Finding out if you’re prepared to install a solar system raises many questions, questions such as is my roof suitable for solar panels? Do I need to replace my roof before installation? What size system is best for my home? What is the life of my system? Can I really afford to switch? And, how do I compare and understand solar quotes? Here are the most common solar FAQs and answers:
The best roofing materials to have for solar systems are metal standing seams, standard clay, asphalt, EPDM rubber, TPO, or PVC. In particular, metal roofs with metal standing seams are compatible with a solar clamping system, do not require any drilling of holes, and metal roofs are good insulators. Standard clay roofs, such as Spanish tile, can have the solar installation done by using standard penetrating mounts. Some installers actually use mounts that are pre-integrated into tile making installation even easier. With asphalt roofs, there is nothing to worry about. Asphalt roofs are virtually indestructible when it comes to solar installation, and standard solar mounts are used in this instance as well. EPDM rubber (Ethylene propylene dienterpolymer) roof installations are usually the least expensive. These roofs are generally flat and are most often found on commercial buildings allowing installers to use a ballast system. TPO (thermoplastic polyolefin) roofs, and PVC (polyvinyl chloride) roofs are also usually flat and relatively inexpensive, and they also use ballast systems to mount solar panels. All of these roof types are excellent for solar installation.
To replace my roof or not?
Most roofs are compatible with solar panels, including Spanish tile. Roofing types that are not preferred generally are slate and wood shingle. However, innovations have been made recently that have not yet become widespread in regards to solar compatibility with slate and wood tile roofs, but they are making in-roads to popular usage. Generally, the reasons that these materials haven’t been preferred are that they break easily and can be dangerous to walk on making installation for roofs like these more expensive. Yet, designs such as slate roof tiles with solar panels embedded in the tile design are becoming more readily available.
What size system is best for my house?
Determining the right sized solar system for your home is figured by the amount of sun exposure your property receives vs shade and the number of kW of electricity you normally use per year. For example, the average American household uses 10,400 kW per year. However, in order to provide 100% of the energy needs of an average home say in California every year, you would need only a 7 kW solar system, while a home in Massachusetts of the same size and kW usage would need an 8.8 kW solar system in order to provide 100% of their energy needs every year. What’s the difference? The difference is that Massachusetts receives less sun exposure than California, creating a need to capture more solar energy. To capture more solar energy, more solar panels are needed.
What is the life of my system?
A typical solar system has an average life of 25 to 30 years. However, over time panels absorb less sunlight due to degradation. Solar panels are very sturdy, but degradation can be caused by inclement weather, wind, and other external factors. Currently, the industry projection for solar panel degradation is 0.5 percent per year. To determine the rate at which your solar panels might degrade, you can multiply the number of years you wish to estimate by 0.5 percent and then subtract that number from 100 percent.
Can I really afford to switch?
Considering that US homeowners break-even on the cost of their solar systems in an average of 8 years, and the cost of a solar system has reduced from $8/W in 2008 to $2.81/W in 2021; at this rate before tax credits and rebates (which can be up to 50% off the total price), the cost of a 6kW solar system at $2.81/W comes to around $16,860. After tax credits and rebates, it is possible to save around $8,430 on average for that 6kW system.
It is recommended that potential solar customers seek at least 3 to 4 quotes from solar system installers and financing companies before making a decision. When installers know that you’re getting multiple quotes, they will seek to be competitive in offering you the best proposal in order to get your business. If you use “…the EnergySage Solar Marketplace, you can make easy side-by-side comparisons to ensure that you understand the costs and benefits of each option. Homeowners with preexisting solar quotes can upload those onto EnergySage as well” (EnergySage Solar Marketplace).
Questions You Want to Ask
- What types of solar panels exist for home use?
- Will I need solar batteries?
- Is a solar monitoring system necessary?
- What happens during the installation process?
- Is it important for me to know the various types of power inverters?
- What happens if I sell my house?
- What is shared solar?
- What are my solar financing options?
- Why should I go solar?
- How do solar panels work for homes?
In summary, arm yourself with as much knowledge about solar as you can, and make sure you get 3 to 4 quotes at least. You won’t be sorry.
Suggested Read: Going solar? Things to know before installing solar panels!