10 Things to Know Before Installing Solar Panels

By November 26, 2020January 7th, 2021No Comments

Home solar systems have become increasingly affordable thanks to programs like the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES) which help cover the cost of purchasing solar. As a result of this, more Australians are looking into installing a new system in their homes. However, installing a solar system is more than just putting some panels on your roof. Here are 10 essential things to know before installing solar panels in your home.

1. The Size of Solar Panel System Depends on Your Energy Usage

The amount of energy your home uses will determine the size of the solar panel system you need. On average, most Australian homes require a system of 15-22 panels or a system that will generate 5-7 kW. The size of your system can be minimized if you take the effort to improve your home’s overall efficiency. You can do this by reducing the amount of energy you use daily. Consider installing more energy-efficient appliances, installing new energy-efficient windows and doors, using LED light bulbs, etc. However, just because you see an advertisement suggesting 6.6kW will do the job, remember first it’s your power usage that drives the size.

2. Solar Panels Need A Strong Roof

Your roof needs to in good shape to have a home solar system since solar panel systems weigh around 10-20 kg per square meter. If your roof is old or in need of repairs in the next 5-10 years, then it is recommended that repairs be made before installing solar panels. Fixing your roof first is important for several reasons. For starters, a roof in need of repair may not be able to support the weight of the solar system. In this case, it could further damage your roof and the installed system. Getting your roof repaired before installing your solar panel system also saves you the cost of having your solar panel system dismantled and re-installed (plus avoids the risk of having your system damaged and voiding warranties).

3. The Direction (Orientation) of Your Roof Matters

You want your home’s roof to get the maximum amount of sun exposure. Therefore, the best direction will vary depending on your location. For Australia, you want the portion of your roof where you will be placing your solar panels to be facing North.

Homes whose roof faces East or West can still generate decent amounts of solar energy but will lose efficiency compared to homes that face North. In this case, the pitch of the roof becomes important– the closer to horizontal the better the energy yield. You’ll also want to ensure that you have solar battery storage to minimize your dependence on the grid.

To achieve this, seek out a professional firm that will correctly design your system, looking at irradiance, roof obstacles, anything which could cause your system to perform below expectation and properly documented financial forecasts.

4. Different Types of Solar Technology Available

While we’re all used to seeing the giant black solar panels, this is not the only option available. There are four main types of solar panels you can choose from when installing a solar system in your home:

  • Polycrystalline Solar Panels: Easily recognizable rectangular shape and relatively more affordable.
  • Monocrystalline Solar Panels: More cylindrical in shape and made of pure silicon resulting in improved efficiency, and more expensive.
  • Thin Film Solar Panels: Relatively new and less used for homes given the lower efficiency than crystalline panels and the large amount of roof space needed
  • Solar Shingles: Mimic asphalt shingles while providing solar energy but one of the more expensive options

Now it is true that Poly and Mono panels are very close in performance and your decision will come down to a cost decision.

5. Home Solar Systems Require Several Components

To get your home solar system running efficiently, you’ll need several different components, in addition to your solar panels. Other equipment needed for your home solar system includes:

  • Solar inverter
  • Racking system
  • Performance monitoring and tracking system
  • Battery storage

Each of these components will influence the overall efficiency and price of your home’s solar system.

6. Regular Maintenance is Needed

To maximize your solar panel system’s efficiency, you’ll need to perform regular maintenance. Maintenance includes cleaning the panels with a leaf blower or hose. Regularly performing maintenance will keep the glass on your panels clean so they can absorb the maximum amount of sunlight.

A proper system check by a suitably qualified technician every year or two is also advisable.

7. There’s a Formal Process to Connect to the Grid

Solar panels can be used as a sole power source, which is helpful in remote areas. However, most Australians will want a hybrid solution that allows them to use solar but still be connected to the electric grid. Connecting to the grid means you can pull electricity as needed, but you can also provide power to the grid. Most solar installation companies will take care of this process for you.

8. You Could Still Have an Electric Bill with Solar Panels

If your home’s solar system does not generate enough electricity to meet your home’s needs, you could find that you still have an electric bill. This could be caused by shade falling on your home’s solar panels, limiting the amount of sunlight they can absorb. Additionally, you could have an inefficient solar energy storage system. Simply getting a better solar battery could solve this issue. Otherwise, look into reducing your home’s overall energy efficiency by replacing large appliances with more energy-efficient ones, changing usage habits, etc.

If you suddenly find yourself with a higher electricity bill than you usually have after installing solar, get a technician to look at your system. It could be that your home’s solar system is not working correctly. Malfunctioning systems or faulty panels can cause a loss in efficiency, resulting in a higher dependency on the electric grid, which in turn raises your electric bill.

9. Installing Solar Panels and Your Home Insurance

When you install solar panels in your home, they are considered part of your building. This means that home insurance will cover any damage caused by natural phenomenon like lightning, hail, falling trees, etc. However, to make sure you have enough coverage, you’ll need to contact your home insurance provider and increase the building sum insured. In some cases, this could increase your home insurance premium.

10. Solar Panels Come With Different Types of Warranties

Solar panels rarely come with a single warranty. Instead, you’ll have separate warranties for the panels, other equipment (inverter), and installation.

  • Solar Panel Warranties: This type of warranty covers a guaranteed minimum power output for the life of the warranty, which is often 25-30 years.
  • Inverter Warranties: This type of warranty can vary significantly depending on the brand and specific model. Standard ‘string inverters’ often have warranties of 2-10 years. On the other hand, micro-inverters that connect to individual panels often have warranties of 20-25 years. Inverter warranties often cover material and manufacturing defects and flaws.
  • Installation Warranties: Solar panel systems require proper installation to function properly. Installation warranties cover installation issues such as labour and parts to repair roof penetrations, replacing defective parts, etc. An installation warranty will often last 2-10 years depending on your solar installation company.

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