Although we’ve been harnessing the solar power since the 1970s, mainstream consumer systems are still a novelty. There is a plenty of people who use geothermal pumps, but when it comes to solar panels, the number of experienced buyers is far smaller. The number of homeowners who have seen a solar system through its full life cycle is even more limited. On top of that, solar panels are a substantial investment, the one you can’t simply walk away from if it turns sour. Nonetheless, the cost of active solar systems is dropping and the number of interested customers is rising. These tips may answer some of the frequently asked questions.
Is my roof suitable?
This is definitely an essential question. If your roof is in shade for most of the day, it might not have a favourable ‘solar window’ to justify the panel costs. Before you move forward with a project, you’ll need to assess this. On the other hand, if you aren’t allowed to make alterations because you rent or live in a multi-unit building, you can buy stakes in a shared community solar installation and have some points shaved off your electric bills.
However, if you do have a suitable and accessible rooftop, you need to make sure it’s structurally safe to accommodate a solar installation. These installations nowadays come with 20- to 25-year warranties, so if your roof needs renovation, it’s much better to do it before the panels go up. Also, make sure you aren’t violating any municipal or communal covenants that ban rooftops for aesthetic reasons.
What kind of solar should I get?
The two most popular commercially available solar technologies that are photovoltaic, or active solar, and thermal, or passive solar. Active solar uses arrays of cells that convert sunlight into electricity, while passive solar uses sunlight to heat water for domestic use. If your home uses a lot of energy for heating, or electric heating is expensive where you live, a solar thermal investment may pay off even sooner than solar power cells. On the other hand, solar thermal systems for residential units are still rare, so it might be challenging to find an experienced professional to install it.
Do I connect it to the grid?
The answer to this question largely depends on where you live, but generally, any time you are connecting with a utility there is a lot of logistics and paperwork to make it work. There is always a question of a fee, as well as how long does it take for the electrical company to hook you up. How and when will they credit you for the electricity you put into the utility grid?
Net-metering, or the practice by which utility companies reimburse rooftop solar the same way they charge users for electricity is still a politically unstable territory. In some areas, utilities pay less for surplus solar, which makes it harder to recoup the installation costs. Make sure you check the utilities’ policies for your location.
Can I trust my installer?
While this applies every time you hire someone to work on your home, solar panels combine the logistics of a construction project with the risks of electrical installation. Look for someone with credentials and great references, as you wouldn’t want an electrician who has never done electrical work to even change your outlet, let alone install a solar power system.
Secondly, keep in mind that the whole project will require some serious budgeting on your part, so you’ll want to keep the secondary and ‘cover-up’ costs to a minimum. Make sure your installer has the adequate equipment to access the roof without disturbing your landscaping features. To this end, a mobile aluminium scaffolding rental is popular, affordable choice.
Reduced costs of consumer-grade solar roof installations have made these energy saving systems popular with mainstream users. However, their cost still poses an investment that takes years to come around. This is why you need to cover all the aspect and make sure such a system is feasible for you.