Consumer solar power is still somewhat of a novelty, though it is fast gaining in popularity in many parts of the country. This means that there isn’t as much public knowledge about this as rival technologies like gas generators. Some people may have completely different expectations than reality, or others might underestimate how much of their energy needs could be covered through solar. Either way, it’s essential that everyone who is thinking of going that route is informed about the technology and how they can implement it in their home. Here are the five things you should know before you have solar panels installed on your property.
Not Every Roof is Suitable
Not every roof can support installed solar panels. There are some cases when the roof may not be able to handle the load. The shape of the roof may not allow for the large relatively flat sections solar panels need. Your roof may be shaded by trees or tall buildings, rendering the solar panels nearly useless. So, you have to make sure that your roof offers a “solar window” that will be wide enough to collect enough solar energy for your needs.
In many cases, the orientation of your roof will be a deciding factor as well. Some contractors will argue that panels should be facing south in order to get the most energy possible, while others will say west. Either way, this will also be something that will need to be looked at.
Another factor to consider is the condition of the roof itself. Solar installations should last 20 to 25 years. If your roof needs to be repaired or replaced in the next few years, that should be done before you put up any solar panels. This way, you won’t have to pay extra to have all your panels plugged out and removed to make major changes.
Also, you should check with your HOA if there are ordinances that prohibit you from adding solar panels to your roof for esthetic reasons. If you don’t own the home, you probably can’t install solar panels, either. That’s a decision the property owner has to make. In these cases, you can still buy power from utility companies that provide renewable power.
You also have to factor in what your backyard and surroundings will look like down the road. If the roof is free of shade now, and you’ve just planted a few young trees around your property, you’ll have to be ready to prune them to keep the coast clear once they’ve reached maturity.
You Can’t Afford to Go with an Amateur
Solar panels are part of a complex electrical system that could include batteries to store energy and connections to the power grid. You can’t afford the risk of someone who knows nothing about electricity to try and wire up your power system. You want to hire an experienced contractor so they can determine which solar power system is right for your case and do all the set-up correctly. One warning sign that you’re dealing with someone who isn’t qualified is that you don’t understand the contract, or worse yet, they won’t provide a detailed one.
Installing solar panels is something that only people who are familiar with solar energy can do. So, it’s essential that you find someone with the proper qualifications and credentials to back it up. The first thing you should check is their accreditation. One of the main regulatory bodies in the industry is the NABCEP. If the contractor you work with is accredited with them, then this is usually a good sign.
Also ask for references from previous clients and make sure they’re recent. Another thing you should consider is whether the company will still be there over the lifespan of your system. While it’s impossible to predict with certainty, a company that is known for its good practices, has all the paperwork, and has been in operation for a while is more likely to stay in operation. The last thing you want is to have something break during the warranty period, only for the installer to not be there anymore.
Take a Look at Your Habits
It’s also very important that you take a long deep look at your energy consumption and see if solar could meet your needs. If you think there could be an issue, then you’ll have to consider changing your habits. Another thing you could do is call in an energy audit. An audit will allow you to find out if your house is leaking energy for instance, and an auditor will also be able to give you a few tips on how you could cut your energy usage.
There Are More Benefits than You Realise
Solar panels provide clean, renewable energy to your home. However, you could have access to additional benefits depending on where you live. Solar installations in San Diego, for instance, receive so much sun that it is possible you’ll be able to pump power back into the grid, possibly generating revenue for you.
San Diego is particularly generous in that they don’t increase the taxable value of your home if you install a solar system unless it is to heat a swimming pool or hot tub. You can also get rebates that offset the installation costs, though you have to go with one of the best solar companies in San Diego to get installation loans and the many government and utility rebates for the installation available.
If you’re looking for a top solar contractor in the city, you can find more information here on solar installations from Semper Solaris. Qualified solar installers like these can help you determine the best solar system for your home to maximize your ROI. They will not only look at your energy needs, but can also adapt their systems depending on how reliant you want to be on solar energy, and how much you can afford.
You can also consider simultaneously installing a solar hot water heater while the solar panels go in. This can provide free hot water to your home, and it can even reduce your heating bills in the winter. Or it can provide eco-friendly hot water for your swimming pool.
