This is how the solar technology works and these are what you have to ask your contractor about it. You know that sunshine can be collected and converted to energy that powers your home. You’ve heard that it can save you money on your utility bills and that it’s good for the environment. But before you commit to a solar energy system, it helps to know a few ins and outs of solar tech and what the process of installation will look like.
Home Improvement Leads shares some solar basics, as well as a few points you should discuss with your solar contractor.
How Solar Tech Works
Residential solar systems usually include roof-mounted panels. These panels are made up of photovoltaic (PV) cells, which contain electrical conductors that convert sunlight to direct current electricity during the daylight hours. A device called an inverter converts the direct current (DC) electricity to alternating current (AC). The AC electricity is then sent to your electric panel to help power your home. You’ll also have a utility meter that measures your system’s energy generation and your energy use. Those are the basic parts of a residential solar system.
If the system is grid-connected, meaning it relies on traditional energy to supplement solar energy, your system will need to be connected to the utility grid. The surplus energy your system generates will be fed back into the grid. Depending on your location and your utility company, you may even be compensated for your excess solar energy. This is called net metering.
Stand-alone solar energy systems are less common because they require an expensive battery to store the energy. A stand-alone solar energy system isn’t connected to the grid. Instead, it stores the excess energy and uses it to meet nighttime energy needs, resulting in total independence from utility companies.
Questions to Ask Your Contractor
Now that you’re familiar with the basics of a residential solar energy system, you can ask your contractor these questions to find out more about the installation process:
How does permitting work?
Permitting requirements vary based on what state you live in, your local government’s codes, and the size of your system. Additional considerations include homeowner association rules and the responsibilities of living in a historical neighborhood where certain structures can’t be altered. It’s important for your contractor to be familiar with the requirements in your municipality so the permitting process can go smoothly.
Do you guarantee the system’s performance?
Make sure that the contractor gives you a production forecast. This means that he or she has taken into account the attributes unique to your system (your geographic location, the pitch of your roof, etc) and figured out how much energy it will be able to generate. There should be a clause in your contract that holds the installer accountable if the system does not perform as stated.
How do I monitor my solar system?
You won’t know if your system is under-performing unless you have a way to track its performance. Make sure your installer is clear about how to use the utility meter, as well as who you can contact if you find that your system does not perform as promised.
How will you protect my roof?
The life of an asphalt roof is about 25 years, whereas a solar system can last for 30. You’ll want to take this into account before you install a solar system on an old or damaged asphalt roof. It will be more of a hassle to replace your roof once the solar system is installed, so replacing your roof may be a project you need to do in preparation for installing a photovoltaic module. Your contractor will ensure that your roof is sturdy enough to be compatible with a solar energy system.
The most important thing you can do is find a contractor you can trust. Ask if you can call former clients for references and request that the contractor furnish the necessary licenses and insurance. A contractor who will do the job well is worth investing in.
This is a contributed article by Ryan Miller and is authored by Hannah West.