Many homeowners are considering putting panels on their homes, and for a great reason: when you generate your own power you can drastically lower your monthly bills, increase your property value, and help the environment. Solar is more accessible than ever, especially as the cost of solar has decreased and solar technology has become more efficient.
One question you may hear from installers is whether your home is “solar ready.” But what does “solar ready” actually mean, and what things do you need to consider befor going solar?
Start by looking at the efficiency of your home
If you want to maximize your solar savings, it’s not a bad idea to consider a home energy audit before starting the project. If this is a new construction project, try working with the designers and builders to make your home as energy efficient as possible
While a home energy audit isn’t necessary before going solar, it can help you recognize opportunities to reduce your energy use. This can reduce the size of the solar panel system you need to cover 100% of your electricity use. As a result, you’ll save on the up front cost of installing a solar panel system. Some steps may include installing LEDs for your lighting needs, insulating your attic, and sealing ducts.
Consider the age, material, and structure of your roof
If you’re considering a rooftop installation, there are a few key factors that will impact the solar readiness of your home.
If your roof will need to be replaced in the next five to 10 years, it’s a good idea to replace it before going solar so that you can avoid the cost of uninstalling and reinstalling the panels down the line. The panels will also help extend the life of the new roof by protecting them from the elements.
Some roofing materials are harder to install on than others, and for that reason it may be harder to find an installer willing to do the job if your roof is one of these types of roofing material.
Two of the most common roofing materials that solar installers will shy away from installing on are slate and cedar shingles. Both of these are more fragile and are considered “complicated,” to install on. As a result, even if you do find an installer who will work on them, the cost of installation may be higher.
If you’re constructing a new home and looking to build it “solar ready,” it’s a good idea to avoid those types of roofing material. If you want to go solar at your home but have a house with slate or cedar roof shingles, you have options even if you can’t find a solar panel installer willing to do the job. You can choose to re-roof with a different material, or build a pole mount or ground mount system.
Structure and space
The structure of your roof is also important when it comes to installing solar. If your system will be installed on your roof, it’s better to have a good amount of uninterrupted space, especially if you utilize a lot of electricity and are going to need a large solar panel system to meet your needs.
If you’re planning a solar project for new construction and looking to make it solar ready, you may want to talk to your builder about avoiding things like skylights, dormers, and vents on the parts of the roof where you plan to place panels. While it’s certainly possible to install on a roof with these, solar systems on one uninterrupted plane of your roof are easier to install.
Direction of Roof
The direction that your roof faces (also known as the “azimuth”) is important when you’re designing a solar system. In the Northern Hemisphere, solar panels facing south are going to produce the most electricity. East- and west-facing panels are also suitable for installation, but will result in less electricity production throughout the day.
Does your roof have access to uninterrupted sunlight?
If the sun is shining brightly on your roof throughout the day, it’s probably a good candidate for solar panels. Shade on your roof, or on the ground near a potential ground mount, is going to reduce your system’s electricity production.
If your roof gets more than a little bit of shade, you may want to consider other options. You can talk to your solar installers about trimming back trees to make solar viable.
For a rooftop system, the pitch of your roof can also impact sun access, although it doesn’t play as dramatic of a role in access to sun as large trees or the direction of the roof. Most solar panel systems are tilted between 30 to 45 degrees to get the optimal amount of sunlight – the ideal angle for you depends on where you live.
Check the current electric setup in your home
If you have an older electrical system, a solar installer might recommend (or require) an electric panel upgrade prior to installation. The inverter of your system will be connected to your electrical breaker, and depending on the size of the inverter as well as your solar panel system, you may need a larger one for safety reasons. In some cases, you may be required by state and county codes to upgrade.
Because a lot of this is specific to the electrical set up of your property, as well as the type and size of the solar panel system being installed in your home, there’s no “one size fits all” solution.
What if your home is unsuitable for solar due to factors you can’t change?
When it comes down to it, there may be factors that make your property unsuitable for solar that cannot be changed, such as nearby buildings shading your roof or HOA requirements that prohibit installation.
If you’re in an area or community wthout solar options, there are still actions you can take to save on electricity costs, such as scheduling an energy audit or swapping to more energy efficient appliances.
You have a solar ready home, so what are the next steps?
If you’re interested in shopping for solar for your property, solar ready or not, we recommend giving synergy power a call at 801-590-9906. or visiting us online at www.synergypowerpv.com. With over ten years in the industry, Synergy Power will design a system specifically tailored to your needs and help you recognize other ways to make your home more energy efficient.