Every great decision and serious purchase requires thorough considerations and careful planning. Of course in an ideal situation, you would go to a store and find a product tailored to perfectly meet your needs and match with the particular situation but it sounds more like an utopic case rather than a reality. We all know that confusing feeling when you go to a store with the best intentions, full with energy and motivation but end up standing by the shelf with all the different product types provided by numerous manufacturers and not really being able to decide which one of them you need.
Buying and installing your solar panels is no exception. Even more so, since it is comparatively large investment to make, it is especially crucial to do accurate calculations and know everything about the product and its specifics. While, indeed, there are many experts now ready to consult potential solar panel buyers about every aspect and factor related with their future choice, it might be that you do not have such a consultant working nearby or you simply do not have enough time and patience to actually pay a separate visit to inquire about every single aspect related to solar panels and their installation.
In order to make your struggle a little bit less annoying and less time-consuming, we have listed some of the main factors to consider before installing solar panels. If you will think about these matters a little bit and will have prepared ready answers to them when going to a store, it is more likely that seller will be able to pick the right product out of all the different solar panels that are available up to date.
1. How long are you going to live in your house?
It will take at least 5-6 years before your solar panel investment will pay off. While you will see immediate reduction of your electric bills, panels themselves and their installation won’t be cheap and hence the total costs will sum up quite high. If you are planning to live in the same house in long-term, investing in solar panels is a great idea but if you are a type of person who is always on the move or your job requires you to change your locations frequently, better think about other ways how to decrease your energy consumption e.g. switch light bulbs in your house to LED ones or add special sensors (e.g. PIR sensor or dusk to dawn sensor) to your outdoor flood lights.
2. Amount of energy needed to power your house.
Of course, every household consumes different amount of energy depending on what electric devices they are using, how many people are living in the house and so on. For lower amount of energy you will need to buy less panels and hence it is very important to know average electricity consumption of your household to assess how many panels will be sufficient to provide the whole house with electricity. Generally speaking, the size of a system depends on two factors:
- amount of energy that is needed.
Follow your electric bills, calculate how many kilowatts of energy you use on an average day and multiply that by .25 to find out how large system approximately is required to produce energy enough for your house.
3. Roof type.
This is a very important aspect to consider if you are about to install roof-top solar panels. Since houses have different roofs, some of them are not suitable for quick installation of solar panels. Nevertheless, solar panels can be installed on nearly every type of roof, it is just that for some cases it might require a bit more effort and extra costs. Some companies are installing solar panels only on composite shingles refusing to work with Spanish tiles. If you happen to have roof with Spanish tiles or regular wood shingles, you will simply need to search more thoroughly for a solar panel expert who is experienced and skilled enough to work with other types of roofs as well.
4. Cost range.
One thing that worries every potential solar panel user is the cost range. Since the market and manufacturers of solar panels are expanding every year, it indeed can be very confusing to understand which of the panels are really good, yet not overpriced. In fact, the price of solar panels has dropped 60 percent since the beginning of 2011 and this tendency is quite constant. Add federal and local tax credits and subsidies to your panel price, and that should be around $17,000 you will have to invest as up-front costs.
The amount of direct sunlight is very crucial factor that will assess number and type of panels you should use. Of course, the main factor that impacts this is the region you live in, but tall buildings and trees can also seriously affect your panel’s sun exposure. Different panels have different reactions to shadow – some reduce the output while some shut down entirely. The more hours your panels will be exposed to full sunlight, the more efficiently energy will be produced.
6. Project length.
If you are a busy person, keep in mind that the whole process of installing solar panels will occupy a bit of your spare time. Wiring and installation usually take a few days; nevertheless it can take even up to few months from the time you sign the contract until you can carry on with the actual installation.
Before installing your solar panels, definitely read all the relevant information about building permits. Without having a proper building permit you simply take a risk to be fined and asked to completely re-do the whole system. And no one really is sadistic enough to purposefully put oneself through this unpleasant process. Building permits are issued at a local level and therefore make sure that you follow rules and regulations that apply to your municipality.
8. Choose the right company.
Look for the professionals who can offer you strong warranties (at least 10 years), is licensed and bonded and do not have any major complaints about. All this information should be freely available on-line. Another thing you can inquire about is recent customer references.