Things to Consider Before Going Solar

solar installation

Solar panels on the rooftop of Homes were uncommon as recently as a decade ago. But a glut of policies and incentives from government and state has made them commonplace these days. Obviously, worries about climate change have also played a significant role.

Solar panels can lower your electric bill and decrease your household’s carbon footprint by an average of 15957 kg per year. But trapped between techno-speak and expansion of solar industry in India, it would be difficult to figure out where to start with. This introduction should help, as choosing solar isn’t a decision you should make lightly. Here are the things to know before making an investment in solar.

1. Photovoltaic or Thermal?

There are two solar technologies to pick from, one is photovoltaic, which is used to turn sunlight into electricity,
and another is thermal which is used to heat water or air for use inside your home. If you use a lot of energy for heating your home during winter or stay somewhere getting heating fuel is quite expensive and tedious task, a solar thermal investment could bring relief. But, solar thermal is rarer in India so it might be difficult to find a qualified installer.

2. Check if your roof can support solar panels

This is quite remarkable. If a roof is covered in shade throughout the year, then investing on solar might not justify the costs of panels. That’s something you’ll have to evaluate before you move forward. If your roof can’t deal with the problem, or you can’t decide if you have to go solar or not because you rent your apartment or live in a multi-unit building, don’t just give up on solar power altogether. You can always look for shared or community solar instead of installing your own solar panels. This would let customers buy a stake in a solar installation and receive credits on their electricity bills.

solar panels

If you have a roof with proper sunlight, make sure that it’s in good shape structurally. Rooftop Solar installations come with warranties for 20 or 25 years these days. If your roof needs a renovation a few years down the line, it’ll be easier to take care of that before the installation. This would help you save extra time and money to disconnect your panels during the roof renovation and put them up again afterwards. Lastly, envisage the future of your roof, if the roof is unobstructed now but your neighbor plans to build a 5 story building in next five-six years then you might run into trouble.

Trim your usage to improve efficiency

The amount of solar energy you need directly depends on how much you use, so make sure you cut your usage as much as possible before investing your hard earned money on these panels.

Typically, a Solar panel consists of around 36 and 72 Solar Cells and produces around 12 and 24 Volts. With one panel, you can power – all fans or all lights or just the kitchen. Start with an energy audit and look for efficiency upgrades before you draw up blueprints.

Usually, 2/3BHK household using electric oven will need about 15,000 Watts of power every day.

The Bridge to India’s portal India Solar Homes can estimate your solar power cost by looking at your State, your last month’s electricity bill, roof size, power backups, and daily power cuts.

solar panels installationThe Bijli Bachao site can help you with information on usage of power per room or by applications/appliances before you plan your solar lighting in your home.

Figure out how much you can spend on Solar

Solar power will undoubtedly cut down your electricity bill, but it requires initial investment and installation charges. It is important to figure out how much your pocket allows you to spend on solar and then plan on the application accordingly. The cost of installing rooftop solar panel may range from Rs.42, 000 to Rs.8, 00,000 depending upon how much solar energy you require.

Which Panels or Inverter you should buy?

There are now lot of brands selling solar panels and inverters which may put you in a conundrum. Here are rules which may help you to choose one for you. Solar panels:

Always look for a brand which has been around a long time.

Don’t worry about where it has been manufactured in; most are made in China.

Stay away from those panels which tout as being European or having some unique features.

Don’t just go and buy a panel – get few quotes and choose a reasonable price. Inverter:

Same goes with the inverters, always look for a brand which has been around a long time.

Buy a good inverter at a high price only if you are not living in rented home.

If you’re buying for a rental property, get a low-cost panel with extended warranties.

Get a good battery

Typically, solar power installation has 4 components: the solar panels, the charge controller (to convert DC to AC), battery charger (for storage) and the actual
equipment.

Make sure you buy your battery from a known brand and keep it in an airy space as it is said that on heating, the battery life gets reduced.

What Warranties Should You Get?

Typical panel warranties

10 years (on the product – free from defects)

15 years (on the performance of the panel @ 90% of its peak)

25 years (on the performance of the panel @ 80% of its peak)

Typical inverter warranties

An inverter typically has between 5 and 10 years as a standard warranty and can be upgraded to up to 25 years.

Servicing and maintenance

Generally, the life of solar panel is 10- 25 years. Solar panels do not have moving parts or electronics and require no major maintenance throughout its life, except that you have to keep it clean from dust and other particles which may create a problem in absorbing solar energy. Always question the dealer about how they have built the structure of the panel and what the guarantee is.

Who to hire to install solar panel on your rooftop

Installing solar panels isn’t like slapping cells on a rooftop. It needs additional wiring, and panel placement is a key to
building an efficient system. So it’s better to leave it to professionals.

Look for pros who:

• Offer an extended warranty

• Uses panels from the brands which have been in the market for a long time.

• Does not outsource installation, as there will be more accountability if things don’t go according to plan.

• Can provide you at least two recent customer references ( don’t forget to check with them about installer’s service)

Length of the project

Yup! That’s equally important; you can’t take leave from your office and stay a whole week to check how pros install solar panels on your rooftop. Wiring and installation take a few days, but the complete project can take anywhere around few weeks to a few months from the time you sign the contract and the actual installation.

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