Solar Panel Envy? No Problem For Solar Panel Users!

Categories: Solar PV Panels.
Solar panel envy

Introduction:  What Can I Say, Solar Panels Have Benefits

Solar Panel Envy is a link between the action of installing solar panels and the emotional feeling that arises from within the general residential population seeing solar panels on your roof; something I’d call “solar panel envy”?

People who install solar panels do so to collect solar energy and convert it into electric power. A few people do that as a way to becoming energy independent but essentially most do so as they want to save money. Sometimes the long-term objective might be to have your independence and get off the grid.

Installing the right solar panel system gives you the ability to be unaffected during big grid power outages. This display of energy independence can create feelings of envy, wrath, or lust in your neighbours during those periods of power outage.  You have light and power whereas your neighbours do not.

There could be some self-satisfaction or pride in having made the right decision, and possibly some un-neighbourly judgement of; ‘I told you so’. Any verbal commentary from the solar panel owners when the solar panel installations work as expected may need to be kept in check during those times.

Just to be a little cheeky, I thought I would provide a list of ‘virtues’ of solar panels owners, ‘balanced’ against the seven deadly ‘sins’ (or maybe behavioural attributes) of those who are without solar panels. These behavioural attributes could be applied (as I said, tongue in cheek) to proponents and antagonists of those who are considering solar panel arrays on their home.

Solar Virtues Versus Solar Envy

Solar Virtues

Solar Envy

Chastity and Purity:

Having the Courage and boldness to embrace the moral wholesomeness of solar panel power. You achieve purity of thought through educating others about energy betterment

Lust:

A powerful craving for having some electrical power. Wanting a share of someone else’s solar panel energy savings

Forgiveness, Abstinence and 

Composure:

Constantly being mindful of others’ feelings and one's surroundings. Practising self-control / moderation when solar panels power your house when the grid power is out

Anger or Wrath:

Experience a loss of rational self-control and the desire to harm others during a power cut. Dislike for seeing people with solar panels and batteries continue to glow when you endure the darkness


Liberality/ charity/ compassion:

A feeling of generosity and giving of self to a nobility of thought. The experience of taking action and installing solar panels


Greed or avarice:

Feelings arising from having the desire for material wealth or savings from a solar panel array. Owning the ongoing power generation potential

Diligence/ Integrity:

A zealous and careful nature in one's actions and work. A decisive work ethic in budgeting one’s time to ward off laziness and installing rooftop solar panels

Sloth:

A feeling of laziness. A wanting to  avoid the work of installing panels on your roof or finding a contractor to do it


Patience:

Forbearance and endurance through moderation. The ability to forgive and resolve conflict peacefully. Not resorting to solar panel envy when energy prices continue to rise

Gluttony and Indulgence:

The desire to consume more energy than you can get; visiting neighbours during blackouts because they have installed solar panels


Admiration & Kindness:

Friendship and empathy without prejudice for those whose opinions differ from yours regarding your solar panel energy independence

Envy:

A jealousy from wanting another's status, recognition, and power generation potential. Desire another's solar panels that have recently been installed

Humility:

A modest behaviour, gives credit where credit is due. Will not glorify oneself when the solar panel and system become self-sustaining



Pride:

A sort of vanity arising from an excessive belief in one's own solar panels. Pleasure of having the forethought to install solar batteries before storms cut power to everyone but you

Ok, that is enough frivolity; let’s move onward to consider some things you might like to know about solar panels. I hope this helps answer questions and clarify a few issues.

The question of what a solar panel is has been addressed in another of my blog articles. But, let me recap briefly.

A solar panel is a collection of solar cells (most solar cells are made from silicon crystal based photovoltaic materials that capture and convert the sun's energy into direct current) that generate electricity for use by the panel owner. Panel’s cells generate electricity through photovoltaic effect.

A set of interconnected photovoltaic cells is mounted onto a supporting substrate that is collectively termed a photovoltaic panel, or sometimes a PV module. Panels have a packaged interconnected assembly of solar cells in a modular format of 10 x 6 = 60, and 12 x 6 = 72, or a similar standard arrangement. Solar panels are quite robust and their output effectiveness decreases very slowly over about 25 years.

Solar panels are installed in outdoors locations exposed to sun and all weather, as solar panels need sunlight to operate. It is claimed that when you install solar panels onto your home’s roof you help the environment and contribute to a reduction in global warming. When producing electricity solar panels cleanly produce pollution free power and so reduce your reliance on traditional power sources that burn fossil fuels.

Small solar panels are increasingly being incorporated into portable electronic equipment and mobile gadgetry like calculators, which run them while sunlight is available. Although the cost of panels has been falling over time they are still relatively costly.

There are three types of commercial solar cells in production. Lets look at them in turn.

solar panel kits

The monocrystalline solar cells use thin slices of a single crystal of pure silicon ingot. The process uses silicon dioxide from either quartzite or crushed quartz, which is placed into an electric arc furnace to produce molten silicon. This is the starting process that yields ninety nine per cent pure silicon, but for the solar cell a higher purity level is needed.

The rod of impure silicon crystal is heated several times in the same direction. This procedure moves the impurities toward one end of the ingot with each pass. The ingot of silicon is almost pure when the end part with impurities is removed.

Czochralski process dips a seed crystal into melted polycrystalline silicon. The seed crystal is rotated as it is withdrawn, forming a long cylindrical ingot of very pure silicon.

The ingot is sliced into thin wafers and the wafers placed into a furnace and heated to slightly below the melting point of silicon of 1,410 degrees Celsius while immersed in phosphorous gas.

