You’ve probably noticed that your energy bills are rising every single month. The situation is getting much worse when you cannot manage to strike a balance between your energy bills and other monthly expenses. Well, the best solution at hand is installing a solar panel into your home to cut down your costs. If you are in Northern California and the entire Bay Area, we at Sun Solar Electric will help install a solar panel for your home. In this blog, we will discuss various things that you should consider and the process of installing a solar panel.
Step 1: Assessment and Inspection Of The Roof
You need the intervention of a professional engineer to evaluate whether your roof can support your desired system. There are many factors that the engineer should consider when assessing the roof. Some of these factors include:
The Type of the Roof
Roofs can either be simple or complex. A simple roof consists of the hip and gable. The hip is a kind of roof that has all its sides sloping towards the wall of a building. The gable type includes flat slopes that join together to form a ridge. They come in varieties, but all consider the same concept.
With the complex type of roofs, there are options such as the gambrel, mansard, and the complex hip and gable. The gambrel type is a mix of both the gable and hip roofs. However, its lower slope is steeper while the upper slope is relatively flat.
The mansard roof has four sides, each with a double-slope. However, the lower slope is significantly steeper than the above one. You cannot view the upper slope from the ground since it has an angle that allows water run-offs.
The complex hip and gable feature houses that have deviated shapes. This means that the roof would probably have more than four simple orientations and dozen surfaces.
Orientation explains the position of the sun in relation to your roof. In any of the above types of roofing, there must be one orientation that deviates from the usual roof position. Such a position suits best in installing the solar panels.
The roof pitch is a numerical measurement of the roof steepness. Its expression is a ratio of the vertical rise to the horizontal sun. You can also express it as inches of rising per foot of the run. The best pitch should be approximately equal to the site latitude.
Age of the Roof
A homeowner should work on an older roof before investing in solar panels. If you have not replaced your roof for the last ten years, it is best to replace it before you decide to install the panels. Such a decision will avoid removing the solar system and reinstalling it when you have to replace the roof.
Some roofing materials require a lot of care compared to others. For instance, a roof made out of Spanish tiles or slate require much attention during solar installation. Therefore, your engineer should advise you on the recommended ways to mount your panels based on the type of roofing material you have.
Any Roofing Obstacles
You need a straight row to install solar panels. Therefore, obstacles such as vents or dormers can limit your installation. Your installation consultant should look for every potential obstacle and find a position that would not impact the panels.
Step 2: Approval Of The Design
Solar power design depends on the amount of power that you need. You can either choose to power your house entirely using solar or use it as a substitute. Also, you need to know the number of watts that you use hourly. A small home within a temperate climate uses an average of 200KWh, while a larger house that relies too much on the air conditioner can use up to 2,000 KWh. On average, the total usage amounts to 900KWh per month, translating to 30KW or 1.25 KWh.
Other factors that determine the design of your installation include the number of hours you expect in your area and the solar that you need. Most residential installations use photovoltaic solar panels, which have a wattage range between 150 Watts to 370 watts per panel.
Using this information, your engineer will recommend a solar panel that matches the requirements and ensure a remarkable power output.
Step 3: Acquiring City Permit
Any homeowner who wants to install solar panels should comply with the regulations provided by the state. Every state has different requirements, hence the need to acquaint with them as early as possible. These requirements vary between the solar power that one intends to install and the power usage at home.
In California, the solar panels should comply with the following criteria:
- They are not larger than 10KW in AC or 30KW for the thermal current
- They should conform to all building codes as adopted by the city or county within which the home is located
- Installation must be on a duplex family or a single family
- Should not exceed the maximum legal building height as described by the authorities
Once you have considered the above requirements, you need to reach out to the utility provider to get permission to connect to the solar installation. Note that you cannot commission the solar PV system until you get approval from both the utility company and the local agency. Otherwise, you will end up incurring hefty fines if you go contrary to this requirement.
Step 4: Installation of The Solar Panel
The best way to handle the installation process is by hiring a professional technician. Despite being well-versed with the installation process, choosing a technician would be the best route to consider. The individuals know a lot about solar installation and will install it in the best way possible to ensure efficiency.
