Ready to go solar? We will guide you through the decision-making process and tell you everything you need to know.
10 Things to Consider When Buying Solar
1. Make sure you understand the cost of a solar system
There are many factors that determine the cost of your solar system. Some of these factors include your energy consumption, home size, solar panel type, and solar incentives. On average, the cost of a solar system in the U.S is around $20,000. Check out our cost benefits section to help you learn more about your costs.
2. Determine how much you can save with solar
Going solar is a great long-term investment with significant financial gains. There are many opportunities to save with all of the solar incentives offered. Some include the federal investment tax credit, solar rebates, state-specific policies, and performance-based incentives (SRECs and net-metering). Find out more about savings here.
3. Know your financing options
The easiest part of going solar is deciding to do so. However, upfront costs make it expensive. Nevertheless, there are many financing options such as solar leases or loans you can consider to help you go solar. Check out our solar financing section to explore the vast variety of options you have.
4. Understand if your home is feasible for solar
There are many requirements for a roof to meet in order to be considered a suitable match for solar installation. If your roof is not suitable for solar, you should look into ground mount solar panels if you have space. Ground mount systems are built into the foundation at ground level. Without the restriction of the roof, they allow for the perfect alignment that optimizes the sun’s production.
5. Learn about solar warranties
A system warranty is a guarantee from the solar manufacturer/installer to protect your solar investment. There are two types of warranties: performance and product warranty. The performance warranty ensures that the solar installation will meet and/or exceed a production threshold over a period. Panels with our partners guarantee performance at 80% of its power for 25 years! If the system doesn’t operate at the expected baseline, the performance warranty will support you in repairing or replacing the problematic panels. The software that we use makes it easy for us (and you, the customer) to monitor the system. The product warranty covers equipment failure and defects.
6. Choose your solar installer wisely
Solar panel installation companies are the companies involved in directly installing your solar panels, inverters, and connecting the necessary wires in your home. Solar panel installers also are responsible for helping you maintain your solar system over its life and repair any damages. When you consider going solar, it is important to choose the right solar panel installer and make sure they understand your needs. Sign up with us and we will help you with your options.
7. Solar maintenance
One of the best parts about having solar panels is that they require very little maintenance. You will just need to make sure that they are clean and are not shaded. Although, generally, high-quality solar panels are self-cleaning due to inevitable rain. To learn more about maintenance, click here to go to our solar maintenance section which tells you everything you need to know.
8. Solar panels work without direct sunlight
When considering solar, people often worry about what happens on a cloudy or rainy day and how those weather conditions affect energy output. Thankfully, photovoltaic panels can use either direct or indirect sunlight to produce power. When clouds are blocking the light, these panels still function accordingly. Solar production is less, but it is not at zero. Rain is neither a concern because it helps the systems operations by washing away dirt from the panels.
9. Solar systems in winter
Solar panels continue to work effectively during the winter times. Impressively, the cold temperatures and snow can help solar panel output. This is because the snow helps reflect light, which in turn improves PV performance. Find out more about solar system productivity in winter here.
10. Types of solar panels
When deciding to go solar you should consider the types of solar panels you may want to use for your system. The three most common solar panels are monocrystalline PV panels, polycrystalline PV panels, and thin-Film PV panels. These three types of solar panels differ in material, efficiencies, and costs. So you will need to choose which solar panel type is right for you depending on your preferences and needs. In our solar 101 section, we tell you which solar panel type might be right for you. If you need more help, sign up with us!
Are Solar Panels Right For You?
Solar energy is becoming a more affordable option. Depending on where you are living, different types of energy may be a better option for you. If you are struggling with the decision to make the switch to solar, keep reading to see some tips on whether or not solar may be the right option for you.
Your roof is most likely where solar panels will be installed, so it is important to understand everything about your roof when deciding whether or not your home may be suitable for solar panels. There are many factors that determine the productivity of your roof in relation to solar panels.
The position of your roof has an impact on the effectiveness of your solar panel system. It is ideal for solar panels to have 5 hours in the sun a day.
