Solar panels are rapidly growing in popularity. They’re environmentally wonderful, increasingly efficient, and getting more affordable every year. A growing number of people across the US are turning to solar panels, not just for the reasons above but also because of the Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) investments that bring the cost down further. If you’re a homeowner with your own roof, solar energy might be on your radar but there are lots of factors to consider before you start making a purchase. After all, every home is unique.
Before we explore the variations in panels and the installation process, it’s important to get an understanding of how the panels actually work. The majority of residential solar panels rely on photovoltaic (PV) panels. These are the large dark panels that you will have seen on homes and in fields. The sun shines onto the panel, photons from the sun’s light are absorbed into the cells, and this in turn creates an electric field. Electricity flows and can then be put through an inverter to power our homes.
Another solar technology is known as concentrating solar power (CSP). This is more like the solar panels you’ve seen in sci-fi films that look similar to huge mirrors reflecting, and concentrating the sun’s light. The energy produced is collected as heat and then used to produce electricity. You won’t see these in a residential setup.
Short answer, no. It’s all down to an adequate provision of sunlight. Without direct, unobstructed sunlight you’re going to be wasting your money. So if there are large trees or tall buildings that regularly shade your roof then solar panels might not be right for you. You also might not have enough roof space to accommodate enough panels to make it worth your while.
The ideal roof situation is a south-facing, sloped roof with a 15-40 degree pitch. That said, that’s the optimum setup, east and west-facing roofs can work efficiently too. It’s also worth noting that the less complicated your roof is the better. Large, square roofs are perfect to create a solar panel field.
The age of your roof will also factor into whether solar panels can be installed on your home. Yes, you could install panels onto an older roof, but anything older than 10 years deems the effort a bad investment. If you’re in a position where you have to replace your roof in the near future (less than 15 years) then you’ll also be hit with the expensive uninstall and reinstall costs for the panels too. Anything you’ve gained from them will be wiped out and then some.
Panels might all look the same but they aren’t quite all alike. The key difference will be in their efficiency. The more efficient the panel is deemed to be the more electricity it will generate over a given time period. Higher-efficiency panels come with a loftier price tag, but sometimes it’s worth spending the extra on the panels to reap the long-term benefits of a more efficient system.
That’s especially true when you factor in the degradation that all panels go through. As the panels age their efficiency decreases. Not by huge amounts but still it’s noticeable. You should expect the majority of panels on the market to have between 80-90% of their starting efficiency after 25 years of use.
There’s no real difference based on where you live either. Just because you don’t live in a typically “sunny” place it doesn’t mean you can’t have solar panels. They’ll work best on days with crystal clear blue skies, but will still generate some electricity when it is overcast and cloudy. You shouldn’t worry about prevailing weather either. Panels are designed to withstand the majority of the elements, in fact, they’ll likely only get damaged if your whole roof is going to get damaged too.
You’ve got two choices when it comes to solar panel installation. Do it yourself or find a professional. This is a major undertaking so only the most experienced DIYers should attempt a solar panel installation on their home. You’ll be much safer (and probably find it more cost-effective) if you bring in the pros.
When you do reach the time to pick a solar panel installer you’ll want to consider the following factors:
Solar panels are complicated pieces of kit that require training and understanding to achieve a proper installation. Look for suppliers that have accreditations from bodies such as the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP). Your installer should be licensed, bonded and they should be carrying the right insurance for domestic installations.
Any installer worth their salt will have a collection of quality reviews from their previous customers. The best will also have a pile of testimonials, explaining the process so that you can see what it might be like to work with them. Check online and ask for recommendations on social media for the best results.
No contractors should be willing to complete an installation before they’ve conducted a site visit. The first thing they should be looking at is the quality of your roof. They might just be a solar panel installation company, but they’ll know if there are roof issues. The best will advise on what you need to rectify before you begin an installation.
Everyone has their price, and you’ll likely get different quotations from different contractors for the same job. Installers with experience under their belt will factor in the size of the job, energy usage requirements, and labor. Just remember that going for the cheapest quote isn’t always the best idea, after all this is a major installation affecting the roof of your home.
Solar panel installation is an exciting undertaking for any homeowner. You gain a bit of ownership over your energy use, you’re helping the planet, and potentially gaining a bit of an investment in the end.
If you’re looking for a solar roofing contractor in New Jersey, look no further than All County Exteriors. Drop in your details and we’ll provide a free solar roofing estimate with our GAF Energy solar-certified team.