Another benefit of solar panel installations is that you have power even if the grid is down. A sweltering summer sun causing rolling blackouts won’t affect you. You’ll likely be able to keep the lights on and run the air conditioner. Depending on the other solar systems you install, you could enjoy a relaxing evening in the hot tub, too.
The Installation is Only the First Step
The solar panel installation is only the first step in enjoying renewable power, because it comes with light but ongoing maintenance needs. For example, you’ll have to do little things like removing leaves piling up on them to maximize the panels’ performance. They’ll likely need to be cleaned to remove dirt, too. Also know what type of precautions and maintenance will be needed if you live in a harsh climate.
Connecting to the Grid
There could be some differences depending on where you live, but this is something you’ll have to figure out before the installation. Know if you’ll have to pay a fee to be hooked up. And also know how long it will take. Another thing you’ll have to know is how much and how you’ll be credited for the energy that you’ll be creating.
This is what is referred to as net metering, but it is fiercely debated and can vary depending on the utility company and/or your state. In some places, you will be reimbursed at the exact same rate the company charges users. But in others, you’ll be paid slightly lower. So, this is something you’ll have to figure out if you want to know how long it will take for you to recoup your investment.
Leasing VS Buying
Another thing you’ll have to consider is whether it’s better for you to lease or buy. In most cases, buying would be the better option, but there are cases where leasing makes sense. Leasing would allow you to get access to cheaper energy without as large of an investment. But you never own the equipment, and they can take the panels once the lease is over. On the other hand, once your system is paid off, you’re enjoying free energy and don’t have to worry about paying any company. Not only that, but you can also use them as a selling point for future prospective buyers.
Know What to Look for in the Contract
You also have to make sure that the contract is as clear as possible before you sign anything. You should see everything from performance expectations to details on financing and ownership. Another thing that people often overlook is that your system might be connected to the web, and information on your energy consumption could end up being used by a third party. This should also be clearly stated in your contract.
What About Water?
You’ll also have to be prepared to work with logistic issues like how water will be running down the roof. Usually, a bare roof will allow water to trickle down to the gutters and unto the ground. However, components like wire harnesses and racking can prevent water from flowing properly. In other cases, your solar system could lead to water flowing in a way that causes damage to your roof over time. If you think this could be an issue, it’s always a good idea to let your installer know. They will be able to give you some clarifications on how the water will be flowing and reassure you.
Another thing you’ll have to be prepared for is possible natural disasters. Even heavy storms could be a cause for concern. If you live in an area known for hurricanes, this is something you’ll have to factor in. While in certain cases, you might be able to get coverage for your solar equipment through insurance, you have to make sure that you are prepared for any event and know what should be done in case of emergency.
Shop Wisely, but Go for Quality
While we do understand that solar panels can get expensive, don’t make the mistake of going solely for the deal. Cheap solar panels usually don’t offer the best results. And while prices have dropped significantly over the years, going for the cheapest model you can find is a sure recipe for disaster.
First off, these cheaper models are usually not made for durability. And this is often reflected in the type of warranty that comes with them. In order for you to be able to recuperate your investment, your equipment has to last, so durability should trump prices when choosing which brand or model you’re going to go with.
Not only that, but cheap panels are more likely to become a hazard as well. You don’t want to end up with a roof on fire just simply you decide to save a few bucks.
Check the Warranty
Last, but not least, it’s also important that you understand what type of warranty you have on your solar panel system. You can have a solar panel warranty that guarantees a certain amount of energy output over a set period of time. This is usually around the 25-year mark, but know that anything lower than that is considered substandard.
You should also get an installation warranty that will cover you if anything was not properly installed and caused the system to malfunction. You should have a warranty on the inverter as well, which will depend on the type installed.
The cost of installing solar panels on your home can rival the cost of a new car. However, unlike a car, your solar panels will only continue to offer value over time. So, make sure that you do your research before you book a consultation with a solar power company and know exactly what to expect when you make the switch.
Thank you for reading.
*Disclaimer – This is a collaborative post*