Before you pick a technician, there are a couple of factors that you need to consider to ensure that one is reliable enough. You should consider factors such as:
- Whether the technician has a good reputation and a valid license
- Whether the technician has enough experience in the solar installation
- If the technician usually gets multiple bids for similar projects
- If the technician has a state electric board certification
Once you have gone through these aspects, you can proceed to start the installation process. A typical installation process takes about two days, but for large installations, it can run up to a week. It is crucial to allow enough time if you want to achieve excellent results. Otherwise, rushing the project might lead to poor outcomes.
There are several things that your technician should focus on to ensure the best installation possible. These factors include:
Solar Panel Wiring
Every solar power has an array of wires. The technician installing the panels should ensure that the cables run harmoniously with the other installation in your home system. The wiring is quite complex and involves wiring every panel to the inverter to transform the power to usable electric current.
Grounding and Bonding
Grounding refers to redirecting electric current to the earth since it does not conduct electricity. Obviously, your home electric system has a grounding copper wire in existence. Therefore, the technician only has to connect the solar panel to the existing home electrical grounding to complete a circuit.
Overcurrent Protection Device
As the name suggests, the overcurrent protection device ensures that any experience of a short circuit does not end up affecting your house. A reliable technician should use breakers with the correct size and the right model to ensure that the device is reliable.
The Junction Box (J Box)
A Junction Box, commonly known as J box, is a type of box that stores all electrical wires in solar panels. It keeps the solar panels safe from any elements that might affect the functioning of the system. The J box has a diode that connects all the wires from the panels to maintain a proper power flow and keep the wire organized.
Variance Between the Installation and Computer Assisted Design (CAD)
A professional installation company uses Computer Assisted Design while determining how they will install the panels. There might be a slight variation between the CAD and the actual result of the installation. A reliable company should review the installation and check whether there is any difference between the two.
Step 5: Final Inspection
The state requires every homeowner intending to use solar power to inspect the system after installation. The required agencies will send a representative to conduct the inspection. They will ensure that the installation meets the required safety regulations and building codes. Your local utility company will need a written document of the state before you connect the solar to the grid.
Most likely, the utility will visit your home to check the system to confirm whether the documented report is accurate. Once they complete the inspection, they will provide permission to operate (PTO) that allows you to turn off the system.
Step 6: Connecting the Solar Power
Once the solar power company has approved your compliance with the regulations in place, they will connect your system to the local power grid or use a bi-directional meter. In most cases, homeowners use an inverter to connect to convert the DC generated from the solar power to AC, which is usable at your home.
It is essential to have batteries to store enough energy to run you for days, along with the solar power installation. Sunlight is unpredictable, and you might run out of energy if you do not have any form of generation. You can still opt for a generator to help you out when you are in a critical state and cannot depend on battery power.
Maintenance, Repair, and Monitoring
Similar to any other device, maintaining and repairing your solar panels will ensure that they last for an extended period. It is imperative to repair small damages once you find them to avoid having them worsen to the point of needing professional intervention. Also, you must keep track of any changes, especially with the power output, and check whether any issues require intervention.
You should also wipe the solar panels regularly since dirt might build-up, despite experiencing regular rainfall in your place. Many people assume that rain is enough to wash away the dirt on the panels, but does not have any relevant effect. The best way to clean your solar panels includes using a mixture of soap and water with the same proportion that you could use while washing a car.
As a precautionary measure, rinse the soapy water off the panels to avoid blocking the amount of sunlight received by the panels once the water dries on them. You should also gently rub the water mixture on the panels to avoid breaking them.
Monitoring The Performance
It is recommendable to install a monitoring device on your system that will monitor the performance of the whole unit. Some of the advantages of installing the monitor include:
- Keeping track of the energy produced by the solar panels
- Monitor CO2 emission and compare it with the conventional energy system. The results that you get will help you determine whether you are eligible for a tax benefit due to energy efficiency
- See all the information about the solar panels, whether you are at home or traveling. High-end monitoring devices can allow a homeowner to keep track of the performance of a solar unit through their smartphones as long as there is internet access.
The possibility of having your panels installed accordingly depends on the company that you pick. Remember, the kind of investment that you are making should run for a long time, hence the need to choose a firm that can offer the best services. Otherwise, you might end up spending a lot on the installation only to achieve poor results. We at Sun Solar Electric are committed to delivering excellence in our services. If you are living in Northern California and the Bay Area, reach out to us at 707-658-2157, and we will help install a solar panel for you.