar panels allow you increased energy independence, more autonomy on from where your energy originates, increased house valuation and cheaper utility bills.
For these reasons, there are over one million houses in the U.S. which feature solar panels — according to the Solar Energies Industry Association. However, regardless of their well-founded fan base and increasing popularity, solar panels remain an emerging market and it is hard to find many people who are seasoned in that art of how to choose, install and maintain them.
That’s why we’ve compiled a list of questions suggested by industry experts that you need to ask yourself before adventuring forward into solar panel world.
Is Your Roof Suitable for Solar Panels?
- Sunlight — obviously a fairly self-explanatory point, but roof orientation and shading are the key points which will determine whether or not solar panels are worth your time. Vikram Aggarwal, CEO of EnergySage.com reassures that “Anything other than North is fine,” and while South works best, West then East in that order should also suffice.
Aside from natural direction of your roof, the shading is also a concern. Experts report that you will require circa five hours of continuous sunlight, therefore other homes or buildings or trees which could cast shadows need to be risk assessed.
- Shape — the majority of solar panel systems require a total of 300 square foot of panelling as well as specific placement in order to produce the most power. If your roof cuts eccentric angles and is tight on space, perhaps best to avoid the panel route for now.
Is Your Roof Ready for Solar Panels?
- Structural integrity — naturally this is going to be a main concern for you, as incorporating solar panels will put more weight on the frame of your roof. There is the danger of roof collapse therefore ensure you have a trained tradesperson determine if your roof requires any extra support to sustain the weight of solar panels.
- Repairs — most solar panels come with warranties of over 25 years, therefore assuming that with some luck your panels won’t need removal within a quarter of a century, you’d better hope that neither does your roofing!
What Kind of Solar Make Sense?
There are two main solar technologies available, photovoltaic – sunlight to electricity, and thermal – sunlight to heat water or air. It would make sense to understand your household’s largest energy expenditure area and decide where you could do with some further efficiency! Most solar panels provide an energy efficiency rating between 11 and 15 percent, which is the percentage of solar energy that is being converted into usable electricity.
What About the Actual Connection?
Understand your own connection to the grid. Yes, the logistics involved in connecting with a utility are a short-lived nightmare – do you pay a premium, how long before you’re connected-up, when will you receive credits for generated energy from your solar panels? Net-metering is a term you’ll become familiar with and is when your electricity company, for example, pay back solar-users at the same rate they charge, however different states have different versions of this to be educated on what to expect.
Just like electricians or builders, the installer for your solar panels must come with credentials and references. If possible, search out for accreditations from the North American Board of Certified Practitioners. Secondly, choosing an installer with as much experience as possible in this trade will hopefully also ensure they are a long-standing outfit. Some companies can disappear before the warranty expires, so do your homework!
There is indeed a fair few details to keep in mind, however hopefully you’ll be better equipped to ensure you have life-long solar panels by going through the check list above! Luckily, there are also plenty of additional sources to help you answer whatever questions you have, but should this prove difficult, consult a solicitor when possible.