Before installing solar panels, here are some things to take into consideration.

Installing solar panels on your roof is a complex project, one that many across the country are starting to explore. While most people know what solar panels are, many aren’t aware of the details involved in setting up a complete rooftop solar power system.

But first things first.

While this article outlines the different elements involved in installing a solar power system (not to mention several steps pertaining to the actual installation of the solar panels themselves) we highly recommend that you hire a certified professional to get the job done right.  The purpose of this article is to arm you with more information on the process itself in order to better equip you for a project of this size and undertaking.

Types of Solar Power for the Home

There are a few ways in which you can generate power for your home through installing solar panels. It is important to understand your options in order to correctly set up your system and start benefitting from solar power. If you need more help deciding on the best option for your home, get in touch with a contractor.  They will provide the additional information you need.

In general, there are three main types of solar power for the home. These include:

Grid Connected (no batteries)

This type of installation is the cheapest and easiest.

With this type of solar power, the system is connected to the grid without any back-up because you are using the grid in place of the battery. If your house requires more power, it will simply consume what it needs from the grid. When your system generates more electricity than you can consume, that power is given to the grid (local utility).

The credit amount you can receive for this excess power depends on your utility. One thing to keep in mind before you choose this type of solar power is that if the grid goes out, so does the power in your home.

Grid Connected (with batteries)

The main difference with this type of solar power system is that you will have batteries in addition to your connection to the grid. What this means is that the batteries will act as storage for power so that if the grid experiences a power outage, the power from your battery will keep your lights on. If your solar power system generates more energy than you consume, it will continue to go into the grid. This type of system can be quite expensive and are much more complicated to install. It is for this reason that this type of system is often used in hospitals (for example) because they have specific needs that require power at all times.

Off Grid

With this type of system, you are not connected to your utility. The system will generate, store and consume its own power, without any help from external resources. This installation is tricky because the contractor will need to know the exact amount of power you require. This system is more often used in rural areas where the cost of bringing in power from a utility is very high. This option is not really recommended if you live in a major city or populated area.

Types of Solar Panels

Before your contractor can start any installation work, you need to decide on the best solar panel type for your roof. In most cases, your contractor will suggest what they feel will work best with your roof. However, it’s a good idea to know about and understand your options before making a final decision.

There are many different types of solar panels and technologies out on the market. The most common solar panels used in roof installations include:

Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels

These types of solar panels are also known as Crystalline Silicon panels. They are the most common kind of solar panel technology on the market because they generate a lot of electricity (up to 20% efficiency). Since some roofs don’t have a lot of space, these panels are generally a go-to choice in order to maximize the amount of power generated.

Thin film solar panels

These solar panels are very thin and much more flexible compared to PV panels. However, they only reach between 6% – 11% efficiency, and therefore more panels are required (especially for commercial businesses).

Solar thermal panels

While PV and film solar panels generate electricity, solar thermal panels are generally used to heat water. The reason for this is because they are designed to transfer instead of generate heat. These types of panels help to offset the cost of gas and are more commonly seen in commercial buildings.

Types of Mounting Systems

There are several mounting systems that contractors can use to install solar panels onto a roof. The mounting system used on your roof might differ from your neighbor’s depending on the size and shape, as well as the types of shingles you have on your roof. Direct mounted is the most common solution for residential roofs.

Direct Mounted

The majority of solar panels are installed directly onto the roof of your house. Some contractors say that the best roof for this type of installation is southern facing (plus or minus 10 degrees true south). The tilt of the solar panels is also important, because it helps them to work better in winter months when the sun isn’t as high. It is important to make sure that the way the solar panels are tilted, doesn’t create a lifting effect. This is important because it is possible for the tilt to allow the wind to catch your solar panels and rip them from your roof.

The Basics:

There are a few basic steps to how solar panels are installed on a roof. Keep in mind that depending on your roof, these steps might change. It’s always best to ask your contractor any questions related to your installation project. Basic roof solar panel installation steps include,

  1. Place mounts four feet apart and on rafters.
  2. Drill holes into rafters
  3. Secure the mount with steel bolts and seal the surrounding area
  4. Fasten the solar panel to the mount
  5. Connect the solar panel to the electrical supply

We want to remind you that while these steps may sound easy, it is even easier to cause damage to your roof. We highly recommend that you hire a contractor or certified professional for all solar panel installation work.

Ground Framework

Additional types of installation includes Ground Framework, which occurs in situations where a roof might not be suitable for direct mounted solar panels.

Ground Frameworks are installed into the ground and can either track, or follow the sun for optimum power generation, or they can remain fixed (meaning that they don’t move). The solar panels installed in this way still function like Direct Mounted ones, it is simply the placement that is different. This type of mounting is a better option if you have a lot of wide open space with view of the horizon from when the sun rises to when the sun sets.