Solar power is one of the most amazing ways to power your home or business. If you get it right, you will power your applicances for free for quite a long time after your initial investment.
If you get it wrong, it could put you in a situation where doing nothing would have been better. How does it all go so wrong? Money. Customers want to install solar to save money, so sales reps sell systems where the numbers appear to work up front, and most of the time you find out that the calculations the sales consultant gave you were not what he or she promised! And really, what are you going to do about it? There are already loads of websites that advertise the good, the bad, and the ugly- installers and sales companies.
The best thing you can do is educate yourself on how it is all going to work.
Here are some basics that will help you get started.
The first thing to learn about is your load, how many Kilowatt hours you use per day, and how you can reduce it. I guarantee I can help reduce anyone’s daily load. By reducing your load you will get a better result from your system. Sometimes you will reduce your load and it won't be financially viable to install solar. On average, our Family uses 5kwh per 24 hours. Find out how much of your load is used during the day. The more you use during the day, the better it is for everyone if you are installing a grid feed system, energy companies included.
If your house faces north, and you have a roof angle that equals your latitude plus 12.5 degrees, you have the perfect roof to install a solar system that will give you what it says on the box- if they are good quality panels. A flat roof is also good, as the installers can put a mounting system that will give you the perfect angle.
Just to keep it simple, we will use one round number, which is the number 20. If your roof faces west, you will lose about 20% of production and the same as if it faces east. For example, if you install a system with 1Kwh of panels, and on average (in perfect conditions) those panels would give you 5 hours of peak performance. You would produce 5Kwhs for the day, and you lose 20% of that, because your roof doesn’t face the right way, you will end up with only 4kwh of production for the day. The same goes for the angle of your roof, you will lose about the same. If you have both, you can see how you will get 40% less production. It also changes with the seasons, as the sun angle changes, as does the length of sun we get each day. At Winter equinox (21st June) you will get 3.5 peak hours of performance from your solar panels, whereas on Summer equinox you would get 7.5 hours. This also will all change depending on where you live as well.
The reason to understand the importance of this is we all use energy differently. For example, you might love the aircon cranking cold in summer, and therefore having a solar system installed facing west will be perfect- in the hottest part of the day your panels are producing at peak performance. Learn how you use your energy, you will get more out of your system.
Feeding energy back into the grid to make money has been one of the worst things possible for the industry. If you can reduce your load at night, and self consume as much as possible from a grid feed solar system, for very little cost you can almost power your home for free- depending on your load and the size system you can install on your roof.
Remember the cheapest form of energy is the energy that you don’t have to create. If you can cool your house naturally or grow trees on the western wall, have all your insulation done properly, external shading devices, you reduce your need to create power to heat and cool your home.
Another calculation that is important to consider is the temperature of solar panels. Yes, they produce less when they get hotter than 25 degrees. Depending on where you live, that could mean a 16 degree day! This is not all solar panels. A poly or mono crystal panel will normally be rated at 250 watts in a factory, compared to a thin film 160watt C.I.G.S panel that is heat tolerant. CIGS panels can reach temperatures of 80 degrees before the performance reduces, and they also perform better on cloudy days. Over a 12 month period, you will get a more consistent performance from a C.I.G.S panel. Bigger is not always better!
Let’s talk about losses, no one wants to talk about it when their sports team loses and no one wants to talk about negative stuff when they are selling you something! There will always be losses in electrical devices. Did you know that the grid loses up to 90% of the energy created at the power plant to get it to your home? Your home solar system will lose about 20-30% depending on your climate and system.
Expectation is the key, if you know what you are going to get you will be happy, if you are promised the world and it doesn’t perform makes for an unhappy you.
Getting solar right will change your life for the better. And, as with anything in life, you normally get what you pay for. Cheap systems will need replacing in a short time, which will cost you more in the long run. Government rebates also help to cover up and hide cheap solar systems.
The best money you can spend is educating yourself on how they work. There are plenty of weekend or online courses from $200-2000 to learn all about it. You will never waste money on anything if you educate yourself.