Solar Panel Installation
Solar energy brings along a pack of benefits on both economic and environmental levels. To put it in simply, solar panels are the easiest manner of obtaining “green” electricity and minimize the earth-damaging effects of conventional electricity production. At the same time, solar panel installation brings a significant diminish of the electricity bill (sometimes totally covering up the electricity needs).
Grid-tie vs. Off-grid Solar Panels
Two types of solar panel installations are available nowadays. One is tying the solar panels to the local electricity network and supplying your home with extra energy from conventional sources when needed. The other one is installing the panels without connecting them (or your house’s electrical system) to the local grid. This means that the house/building will be totally dependable on the electricity produced by the solar panels. In order to decide what type of solar panel installation best suits your house, let’s go through their characteristics.
Characteristics of grid-tie: solar panel installation
Grid-tie solar panel systems are extremely popular in communities and neighborhoods. The procedure involves tying the solar panels to the local electricity network. This enables installing a smaller system which will cover only a portion of the necessary electricity. The other part of the necessary will be thus covered from conventional sources. The system can be gradually increased, if wanted.
Another advantage of these solar panels is the fact that they can lower the electricity bill even when you are not at home. The energy that is produced and not used is redirected towards the other houses connected to your local grid. This means you sell the energy and will receive money in exchange of the solar panel electricity you give.
Due to the fact that they do not require batteries, these systems are considerably cheaper than the off-grid systems.
The only drawback associated with grid-toe solar panel installation is the fact that they will stop functioning when the conventional electricity is down. This is a safety measure required by the electricity provider, as it is dangerous to put power back on a network when people may be working on it.
Characteristics of off-grid: solar panel installation
Off-grid panels are ideal for remote places where conventional energy is not available or is too expensive to install. They function independently and can be connected to batteries to store electricity for the night or cloudy days.
While they represent a great means of producing cost-effective and environmental-friendly energy, there are some drawbacks associated with the off-grid solar panel installation. The first one is that they need to be carefully calculated so as to cover the entire need of electricity of the building. This may result in a large-sized system which requires a considerable investment initially. To this, it adds the cost of batteries (which are not necessary in a grid-tie solar panel system) and the fact that no back-up electricity source is available. Last, but not least, the extra energy (if there is any), will not return any money, but instead stay inside batteries or get lost if no storage space is available at the moment.
Because the installation is not connected to an electricity grid, you will be able to enjoy electricity regardless of the power cut-offs of the main system. In fact as long as your solar panel system produces and stores electricity, you will have nothing to worry about. However, careful planning of electricity consumption is necessary for a reasonable use of the available resources.
Grid-tie vs. Off-grid solar panel installation: Conclusions
When a power grid is available in the installation location, it is advisable to choose a grid-tie solar panel installation. This type of installation brings the benefiter more advantages on the long run with minimum discomfort. When common power network is not available, the off-grid solar panels can provide the necessary electricity supply with a larger initial cost.
The actual solar panel installation process is relatively simple and can last up two days for a normal sized house. However, before purchasing the panels and starting the installation, there are few major issues which must be taken into account. Here is a short list of the things which must be taken into consideration before purchasing and placing the panels on your house roof.
- 1. National and local rules and regulations
It is essential to obtain all the necessary permits before installing the panels. Grid-tie systems may need more paper to fill in than the ones function independently, so make sure you get all the approvals for the type of solar panels installation you choose. Also, understanding the payment procedure and the rates at which the energy you produce will be acquired by the electricity supplier will spare you future issues and will help you estimate your profit more accurately.
- 2. Evaluating your electrical system
If the condition of your electrical system is not good or the system is not designed to support such a procedure, you will need to make the necessary adjustments. It is advisable to ask a specialist for a review before the solar panel installation.
- 3. Evaluate your electricity need so that you can accurately estimate the size of your solar panels
You can find out the exact electricity consumption from the electricity bill. If you have not kept all the past bills, ask your local provider for the info. Then calculate the number of panels you will need in order to cover the entire necessary of electricity. When choosing a grid-tie solar panel installation, you can also start with a smaller system and add up panels along the way. On the other hand, off-grid panels must be carefully planned so as to cover the entire electricity necessary of the house/building.
- 4. Evaluate your roof’s condition
Depending on how large your solar system will be, it will exercise a smaller or greater pressure on your roof. Furthermore, the solar panel installation will change your house’s wind resistance. Therefore, before actually installing the solar panels it is advisable to inspect the roof and check the rafters to make sure they can handle the weight and wind power.
