Installing Solar Panels?
So you're thinking about harnessing the power of the sun by installing solar panels?
Once you've done your research and decided to take advantage of the benefits of a solar electric system, you'll have to start thinking about how you're going to get those solar panels onto your roof.
One of the first major decisions you'll need to make is whether you will be installing the panels yourself or hiring a solar installer to do the job.
Most people decide to let a solar professional handle the job, but if you're a handy individual with some electrical experience you might decide to take the job on yourself.
We'll assume that you know your way around a tool belt, you're comfortable on a roof, and you've done a little wiring.
Even then, here are some things to keep in mind:
If you've considered all of these issues and still think that installing solar panels is a do-it-yourself job you can handle, you'll have to find the sunniest spot available to put your panels. This task can be made a lot easier by using a tool called the Solar Pathfinder.
The pathfinder can provide you with any site's year round solar potential in a matter of minutes. This can make a big difference in your return on investment by ensuring that your solar panels produce as much power as possible for the next twenty or thirty years.
(On a side note, so far we've only considered solar electric panels. If you are thinking about adding solar hot water panels to your roof, keep in mind that there will be plumbing involved and this will present a whole new set of issues.)
Getting back to photovoltaic solar panels, if you've given it some thought and decided that climbing a ladder with an expensive, glass-encased, electronic device isn't for you, you'll have to choose an installer for the job.
Where to begin?
The yellow pages or a google search of "solar panel installer" + "your city" should give you a good start. Also, check out our page on solar installers to find more in-depth information about what you should look for in a solar pro.
Ask the installer which products they work with and how many installations they have done. Check out the installer's work and speak with some former customers. Solar panels are a big investment and they usually require someone drilling holes in your roof, so make sure you're comfortable with whoever will be installing solar panels on your home.
Do They Have to go on the Roof?
We have assumed so far that you will be installing solar panels on your roof, but maybe that doesn't work for you.
Some houses don't have the proper orientation or roof space for a solar panel installation. Also, some people don't like the look of solar panels and some roofing materials make installation a little more tricky (Spanish tile for instance).
In cases like these, you can either mount the panels on an outbuilding (a barn or garage), or mount them on the ground. There are a large number of different ground mounts for solar panels and your installer should be able to help you find one that suits your needs.
Bonus: Ground-mounted solar panels are easier to clean!