For many people thinking about solar, it can be pretty easy to get confused or overloaded with all the information out there. With that in mind, we created a simple 10 point quick start guide that covers many of the basics & things most often left unsaid.
The type and size of a system depends mainly on what you wish to accomplish, your usage, home orientation, shading, aesthetics, and numerous other factors.
In most cases, every dollar spent improving your homes efficiency saves you a dollar or more on the cost to install a system to fully power your home. Conservation costs nothing and can help one save even more but is harder for many to accomplish.
While one can install solar panels anywhere, the optimum location involves un-shaded areas exposed to the southern sky for the bulk of the day and year.
Be sure you know what the applicable building codes, easements, covenants and restrictions are as they can have a major impact on what one can do.
Solar electric and water heating require a back-up source as the sun doesn’t shine 24×7. For many this means net-metering on a grid-tied system whereas remote or inaccessible sites might be better served with battery backups.
Many individuals recommend you consider solar water heating systems before you ever consider electricity production. In reality, it depends on your usage & fuel sources. With that said, have no fears as there are numerous systems designed for your climate from the hot desert to the freezing north.
Solar hot water systems also exist for pool owners which can extend the pool season generally for another month or two depending on your climate. One item to consider though is that many require the pool pump to be running for them to work.
Solar systems do not have to stick out like a sore-thumb; there are many collectors that can be laid flat on the roofs so they appear to be skylights. There are also BIPV or Building Integrated PV systems that are integrated into building components like roofing and glass. With that said there may be certain trade-offs in performance.
Solar Power arrives in DC (Direct Current) form whereas power from your utility arrives in AC (Alternating Current) form. In order to change the DC form to AC an inverter is required.
While there are many “DIY” kits or “informational” videos available you really should bring in a pro for not only your safety, but for others. This doesn’t even begin to factor in that many of the “DIY” kits can only power a radio or light-bulb.
Additional Websites & Information:
- Federal & State Incentives: www.dsireusa.org
- National Renewable Energy Laboratory: www.nrel.gov
- Sandia National Laboratory:
- HTRC Articles on Solar Power, Going Off-Grid, Energy Efficiency, and Conservation