Solar panels are increasingly common in both residential or commercial buildings. Using solar energy helps homeowners become more independent and can cut down on extreme swings in your electric bill during hot summers. For business owners, using solar energy helps free up money that can go for more important business uses. That said, solar panels are complex, and customers need to understand various installation requirements and production realities that can impact the final installation’s overall satisfaction.
The amount of energy you require is measured in watts, and the output must be sufficient to cover the number of watts you use throughout any given month. This overall watt use is measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh), and your current utility company will give you a report of the average kWh that you use during any given month.
In the same way that the electricity provided by your electric company is available day by day, you need to determine how much electricity your solar system will produce on a day-to-day basis. To do this, you should divide by 30 your overall energy usage as indicated by the monthly kWh. Doing so will provide you your daily electric usage in kilowatt-hours.
Typically, a standard solar panel will produce 1.3 kWh per day. If you use 30 kWh per day, you will need approximately 23 panels because 30 divided by 1.3 equals 23.07.
This overall number is important because a solar panel can measure up to 18 square feet (SF). If you need 23 panels, the minimum area required by your system equals approximately 414 SF of space for the panels. Because the panels are installed with a little space between each of them, you might need as much as 800 square feet for the entire installation. Knowing this allows you to determine if the panels can go on your roof or if they need to be placed in an open and sunny area somewhere in your yard.
For any installation, you need to orient the panels in a southward direction. However, doing so might be difficult for certain homeowners if the home is built along the contrary axis. In a situation where the house is not facing the right direction or if the roof has multiple slopes, you might need to install the panels in sections across the roof.
The direction also involves the panels’ angle, and the ideal angle changes depending on the season and time of day. For spring, the best angle is between 40 or 45 degrees. However, for the summer, the best angle is somewhere around 20 or 25 degrees. To make things a bit more complex, the roof’s pitch will impact the angle of your panels. Depending on your particular situation, you might opt for what is known as a dual-tilt system. A system that can tilt in two ways allows you to maintain an ideal angle toward the sun, which allows for greater power production.
Solar energy is made up of radiation, which the panels can convert into usable electricity. This electricity is then stored in batteries that can provide consistent power during cloudy days or during the night when harvesting solar energy is impossible. Such batteries require their own storage space, and the number you need depends on the overall power consumption of your home.
With batteries, however, it is important to note that you do not want to drain the batteries all the way to zero. Doing so can reduce the life of the batteries, and it also increases charge time. As a result, you need to budget enough money and space for enough batteries to provide enough power for your home without going below 40 or 50 percent capacity.
4. Installer experience
When it comes to solar energy, not all installation experts are created the same. Despite all the DIY videos on YouTube in which average people install their own systems, some states require a certified electrician to install solar panels. Knowing this, your solar panels company should be comprised of bonded and certified electricians that are experienced with installing solar panels on a variety of different roof types.
Having experience with a variety of roof types will ensure the panels are mounted properly. This is important because the panels weigh a lot and need to be fixed property to the infrastructure of your roof. Additionally, proper installation will ensure that no damage is done to your home. An experienced installation expert can plan around tricky roofs, and he or she will also understand how to work safely on electric systems while standing at an angle two or three stories above the ground.
Finally, not all systems are the same. Consequently, you will need to ensure your installer is familiar with all the components of your particular system.
5. Things that impact energy production
State solar rating
Obviously, cloudy days will obstruct your system’s ability to harvest enough solar energy to power your home. Additionally, the number of sunny days in your region will have a long-term impact on your system’s performance. As a result, you need to know the overall solar rating of the state or location in which you live.
For California as well as Arizona and New Mexico, the average rating ranges from 4.5 kWh to 7.5 kWh per day. This is understandable as the desert skies are clear and blue most of the time. This output potential changes, however, as you move to the north where Oregon and Washington can only produce between 3.5 to 4.5 kWh per day.
If you live in the Midwest, you should expect 4.0 and 5.0 kWh per day, and if you live along the east coast, you can expect between 3.5 and 4.5 kWh per day. The potential in Alaska drops to 3.0 kWh to 3.5 kWh per day, and Hawaii performs at approximately 4.5 kWh to 6.0 kWh per day.
Of course, you will want to place your solar panels away from shade trees. This can be a problem for homes that depend on shade trees to help keep the yard or home cool.
Additionally, you will want to ensure that no parts of your home or parts of other buildings cast shadows on your solar panels during certain hours of the day. Obstructions and shadows can create problems harvesting solar energy even if you install your panels away from trees, so you need to ensure your technician can advise you on any potential problems.
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