6 Tips to Make Your Home Solar Ready

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Many homeowners faced with ever-escalating electric bills have decided to go solar, and for good reason. Solar energy is clean, renewable and growing less expensive as new technologies bring down the cost. If you’ve decided to go solar, there are a number of things you can do make you home solar ready. Taking these steps will ensure that the installation of your solar system will be as easy and inexpensive as possible.

1. Make Room for Your Solar Panels

You’ll need several solar panels to provide enough electrical power to offset their cost in the long run. Typically, you’ll need about 260 square feet (24 square meters) of sunlit space on your roof. This area should be unobstructed by TV antennas, trees, chimneys and other buildings or structures for most of the day. If you lack roof space, you can opt for fewer, more efficient solar panels. Also consider mounting some of your solar panels on your patio cover, if possible.

2. Choosing the Right Roof Direction

Solar panels need to face the sun directly to most efficiently turn sunlight into electricity. If most of your home’s roof faces south, your solar panels will receive maximum direct sunlight during the day. Roofs facing southwest and southeast will only suffer a slight loss in solar panel efficiency. Panels facing east or west will be about 15 percent less efficient than those facing south.

3. Choosing the Right Roof Angle

Ideally, solar panels should be mounted between 30-40 degrees on your roof or patio cover to operate at maximum efficiency. In some cases, this spread can vary anywhere from 15 and 50 degrees with only a slight loss in efficiency. Your solar panel installer can recommend the installation of frames to ensure your panels are angled to absorb maximum sunlight—especially if you have a flat roof.

4. Getting Permits to Install Solar Panels

If you live in a planned community that’s covered by the rules and regulations of a Home Owner’s Association, you may need to obtain a permit to install solar panels on your roof. This is especially true if your installation requires frames or other special construction work to achieve the optimum angle for your solar panels. The good news is that solar installations are becoming more accepted and routine throughout the country. Securing permits should be relatively easy. Just make sure you get these permits early to avoid installation delays.

5. Reserving Space for Your Solar Inverter

This device will convert the direct current electricity from your solar panels into the AC power your TV, computer and other appliances need to operate properly. While inverters are typically 25-35 inches tall and 15-25 inches wide, they tend to be bulky electronic devices that need cool air to circulate around them. This means you’ll need to allocate a 5-by-3 foot (1.5-by-1 meter) space to fit the inverter. The ideal place to install an inverter is in your garage, but a roomy loft can also be used. In addition, you’ll also need extra wall space near your electric meter to accommodate a fuse board, isolator and total generation meter. You’ll need to consult a licensed electrician to establish the best location for these devices.

6. Prepping for a Solar Thermal System

These systems use the sun’s energy to heat a solar panel filled with water or other fluid to transfer heat (or hot water) into your home’s hot water tank. If you opt for this type of a solar system, you’ll need a solar-ready hot water cylinder, which will require extra ports for connecting the inlet from the solar collector. These cylinders will have either stainless steel or copper inside rather than glass, because of the much higher temperatures derived from collectors on hot, sunny days. Some solar-ready cylinders may have a coil inside, used mainly for closed-loop systems in which a heating fluid is circulated through the collector and into the cylinder.

Consult with your solar installer to determine which system is right for you. It’s also a good idea to consult with an electrician (or plumber in the case of a solar thermal system) to avoid any surprises during your installation.

 

Posted on Monday, January 26th, 2015