The 7-Point Checklist Before You Finalize Your Rooftop Solar System

Highlights :

  • This handy list is the minimum checklist before you buy that solar plan for yourself.

Solar power is still considered new in India. It was in 2010 when Government of India launched National Solar Mission (NSM) as a key initiatives with an aim to promote sustainable ecological growth while solving for country’s energy security. From 1.2 GW in 2012 to 40 GW in 2021, Solar Energy in India today is one of the fastest growing industries in India, which has grown 33 times in last 10 years.

However, solar power is still a relatively new concept among mainstream consumers, which poses a challenge. Buying solar panels for your roof is like buying a car, as pricing is similar and so is the high involvement nature of the product but there is a catch. The no. of people who have purchased solar panels is still relatively low and hence, the buying process is not very clear to the sceptical, price conscious new buyers in India.  Customers who have owned a solar system through its entire lifecycle are even more scarce. Besides, with solar panels usually rated to last for 25 years, making a mistake during buying stage can leave you with buyers remorse for a very long time indeed. Making it more complex still are various incentives and subsidies, with their own conditions, that muddy the decision making process.

With dropping solar costs making it more affordable, I have had the opportunity to interact with many of our customers  and face the most obvious questions and issues. Here are my learnings from those customers.

1.     Eligibility of your terrace: Ask these questions to yourself.

Can my roof take the extra load of the solar system?

Most of the times, if your roof is made of RCC, your roof is probably good enough. A typical solar system with mounting structure weighs about 10-20 kgs per square metre. However, it is still recommended to have a professional inspect your roof.

Are there any big obstructions that are leaving their shadow on my roof for a big part of the day?

In order to generate maximum power during the day, solar panels must be placed in a specific way so that there is no shadow on them. India, being in the northern hemisphere of Earth, solar panels should be placed facing south. Regardless, make sure you clear these things during the site survey. Many solar developers offer free site survey.

What about wind load? And can it withstand all seasons?

Ask your developer about the maximum wind load their solar structures can withstand without solar panels getting uprooted. Match it with the prevailing wind load of your geographical region. Make sure your solar power system can also deal with harsh weather like lightning storms, hurricanes, hail, and more. Your solar panels can get damaged if these events occur. If these events are frequent at your place, make sure that some insurance covers these damages due to natural events as well.

2.     Search for the solar developer carefully

Getting a solar plant for your home is a purchase of a lifetime. It is both a home improvement product as well as a clean energy resource. Therefore, it becomes all the more important that you look for solar developers that are best in class. A developer who you think will be around in the long run is also an important point to consider. The developer should be available to fix anything that doesn’t work under the warranty period.

3.     Check whether you need grid-connectivity

In addition to the structure of your roof and solar developer, you also need to consider whether to have a grid-tied connection with net metering, or to have independent solar plant with rechargeable battery storage. It is very convenient and cost effective if you have a grid-tied connection with net metering. Batteries, though give you freedom from power outages, are expensive as of now, and may not give you an attractive RoI and short payback period that you are looking for. When you are getting a grid-tied connection, do check the banking period (the cycle when the utility company settles your power generated vs power imported back to the grid), fees, approvals, documentation etc. Make sure the developer that you choose takes care of all kinds of approvals that are required for a net metered connection.

4.     Warranty management

A solar system consists of various components such as solar panels, inverter, mounting structure and electrical components, which, most often, are manufactured by different companies. Therefore, different types of warranties exist for solar panels, all other equipment, and installation.

Typically, solar panels have a product warranty that covers manufacturing defects for a period of 10 years, and a performance warranty that the manufacturer provides that guarantees a certain power generation for a period of about 25 years.

The developer puts together all components into a solar system and provides warranty on installation for a period ranging from 5-10 years. This warranty should always be considered while finalising the developer. It covers repair and replacement of defective parts.

Furthermore, the inverter also comes with a warranty based on the type of inverter used. An inverter is generally covered by a manufacturer’s warranty of 5 to 10 years.

5.     Check for Product Insurance.

It is imperative that the right insurance policy is in place to cover any damage done to electrical and mechanical equipment during the installation. Ask your developer whether the proposal includes product insurance as well. Many developers offer this as part of the proposal. There are many potential problems that can arise during the installation of your solar panels that you may not notice until they actually occur. Insurance will protect you in such scenarios.

6.     Check for Subsidy in your state.

The government is really trying to get people interested in investing in solar energy. Therefore Central & State governments pay a part of the price that you pay to the developer when you install a solar system on your roof. Homeowners can avail subsidy from the state DISCOM only when they install solar plants from empanelled solar developers. So, make sure the developer that you finalise is empanelled by the state utility company (DISCOM). You can check this information on DISCOM’s website.

Generally, for up to 3kWp system capacity, a subsidy of 40% of benchmark price, and from 4-10kWp system, 20% of benchmark price is provided. If you install solar system though a subsidy scheme, the solar developer will provide 5 years of performance warranty as well.

Note that the subsidy is available only when you install solar system on your home, not on commercial or industrial roofs, and that too only on grid tied solar system (i.e. without battery storage).

7.     Check for the maintenance packages.

Proper maintenance is crucial to keep your solar panels functional and in good condition. Make sure you find out what these maintenance procedures are from your solar developer before the installation begins. If you are not able to meet those maintenance requirements on your own, your solar plant may not last for its complete lifetime. And even the warranties will not be able to cover for your poor maintenance. You can ask your developer about the Annual Maintenance Contracts (AMCs) and negotiate a bundle offer that will ensure preventive maintenance and periodic cleaning of solar panels. There are many places in India where dust tends to accumulate very quickly on the panels, thus hampering optimum generation. Solar Panels must be cleaned at least twice a month. An early intervention can prevent loss of generation, downtime, or safety incidents.

The use of rooftop solar panels for power generation for homes is becoming increasingly popular because it’s a renewable source of energy which the government is promoting heavily, but it needs careful planning and research before you finally decide to invest in a solar plant. With this checklist, you can have a chance at a lifetime supply of free electricity at minimum recurring expenses.

Pankaj Mohanpuria,
Sr. Manager – Marketing,
HomeScape by Amplus Solar

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