- South slanting roofs will be the most optimal for sun absorption
- North-facing roofs are the least desirable
- If you live in an area with a lot of tree coverage or other objects that will shade your home, your roof may not get adequate sun exposure.
The angle and material of your roof are also contributing factors. The space for your solar system must be at an angle between 0 and 45 degrees. If your roof is too steep, the system will not be able to be installed. The material of your roof will also determine the cost of installation.
Solar panels are most easily installed on asphalt shingles or corrugated metal roofs. Installation on slate or tile roofs is more complex and costly. Solar panels should not be installed on a wood roof because of the potential fire hazard.
Local Climate and Sunlight Quality
When determining if you should switch to solar, most people think that they have to live in a warm, sunny place to optimize their sun exposure. This narrative is false; solar panel output actually improves in colder temperatures. The energy production efficiency of solar panels declines as temperatures climb between 87 and 91 degrees. This means that photovoltaic solar panel production is most efficient in colder temperatures. High-efficiency solar panels convert direct and indirect sunlight into energy, so they work on cloudy days as well.
Before fully committing to solar, we recommend that you check to see how much sun your house is getting. Reach out to us and we will help you. The average days of sun that your state gets will help you determine how productive your system will be. This will also allow you to determine if any additional parts are needed for your system.
Regulations and Local Rates
It is likely that there will be different regulations on choosing a solar system depending on where you live. If you live in a neighborhood governed by a homeowner’s association, there may be regulations about solar panel installation. It is likely that there are local requirements for permits as well, whether they are coming from the city or a county building department. Depending on your state, the cost of your electricity will vary. Solar panels are more valuable to you if you live somewhere with high electricity rates. You can check out this map of electric rates to see how your state compares.
Depending on your state, there may be different incentives for switching to solar. There is a federal tax credit, but many states offer other benefits on top of that. You can find your state in this database to see what options are offered for you. Another way to earn money from solar is if your state offers net metering. Net metering occurs when the power company buys your excess electricity. You can see if your state offers this option here. Lastly, if your state is an SREC (solar renewable energy certificate) state, you can earn even more money. These states require power companies to generate a portion of their electricity from renewable sources such as solar, and they will pay you to help them. For every 1,000 kilowatt hours of solar power you generate, you earn one SREC which your utility will then buy from you.
If you can afford it, buying your solar panels outright will bring you the biggest return on your investment. If not, then you could get a solar loan. However, if you still aren’t convinced that solar is the best option long term, or if you are planning on moving houses, there is another option. Solar leasing is available in many states. Much like leasing a car, you don’t pay much, if anything, upfront, but you pay the company a monthly rent for as long as 20 years. Check out our solar financing section to find out which options are best for you and your needs.
What Size Solar System Do I Need?
Once you have decided you are ready for a solar system and have met the requirements, you need to determine what size solar system you need. Determining the size of your solar panel system is based on a number of factors.
Calculating your solar system estimate
In order to calculate your solar system size estimate, you need to first calculate the number of solar panels that will be needed for your home. This can be done by finding out electricity use, production ratios, and panel wattage.
Calculating the number of solar panels needed
To calculate the number of solar panels needed, we need to find the number of electricity used per year, the production ratio, and the solar panel wattage. For example, the average American household uses 10,649 kilowatt-hours (kWh). As a rule of thumb, we expect the production ratio to be 1.3. This means that a 1kW solar system will produce 1.3kWh of electricity in a year. Furthermore, for our example, we will assume that panel wattage is equal to 350W. In order to calculate the number of solar panels needed, we can use this formula:
Number of solar panels = (electricity use per year / production ratio / panel wattage
Number of solar panels = (10,649 / 1.3 / 300) = 24 panels
Calculate total solar system size
To calculate the total solar system size multiple the number of panels by their wattage.
Total solar system size = (number of panels x panel wattage)
Total solar system size = (24 x 350) = 8,400 W = 8.4kW
How much sunlight do you get?
The amount of energy your solar system produces is highly dependent on the amount of sunlight it receives. The amount of sunlight your home receives will determine the production ratio. How much sun you get will depend on your geographic location. In areas where you do not receive a lot of sunlight, you will have a lower production ratio, hence you will need to have a larger solar panel system.
