Solar power has recently begun to emerge as a valuable investment for homes and businesses alike…
promising greater efficiency, a lower carbon footprint and reduced overall energy costs. However, if you are shopping for solar power solutions on a budget, it is important to note that quality is far more important than getting the lowest price. Follow the advice outlined in this article to ensure that you get the most out of your solar power investment.
1. Is your location a good choice for solar power?
Before purchasing or installing solar panels, you will need to consider your home or business’ location. How much of your home is hit by sunlight each day? At what angle does the sunlight strike the surfaces where you plan to install solar panels? How many hours of sunlight do you get a day? Does the local climate consist of long periods of overcast skies, rain or snow? All of these factors will come into play when you have solar power. Bear in mind that you will need your home or business’ location to support enough solar energy to keep it powered all year. If your location cannot support this, you will need to use solar power to supplement traditional energy service from an electric provider.
2. How much panel surface area will you need?
The typical rule is to provide 80 to 100 square feet (or approximately 24-31 square meters) of solar panelling for each kilowatt produced in an hour. 90 per cent or more of the panel should be in the sunlight for maximum efficiency. Therefore, the placement of these panels is just as important as their size.
3. How much power can I produce with a photovoltaic system?
You will need to analyse your power bills over a long time span, such as a year’s worth in order to get a good idea of your current power usage. Then, you can contact your solar power equipment provider and ask which panels and equipment you will need to support the percentage of power you wish to offset with solar. In all likelihood, you will be supplementing your power from a traditional electric company, not replacing it entirely. Remember that the more power you produce yourself, the more the system will pay for itself and the greater benefit you will have on the environment. Choose a percentage of your power bill and divide your typical power consumption to get a kilowatt hour value that you can shop for photovoltaic equipment with.
4. Cost-wise, what is required besides solar panels?
Because your solar panels will not be in sunlight all the time, you will need storage batteries to hold power generated during the day. You should also have a backup generator for when power is not available for your home or business via the panels. You will also need to consider installation costs and the percentage of electricity you will still need to purchase, unless you are providing 100 per cent of the power yourself. Once you know how much power you need produced, your solar power equipment provider can give you an estimate to work with.
5. What is net metering?
“Net metering” is selling electricity that you are not using back to an electric company. If you generate more electricity than you use, you might be able to sell some of it. Check with your local power companies to see if this is a possibility. If you can do it, your photovoltaic equipment will pay for itself that much faster, and could even turn you a profit in the long run. Note that in the United States, only 35 states total have a net metering system that is currently active.
6. Do I want mono / polycrystalline or thin film panels?
You may wish to consider monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels over thin film ones due to their requirement of a smaller area of roof space and need for fewer mounting rails, which reduces the cost of installation. The smaller roof area consumption means that you can scale the system up later using that empty space, which may also factor into the home’s overall value. You may also be able to install more of these smaller panels to maximize your energy output. Mono- and polycrystalline panels have been used in space applications and are known for their high durability. However, there are applications when you may wish to choose thin film panels. For example, in Northern Australia, it is advisable to use thin film panels due to the very high temperatures and degree of solar radiation encountered during the hottest months of the year.
7. How about quality verses price?
Get multiple solar panel equipment and installation quotes before you make a decision. Remember, the lowest cost option is not necessarily the best choice. That provider might use inferior parts that are less efficient or less reliable. Find out what sort of components are included in any given package and research their track record. Also take into consideration the warranty provided with any given part. Make sure that the company that makes the part is reputable and well-known. You don’t want to be stuck with a useless warranty if the company goes out of business later down the road.
Follow these tips and remember to thoroughly research anything you purchase.
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