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Top 7 Mistakes To Avoid When Choosing Solar Panels

October 5, 2021Solaris National
Top 7 Mistakes To Avoid When Choosing Solar Panels

Seven Newbie Mistakes About Solar Panels

Homeowners just starting out looking into solar panels for their homes often make these seven mistakes.

1. Underestimating Your Power Consumption
2. Not Knowing The Difference Between A Solar Loan And A Solar Lease
3. Unreasonable Expectations For A DIY Solar Array
4. Sun Hours Vs. Daylight Hours
5. Not Properly Considering The Suitability Of Your Roof
6. Not Reducing Your Electricity Usage
7. Buying An Undersized System


1. Underestimating Your Power Consumption

The number two common mistake is underestimating the power consumption of your home.

Nowadays, we all have many appliances and gadgets in our homes that require electricity. They have become so common that we don't think of them as power consumers.

There are a couple of ways to accurately measure how much electricity our devices are going to consume.


Having an accurate measure of each appliance’s power use is especially helpful when deciding how much battery backup you will need.
Some devices are not critical, so we might not want to include them on the list of “must run during a blackout.”

 

The U.S. Energy Information Administration stated that the electricty use for an American home is -
In 2019, the average annual electricity consumption for a U.S. residential utility customer was 10,649 kilowatthours (kWh), an average of about 877 kWh per month. Louisiana had the highest annual electricity consumption at 14,787 kWh per residential customer, and Hawaii had the lowest at 6,296 kWh per residential customer.

Couples talking about how much the love solar in front of a solar home


When performing an energy audit, a good practice is to list all appliances and equipment that use electricity in your home. Then add a column that details how much these devices consume. 
Next, you can look at the Energy Guide sticker on the appliance, or you can get a device that will measure the electricity consumed over time.

As a rule of thumb, the household appliances with the biggest appetites for energy produce (or remove) heat - air conditioners, heaters, blow dryers, microwaves, stoves, and refrigerators.


2. Not Knowing The Difference Between A Solar Loan And A Solar Lease

There are typically three ways to pay for solar panels on your roof.

A residential solar panel system can cost up to $20,000, and you always have the option to pay cash. However, most people don't have that kind of money available. So most solar systems in the United States are financed through a third party.

The most common method of financing is to take out a solar loan, because there are many benefits to paying with a solar loan. First of all, You will see the owner of the system. Second, because solar arrays increase home values, you would get to enjoy that increased home valuation. Also, you would get to use the 26% federal tax credit.


Finally, since the life of a solar system is usually between 25 and 30 years, you can enjoy the electricity made from the sun for many years in the future.

The third way to finance a solar system is to take out a solar lease. You need to understand that you do not get ownership of those panels when you finance your solar system with a solar lease.

The solar system remains the property of the leasing company or the solar installer. You also do not get to take advantage of the 26% investment tax credit (unless the leasing company what's that into your price).

There are situations where a solar lease is the best option for putting solar panels on your roof. The problem arises when homeowners don't understand the difference between the two. Then they enter into a lease when they think they're entering into a solar loan.

Some unscrupulous solar salesmen encourage homeowners to think this way to make the sale. You need to be careful not to sign up for a solar lease when you want to sign up for a solar loan.


Housetop with solar panels and flowers


3. Unreasonable Expectations For A DIY Solar Array

Solar technology is incredible and is changing the way we live our lives. However, there are limitations to solar and what it can do for our home.

For example, I occasionally get the question, “Can I just put in a couple of panels on my roof to run my freezer in a blackout?” Another question I get is, “Can I just buy some panels online and put them up myself?” Often, people look at solar as a very simple and straightforward addition to their home.


It’s true; solar panels are a great idea, and the approach is genius - put solar panels on your roof to capture the sun and turn it into electricity. However, the implementation of installing a solar array is a complex and exacting process.


There are many decisions to be made before you get your permit. Things such as; permitting, are you going to be off-grid, what about battery storage, roof orientation, net metering, sunlight hours, solar panel array disconnect, type of inverters, utility meter, breaker panel, charge controller, and mounting brackets, just to name a few.
 