- 5. Check the waterproof sealant suitable for your type of roof
You will need this to cover and seal the holes in the roof which will be done to put the solar panels in place.
- 6. Inverter vs. Micro-inverter
The last thing you need to consider is the type of solar panel system you would like installed. The traditional systems feature one inverter which transforms DC (the electricity produced by your solar equipment) into AC (electricity which can power your electrical devices). More modern systems feature a micro-inverter for each solar panel.
When to Postpone Solar Panel Installation
The solar panel installation must be performed in good weather, following all the security standards applicable in this case. If you want to install your solar panels by yourself, make sure the roof is dry, there is no wind alert and you can safely position your ladder. It is advisable to have second person to help you with the tools, ladder and put in place of the panels. Also, it is not recommended to place the ladder on the roof to reach a higher place. If no other option is available use harnesses and specially designed protection equipment.
DO NOT install the solar panels in the following situations:
- It is raining,
- Immediately after rain, when the roof is still wet,
- During storms,
- When wind alerts are issued,
- When there is snow on the roof or underfoot
- When the ladder cannot be securely put in place
- When there is no safety equipment for adequate protection.
Solar Panel Installation Process
The solar panel installation process is a relatively simple process, if done by professionals. Specialized firms come at your house, make the measures and give you an estimate plan with the solar panel system and the charges associated. Then they come, put the panels in place and tie them to the wiring system. The actual process lasts one, two days at the most. However, the installation performed by specialized firm comes with a higher cost. A more economical alternative is to purchase the solar panels and install them yourself.
If this version is more appealing to you, here are the basic steps which must be followed for a successful installation.
- 1. Choose the right side of the house
When installing your solar panels, it is essential to choose the side of the roof which gets maximum sun exposure. Usually south-oriented roof sides are recommended, but if you do not have enough space on the south part of the roof, other areas can be used too. The appropriate position can be determined using specialized equipment, also known as “solar finders”, which takes into account the geographic position as well as the roof orientation.
- 2. Calculate the appropriate angle
Once you have established the best place for the solar panel installation, it is time to establish the right angle for the solar panels. While the panels can be installed directly on the roof, placing them on a wrong angle may diminish their efficacy.
- 3. Find the best place for the inverter
The next step in the installation process is to find a place for the inverter. When you are installing traditional panel systems with one inverter per system, it is advisable to place the inverter inside the house, in a dry place, away from the reach of children. If you are installing solar systems with micro-inverters for each panel, they will be installed near the panel, sometimes even under it, when possible.
- 4. Install the mounts/ rails
The rails must be mounted on roof’s racks for proper support. Find the racks and place marks on the roofs for guidance. Then drill the holes, insulate the area with silicone or the recommended insulation substance for your type of roof and put the fastening system in place. Then start mounting the rails onto the fastening system. Make sure the rails are well put in place, and then insulate further to make sure no little hole has escaped you. Remember that even a small hole or crack can cause problems on the long run if it is not properly insulated.
If the roof does not have the proper angle, a triangle-shaped support system may need to be installed. You can also try using rails from different providers as some vary in height and you can easily achieve the wanted angle.
- 5. Place the panels on mounts
The panels must be carefully put on the rails, following the producer’s specifications. Do not step on the panels as they break easily. Do not install them in windy weather as they may get deteriorated or may cause accidental falls due to disequilibrium. Do not install them on rainy days or thundery weather as the electric system may be affected.
- 6. Tie the panels to the house’s electric system
The last step of the solar panel installation process is tying them to the house electric system. If you do not have any knowledge in this domain, it is available to leave this step to a professional. Apart from the usual hazards associated with dealing with electricity, a wrong procedure may also damage the house electric wiring or the panel’s electric part, making them useless.
Solar panels can also be installed on the ground. The procedure is similar, with the difference that the ground solar panels installation makes the support system necessary.
Most solar panels come with a 20 up to 25 years warrantee, while the invertors have a 5 to 10 years warrantee. However, with a proper solar panel installation and minimum maintenance, a solar panel can resist up to 30 years and produce an average of 250 kWh annually. Hosing the system once or twice a year with plain water (no detergent or cleaning substance should be used, unless otherwise specified by the producer) will keep the system in good condition and will remove the dirt build-up which affects the panel’s efficacy. A 0.5% of the conversion may be lost annually if the system is not properly maintained.
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