Solar Power: What to Know Before You Install Your System
What to know before you install your own PV solar system
The most common type of home solar power system features photovoltaic (PV) panels that convert sunlight into electricity. These panels are typically mounted on the roof and angled to face the sun.
When considering whether it makes sense to install your own PV solar system, speak to a qualified and licensed solar professional about your specific situation. Keep in mind the following benefits and drawbacks.
Some of the advantages of generating your own electricity at home from solar panels include:
- Generation is free. The sun provides the “fuel” to generate power for the home’s electrical system and components. This saves money on electricity bills. If the home is set up for net metering, any excess electricity generated by the solar power system can be transmitted to the grid and sold to the utility in the form of a credit.
- It's Clean. Electricity generated by the sun produces no harmful emissions. This reduces the home’s carbon footprint.
- There are installation incentives. Federal, state and local jurisdictions periodically offer grants, tax breaks, discounts and rebates for the installation of renewable energy products, including solar systems.
- Not dependent on others. Generating your own solar power using panels on your roof means you are not as dependent on utilities and the electric power grid to provide your electricity.
The disadvantages of using solar power for your home include:
- An inconsistent fuel source. The sun doesn’t shine brightly 24 hours a day. Some locations have trees or taller buildings that could shade your roof. Even during the long days of summer, the sun’s direct rays can occasionally be obscured by clouds. On such days the system is less efficient. Excessively high outdoor temperatures can also reduce the efficiency of the system.
- There's high initial cost. Even with multiple incentives, a solar power system may still cost tens of thousands of dollars. Smaller systems can also be expensive to install. Cost depends on the home, its location, size, and purpose of the system, the goals of the homeowner, and the amount of work needed to prepare the house for the new system.
- Site preparation, can't jump right in. If the system is a retrofit (not part of new construction, but built on to an existing structure), expenses related to reconfiguring the house’s electric system will be necessary. There also may be a need to upgrade or alter some of the home’s infrastructure systems, especially the roof where the solar panels are installed. These upgrades will be in addition to the cost of the solar power system.
- Maintenance. Generating your own electricity means that the upkeep of the system is in your hands. PV panels need to be cleaned periodically so that dirt and debris do not reduce efficiency. In the case of a severe storm, it will be up to you to arrange for a qualified professional to repair any damage.