Solar has picked up a lot of ground in the last few years, not least of all because of the many solar panel benefits you can enjoy. You can see utility bill reduction, better home value, and do a little good for the environment.
Even the federal and state governments are encouraging homeowners to install solar panels. You can get federal tax incentives and state-level incentives and rebates.
If you’re considering renewable energy for your home or have a solar panel installation coming up, you’re likely wondering how you can best prepare your home. Keep reading for our quick guide on getting your home ready for solar.
Most homeowners assume that the solar panels will go on their roof. That’s one option and a popular one.
Many home builders aim for good southern exposure. That means your roof will get excellent southern exposure as well, which maximizes the amount of electricity your system can generate. That doesn’t mean you’ll automatically get a roof installation.
Some homeowners go in for a ground installation instead. Why?
Not every roof enjoys good southern exposure. Natural features on the land might mean your home is positioned with poor southern exposure. In cases like this, you may favor a ground installation.
A good ground-based solar system still requires good southern exposure and enough clear space to install it. Yet, it typically provides more options for positioning than a permanent structure like an existing home.
Once you firm up where you want your system, you’ll likely have a meeting with an engineer or with the solar company for ground installation. These meetings let you pin down exactly how large of a system you need or want to meet your needs.
For example, do you just want to trim down that monthly utility bill and give mother nature a high-five? A 3 kW system can produce enough electricity in many locations to achieve that end.
If you’re looking for a system that all but replaces your grid-based electricity needs, you’ll need something bigger. Such as a 5kW or even 9kW system. That means more panels and possibly more expensive panels.
Once the engineer or solar panel installation company knows the size of the system, they can start doing the math. The structural engineer will evaluate your home’s roof for strength. For ground installation, the solar company can tell you how much clear space you’ll need on the ground.
Speaking of your roof, it may need some work. If you plan on installing a large system, that’s a lot of extra weight on your roof. There is a good chance your roof can’t support that weight as it stands.
That means you’ll need a contractor to come in and shore up the roof so it can support that additional weight ahead of the solar system installation. Your solar company can often help you pick a reliable general contractor for this work.
You must also consider the state and age of your roof. Barring some kind of damage, a typical solar system holds up for about 25 years. Your average asphalt shingle roof will last, give or take, around 20 years. Unless you put a new roof on very recently, you’re looking at uninstalling and reinstalling your solar system in 5 or 10 years.
If your roof is showing its age or is more than about a decade old, you might want a new roof installed in addition to shoring up the general contractor does. That means your roof will likely hold up for most of the solar panel system’s working life.
You may also need a different roofing material. Solar systems can go over most roofing materials, such as shingles and tiles. If your home uses wooden shakes or slate for a roofing material, solar companies usually won’t install over them.
Remember that all-important southern exposure. If you want that for your solar system, it can mean some landscaping in advance. If there are a lot of trees near your house, you may need some of the limbs removed or even some of the trees removed.
Solar systems work most efficiently under direct sunlight. Any shade will cut deeply into the systems’ overall efficiency.
If your ground installation will take more room than you expected, you might also need some professional help. You’ll likely need the help to clear away brush and knock back any ground cover plants or overgrown weeds.
While there is an electrical code that applies to all new buildings, older buildings often get a pass on those requirements if the existing system isn’t dangerous. For example, a home built in the 1990s likely doesn’t meet all the current codes but probably isn’t unsafe if it was installed properly.
Solar system designs more or less assume that your home meets current code standards. So, you might discover that your current electrical panel won’t work with a solar panel system.
In some cases, the panel is fine but can’t carry enough amps. Let’s say your older home came with a 100 amp panel. If your solar system needs a 200 amp panel, that old panel must come out.
You need the new panel in place before the solar system installation.
This information should come out early in the consultation process. Since almost all locales require a licensed electrician for grid-connected solar systems, your solar company can likely help you find a local electrician to do the work.
Prepping Your Home for Solar Panel Installation
Since there are homes dating back as much as a century or two, there is no formula for prepping your home. What your home needs may not look anything like what your neighbor’s home needs for a solar installation.
The areas where you should pay special attention are your roof, electrical system, and landscaping. As those are the areas where you can exert the most control and make the most fixes.
Altair Solar specializes in solar installations and repair for Orange County. For questions or more information about a solar installation, contact Altair Solar today for a consultation.