More people are moving towards a green lifestyle personally and professionally. In terms of energy, going solar is one among the inexpensive ways to go green by adopting power from a non-depleting energy source, the sun.
The deployment of solar energy has increased exponentially over the last decade due to drop in prices and availability of tax credits. Since going solar is a notable decision, the consumers need to be very well informed beforehand. Since there a lot of installers and solar design firms available throughout the country, the buyer should be knowledgeable enough to understand the basics of PV design. Here are a few factors that need to be considered before going solar.
Energy consumption and utility costs: One should be aware of the amount of energy consumed every month to decide on the amount of energy to be offset by solar panels. Depending on the roof area, solar panels put up could even offset energy close to the total energy consumption. Since utility costs vary from region to region, one should calculate the difference between utility costs and the costs of going solar in order to have a rough estimate of monetary savings due to solar deployment.
Understanding PV system and their associated costs: The PV system consists of solar panels, racking and inverters. Out of these, solar panels are the most expensive ones and they are rated by watts generated per hour under rated conditions. When looking at efficiency charts of the panels, the per-watt cost should also be taken into account for consideration. Depending upon the roof orientation and shading of the roof, appropriate inverters like string inverters or micro-inverters have to be decided. Even though micro-inverters are expensive, they offer a better power solution than string inverters in the case of a shady roof. Racking varies depending upon the type of roof and does not add much to the cost when compared to the other two main components.
Solar production estimate: Solar production estimate depends on multiple factors and the prominent among them include shading, azimuth and roof pitch. Solar panels under shade do not produce expected power and their lifetime also decreases compared to unshaded panels. Since shading varies with seasons, the placement of solar panels is crucial. Azimuth plays a role in calculating the orientation of panel towards the sun. More sunshine the panel gets, better the power output. Pitch of the roof also decides the amount of solar insolation the panel receives.
Design firm / Installer selection: Make sure to get multiple bids from different firms and get to know the design firm or installer including their licensure and ensure that they are in a good standing with the state or county. Finally, understand the financing terms and other conditions before choosing the firm/installer.
It is worth spending a bit more time at the beginning to get things right. Based on the factors said above, do the homework and go solar with much more confidence.