If you need help determining your solar system size, reach out to enlighten.energy. We will guide you through the process of choosing the right size for you.
Selecting the Right Solar Panel
1. Selecting the material
There are three different types of solar panels: Monocrystalline PV panels, Polycrystalline PV panels, and Thin-Film PV panels. You should select which material to use depending on what your priorities are.
If your priority is efficiency, then monocrystalline PV panels are the most suitable for you. Monocrystalline PV panels have an efficiency rate of up to 20 percent and have the highest power capacity out of all three-panel types. Polycrystalline PV panels have an efficiency reach between 15 and 17 percent with a slightly lower wattage of power capacity. Thin-film panels have the lowest power capacity and efficiency at 11 percent.
If your priority is cost, then thin-film panels are the best option. This is because they are less labor-intensive to produce and are of lower quality than monocrystalline and polycrystalline PV panels. Since polycrystalline panels are produced from silicon fragments instead of one silicon sheet, the manufacturing process is simpler than monocrystalline and will hence be cheaper. Monocrystalline panels have the highest cost because they are of higher quality and require a more intensive manufacturing process.
If your priority is sustainability, then polycrystalline PV panels are the best option. This is because they are produced from the most ‘green’ material compared to monocrystalline PV panels and thin-film panels.
Because the panels are all made of different materials, they have slight differences in their appearances. Monocrystalline panels are usually black, with either a black or silver frame. Polycrystalline panels tend to have a blue tint, with either a silver or white back sheet and a silver frame. Thin-film solar panels are the thinnest and lightest of solar panels. Thin-film panels can either be blue or black.
2. Picking the solar inverter
A solar inverter is one of the most significant parts of a solar power system. A solar inverter converts the electricity generated by solar panels into usable electricity that can be used by homes. The excess electricity in your household is later fed into the grid or the home battery storage.
There are four different types of inverters that you will need to consider: String inverters, microinverters, optimized string inverters, and hybrid inverters. Again, you should select which inverter to use depending on what your priorities are.
String inverters are one of the most common and cost-effective options available. A single string connects a group of solar panels to a central inverter. The least productive solar panel in the system will produce electricity since the solar panels are all connected. String inverters benefit homes that have a simple solar installation and have a lot of access to sunlight. String inverters are known for their durability and easy maintenance. String inverters are not advantageous for homes with shading or panels facing different directions.
Microinverters are very small and are attached to each solar panel. These inverters are desirable for homes that have more shade and more complicated installations. This is because they optimize each solar panel, offering more energy. If a solar panel is not performing well, the other panels will continue operating efficiently. These inverters allow a homeowner to monitor the power production level for each solar panel. Microinverters are, however, a more expensive option for homeowners.
Optimized string inverters
Optimized string inverters are a hybrid version of both string inverters and microinverters. They are more expensive than string inverters but less expensive than microinverters. Optimized string inverters condition DC electricity and after sending it to the string inverter. The optimized inverters connect to each solar panel, which also allows you to monitor the power production level for each panel. These inverters are a good option for homeowners with shading and who are looking for a more cost-effective option.
Hybrid inverters allow you to connect batteries to your solar system. This inverter combines a solar inverter (either string or optimized string inverters) and a battery inverter. Hybrid inverters are popular amongst homeowners looking for energy backup options because it is cheaper to install a battery. Homeowners who install a solar system with a traditional inverter and decide later to add a battery incur higher costs because a battery-specific inverter will also need to be added. However, getting a hybrid inverter will be less expensive. Many homeowners get a hybrid inverter without batteries in anticipation of getting them later in the future.
3. Choosing the right solar installer
Choosing the right solar installer for your home and your needs is very important. You need to consider their history, reputation, licences and insurance, warranties. At enlighten.energy, we partner you with the most appropriate solar installers that will best fit you. Sign up with us and we will help you move forward with your project.
Questions to Ask a Solar Installer
Once you have decided to install a solar system in your home, it is important to know which solar installer is best for you. Here we tell you some useful questions to ask solar installers to make sure you find your best fit. At enlighten.energy, we match you with contractors that will suit your needs.