Of course, it is possible to install solar panels yourself, but you need to be realistic about the challenges you will be facing.


4. Sun Hours Vs. Daylight Hours

The first one is understanding “daylight hours” vs. “sun hours.” In the solar industry, we use a metric called a “sun hour.”


A “sun hour” describes when our solar panels are most productive because of the angle of the sunlight. During that time, sunlight is sufficiently direct, so they are working at their maximum production.


In the summertime, we get about 12 hours of daylight. So, we're thinking, this is great for the solar panels. I bet I'm getting a lot of electricity because of the 12 hours of sunlight. But even in the middle of the summer, when the sun is up at 6 a.m. and sets at 9 a.m. And it looks like we're getting 15 hours of sunlight.

But, we’re only getting a maximum of 7 Sun Hours. These hours are in the middle of the day. That’s when your solar panels work even close to their maximum capacity. So even though the sun is up, your panels aren’t producing.

U.S. Annual Solar GHI or global horizontal irradiance sunlight
Image from - www.nrel.gov/gis/solar-resource-maps.html


5. Not Properly Considering The Suitability Of Your Roof

The condition and orientation of your roof is probably the most critical consideration when deciding about a solar system.

Firstly, if it isn’t facing the south, you need to figure out how you will get the panels into direct sunlight. If you can’t get the panels into the direct sunlight, they won’t produce enough electricity.

Secondly, the roof needs to be in good condition. If it needs to be repaired or replaced, do those repairs or replace them before putting panels on your home. It is costly to remove solar panels to repair or replace a roof.

You also must have sufficient space for the panels on your roof. Skylights, vents, multi-faceted roofs, and other things can disrupt the flat area where you normally install the panels. In addition, your roof must be free of shade from things such as trees and other buildings.

Roofing materials - some roofs are made of materials that introduce particular challenges to affixing the solar racking which holds the panels.
 

If your roof isn’t ideal for solar panels, you might want to consider installing ground-mounted solar panels. If you have available space next to your house, you can install solar panels on racking that sits on the ground.


Big Farm House with Solar Power panels on the rooftop


6. Not Reducing Your Electricity Usage

When estimating the size of a solar system that our home will need, It is a good idea to go through your home and replace any light or Appliance with a more efficient model.

When you consider that the average solar panel cut about a dollar per watt, replacing your incandescent light bulbs with an LED light bulb of similar brightness can save you hundreds of dollars. That cost reduction is simply because of a change of light bulbs.

You will see much more significant savings by replacing larger inefficient equipment.

Luxurious kitchen with the lights on that are powered by solar panels


7. Buying An Undersized System

During the design phase for a solar system, homeowners need to understand everything they want to accomplish with their solar panels.

The most common scenario homeowners overlook is that their living situation might change. It’s akin to getting a great deal on a one-bedroom house, only to discover that it’s too small a couple of years down the road. What looked like a great deal isn’t even remotely sufficient for a family of four.

The easiest and less expensive time to purchase a solar system with sufficient capacity is when first installing it.


We recommend a 5kW or larger system but that depends on if your budget allows and if you have the space for
the number of panels your home needs.

Since solar arrays are several independent subsystems working together, making additions later will probably entail more than just adding a few panels. As your family or work situation grows, your electricity consumption will grow alongside it.


Solar panels on a roof of a house


Conclusion

​​​There is a lot of information that goes into figuring out if solar panels are a good fit for your home. These seven mistakes are common among homeowners just starting out looking into solar panels, but they are easily avoidable! The more you know about solar panels, the more likely you are to decide to switch to solar and start saving money on your electricity bill.

Check out our solar quiz to see if your home would benefit from a solar panel system here! Now is the best time to go solar!

These seven mistakes are common among homeowners just starting out looking into solar panels, but they are easily avoidable! The more you know about solar panels, the more likely you are to decide to switch to solar energy and start saving money on your electricity bill.
October 5, 2021 | Solaris National
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