Few technological innovations are quite as exciting as the increasingly affordable and powerful solar panels.
These impressive devices let you harvest energy directly from the sun rather than having to purchase it from utility companies. And the freedom, financial ROI, and the flexibility that these systems provide are stirring up an overwhelming wave of enthusiasm from people all over the world.
However, transitioning to solar energy from your traditional system isn’t as simple as nailing a few solar panels onto your roof and calling it quits. In fact, there’s a fair amount of preparation work that needs to be done before you decide to take the leap into solar.
That’s why it’s so important you have all your bases covered when preparing for solar panels. Below are just some of the biggest considerations you’ll need to take into account.
Determining Your Solar Needs
This is by far one of the most important steps for consumers interested in investing in a solar system for their home or office. In effect, it’s the first issue you should be thinking while preparing for your solar power installation.
According to Energy Sage, the average home consumes around 11,000 kWh per year. With this number in mind, the average homeowner would need about 28 to 34 250 watt solar panels in order to eliminate their electricity bills entirely.
You can also take a look at their handy solar calculator to help you estimate just how much solar panel coverage you’ll need at your home in order to completely cover your electricity usage as well.
Calculating Your Solar Potential
It may not come as much of a surprise to you that not all locations are perfectly suited for a home solar system. The gloomy and dreary days of Juneau, Alaska (which only gets 30% sunshine annually) won’t fare as well with solar power as Yuma, Arizona which sees direct sun 90% of the year.
The trick to getting the most out of your solar energy system, then, is ensuring you have realistic expectations for just what kind of energy output your location is capable of.
Luckily, there are a slew of research options available to help you determine the potential of your solar energy production. EnergySage, Geostellar, Mapdwell, OpenEI Solar Mapping Tools, and a whole lot more mapping resources are all at your disposal to help you determine your home’s solar potential.
Not only do these services gauge the average sun exposure of your location, they also take into account total roof surface area from satellite pictures when determining total possible solar power.
Deciding on the Direction for Solar Panels
Finding out the direction your solar panels should face is more complicated than you might imagine. To make matters even more difficult, setting your panels up facing the wrong direction can have a significant impact on the solar power you can collect and convert, leading to severely impacted savings.
So, what is the best direction for solar panels to face?
In general, solar panels on homes in the U.S. should face true south throughout the year. As the most direct solar rays shine over the equator, pointing your solar panels towards this line will help bring in as much solar energy as possible.
This might come as a bit of a disappointment to some as not all houses have north-south facing roofs. For those individuals with east-west facing roofs, there are a couple options.
You can compensate for the drop in collecting power by opting for a bigger collection area. You can also decide to install your system in a place other than your roof, say in your backyard.
Either way, you’ll want to consult with an experienced professional on the subject to determine what option is right for you since east-west facing panels typically come with a 20% decrease in production compared to north-south facing roofs.
Finding Just the Right Tilt
Last but not least, calculating the perfect tilt for your solar panels is another crucial step in setting up your solar energy system.
Since the sun is constantly shifting its course through our sky, there is no static tilt that is 100% perfect at gathering the sun’s rays. Instead, the best way to maintain optimum collection is by implementing a tracking mechanism that adjusts the tilt of the panels throughout the year. This option, however, is understandably cost prohibitive for many.
Instead, most solar professionals agree that the best angle of tilt is at about 30 degrees. This, however, depends entirely on your location. As such, enlisting the help of a professional solar panel installer is without a doubt the best way of determining your optimum tilt.
For an in-depth discussion on the complicated process of determining the perfect tilt for you, have a look at SolarPanelTilt.com, authored by software engineer Charles R. Landau.
Preparing for Solar
The switch to solar is undoubtedly an exciting one. It can signal in a new era of freedom, financial benefits, and clean energy for you and your family. But there’s a fair amount of work that should be done before you start your solar journey.
Taking the time to think about and research these considerations will help ensure that your transition to solar is a smooth one.