A Comprehensive Guide to Choosing and Installing Home Solar Panels

Having solar panels on your roof will let you generate clean, renewable electricity that you can use to power your home during daylight hours. Home solar panels consist of photovoltaic cells that convert sunlight to DC electric current. This DC electricity flows into an inverter which converts it into AC power for your home’s electrical system. It can then be used to power any appliances or gadgets that typically run off electricity.

According to the experts at solar company Vivint Solar, any excess energy that isn’t immediately used is fed back into the grid and credits are then applied to your utility bill.

A complete home system is made up of solar panels, racking, wiring, one or more inverters, and a battery bank if desired. While solar can potentially provide 100% of a home’s electricity use, most systems are designed to cover 60-80% of needs. This allows you to draw supplemental power from the grid when solar production is low. With smart engineering, current panel systems can last 25-30 years with minimal degradation over time.

Key Factors When Choosing a Solar Panel System

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If you’ve decided to go solar, choosing the right system components is critical. Here are some of the most important factors to consider:

  • System Size – The number of solar panels (measured in kW capacity) will determine how much of your home’s power needs are covered. Choose a size that offsets 60-80% of your annual usage.
  • Panel Efficiency – More efficient panels produce more watts for the same surface area. Look for monocrystalline silicon panels which are the most efficient option.
  • Inverters – These convert DC to AC power. Micro-inverters at each panel are ideal, rather than a single central inverter.
  • Warranties – Choose panels with 25+ year power production warranties and 10-15 year manufacturing warranties.
  • Batteries – Adding a solar battery bank provides backup power when the sun isn’t shining. This adds cost but enhances resiliency.
  • Roof Condition – Panels will be mounted on your roof. Any needed roof repairs should be completed beforehand.
  • Sun Exposure – Solar panels require direct, unshaded sunlight, especially during peak midday hours.

Analyzing Your Home’s Solar Potential

The first step is to analyze your home’s suitability when it comes to solar power. Online calculators are great tools that can help you estimate potential production and savings based on location, electricity bill amounts, and roof specifics like area and orientation. You simply enter your address and average monthly electricity cost, and the calculator does the rest.

Beyond overall potential, it’s also wise to have an expert conduct an on-site evaluation before you purchase any solar panel system. They will consider the age/condition of your roof, measure total sun exposure on all roof planes, and identify any shading issues from nearby trees. They can also take exact roof measurements to determine how many panels will fit. This professional analysis gives you the information needed to right-size your system.

Estimating Costs and Incentives for a Solar Installation

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The costs of home systems have dropped substantially in recent years but still represent a significant investment. The main cost components include the solar panels, inverters, racking, wiring, labor for installation, and permitting fees. For a 5kW system, you can expect to pay between $15,000 to $25,000 all-in, depending on your specific components and the contractor you choose to install the system.

Thankfully, there are several incentives which can drastically reduce your net costs. The federal tax credit allows you to deduct 26% of installation costs from your federal income taxes through 2024. Many utility companies and state/local governments also offer rebates and performance-based incentives. When you combine the federal tax credit with state/local perks, total incentives often cover 50-75% of gross costs.

Comparing Quotes from Solar Installers

Once you have settled on the right solar system specs for your home, it’s time to get quotes from local installation companies. Be sure to get at least 3-4 quotes to find the optimal balance of experience and price. When comparing quotes, here are some key considerations:

  • Experience and Training – Choose an established local company with NABCEP-certified solar installers.
  • Detailed Scope of Work – Quotes should cover all equipment, labor, fees, taxes, and inspection costs.
  • Timeframe – Ask for a reasonable project schedule from permitting to commissioning.
  • Performance Guarantees – Choose contractors who guarantee a certain energy output level.
  • Reviews and References – Check third party reviews and talk to previous customers about their experiences.
  • Warranties and Service – Ensure the installer offers long warranties on equipment and their own workmanship.
  • Prices and Payment Plans – Compare bottom line costs and financing/leasing options if needed.

Preparing Your Home and Property for a Solar Installation

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With a solar integrator selected, it’s time to get your home ready for the installation process. Here are some key steps to take. It is important to schedule any needed roof repairs so that it is solar-ready. Make sure to remove obstructions on the roof such as HVAC units that may need to be repositioned later.

You will also need to prune back trees or external structures that may shade panels during peak sun hours.Furthermore, wires from the roof to the electrical room may need to be run underground if aesthetics require it.

Read up on the installation process beforehand so you know what to expect and agree on optimal placement of external inverters, meter, and other components with your installer. Finally, inform your home insurance provider you are adding solar panels.

Taking these preparatory steps means your solar project will go smoothly from start to finish.

Conclusion – The Future of Residential Solar is Bright

With installation costs dropping and eco-friendly living on the rise, solar energy adoption will only accelerate in the years ahead. If you think you are ready to reap the environmental and economic rewards of having home solar power, this comprehensive guide should help you on the journey. Take control of your energy future and go solar.