Polycrystalline

Polycrystalline, Multicrystalline and Polysilicon are all names of the cell type produced by a chemical purification process, called the Siemens process. This chemical process involves distilling metallurgical-grade silicon compounds at high temperatures to get pure silicon. The photovoltaic industry can also obtain pure silicon and upgraded metallurgical-grade silicon using a metallurgical process instead of the chemical purification process.

Polysilicon ingots for the high-grade electronics semiconductor industry have 99.999 per cent purity levels, while solar grade polycrystalline silicon (SoG-Si) can be slightly less pure. A relatively small number of companies coming from five countries (China, Germany, Japan, Korea and the United States) provide most of the worldwide silicon ingot production.

Large rods of polysilicon feedstock are cast into polycrystalline ingots that are then sliced into thin silicon wafers for use in the production of solar cells. The sliced wafers from cast ingots are rectangular rather than circular as in the monocrystalline process.

Thin-film-solar

Thin film solar cells are made by depositing multiple thin layers of a photovoltaic material, like amorphous thin-film silicon, onto a substrate, such as glass, plastic or metal. Thin-film solar cells are also commercially using cadmium telluride (CdTe) and copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS) technologies.

Thin Film thicknesses vary, but stated simply, they are many times thinner than the conventional, first-generation crystalline silicon (c-Si ) solar cell technology that use silicon crystal wafers. Their thinness allows thin film solar cells to be quite flexible, and weigh much less. For example, thin film solar sheets can be used in photovoltaic glazing material that can be applied as a laminate tinting material for windows. An alternative commercial application uses thin solar film sandwiched between glass sheets for traditional solar panel applications.

Thin-film technology is cheaper but less efficient than conventional c-Si technology, albeit its solar energy to electricity conversion efficiency has significantly improved over the years. The efficiency for CdTe and CIGS now outperforms multicrystalline silicon. Field tests of thin film panels found that it has a faster degradation rate as compared to conventional PV, albeit a life of more than 20 years is still expected. Thin-film solar over the last two decades and has had a declining percentage of the worldwide photovoltaic market.

Advantages Of Solar

There are social benefits beyond the cash payback contributed towards your power bill from using a solar panel power system. There are benefits to the environment with producing cleaner energy. A solar panel powered household will help your bid for energy independence and towards reducing the load on the national energy grid. There is a ‘feel good’ factor in having energy autonomy during periods, however infrequent and short, of power restrictions of the grid. The majority of people who suggest they invested in solar for environmental reasons have that as one of their considerations.

Advantages Of Solar

The cost of solar panels has been dropping over the past two decades. While they might vary in price due to government rebates and incentives that reduce the cost or targeted with imposed import taxes, the panel is not the whole cost of the system. The solar panel makes up about a third of the total cost of your installed solar system.

Don’t purchase your solar panel power system simply based on the expected rebates or what you're possibly going to be paid for sending any excess solar energy into the utility’s network grid. That investment decision or strategy to maximise your return from an increased number of solar panels on your roof might be good. But, check that the idea for increased investment holds up to rigorous financial scrutiny.

You must check the calculations:

  • What is the installed system total investment?
  • What is the net return during the billing period?
  •  Is there a positive payback to investment knowing the above?

This will not be a primary reason for installing a solar PV system but it’s a good idea to check the opportunities to sell your unused excess electricity to the grid.  Don’t buy solar panels for the Utility Income but be aware of the opportunity. Some technology now enables you to sell that electricity to neighbours directly.

Generally without a government incentive or subsidy the electric utility’s feed-in tariff rate will always be lower than the rate for power they sell to you. You may hope for a better deal but the commercial reality isn’t there for the utilities to do anything differently.

The utility might benefit from your excess power into their system but will argue that it can cause them problems and destabilize their network. There is a control cost for managing those boosts and lulls as clouds pass over or as the days progress. It is possible that the utility will make a net positive payment to you for the greater number of kW of power they receive even at the lower tariff rate because what you use from the grid is so much smaller.

In some states there are government financial incentives for installing solar panels and the feed-in tariff is subsidised. Don’t rely on these solar panel subsidies being constant features for the life of the system. Plan your solar panel installations based on no subsidy and conservatively calculate payback periods. The unexpected extra income will reduce the payback period or add to your benefits.

The economics of installing an over-sized solar PV panel array to ensure that you will never have to pay another electricity bill might surprise you. Firstly, the power utility might cap the amount of power they will receive in a period. If however no limits apply it is likely that the electricity the solar panels push into the grid may get you regular credits from the utility company feed-in tariff.

Your end of year net energy bill will depend on:

  • The fixed network charges that are applied
  • What the utility company charges you for any power you need to consume from the grid when your solar panels are resting
  •  The per kWh feed-in tariff paid by the utility for power from a solar panel system

Your investment will provide some cash flow during the day while your system is producing excess power. Unfortunately it won’t be the license to print money that you might have hoped for. Having a big system may create some solar panel envy form other panels converts but usually the return on investment is usually made from savings rather than revenue. None-the-less, your solar panel system even without batteries will significantly reduce your net annual electricity cost.

How much power you need depends on how much power your appliances use.

Determine the running power consumption for all appliances in your home. That means checking the fridges, lighting, cooking, room heating, air-conditioning, water heating, power for running electrical motors and so on.

Collect information of what appliances you have and use. List every energy-consuming device that you use. Factor in for appliances you will be changing soon for more efficient items. Don’t be tempted to add to these appliances when higher power bills slide from memory.

It will be good to get an understanding of when those appliances usually operate during the day and night. Find out their start up loads, as you will need to consider and accommodate them. It’s likely that you’ll need some contingencies for when several items of equipment start at the same time, even if that is a coincidence.

The solar energy production system is more than an array of solar panels. It is not just a system of PV cells with groups connected in series and parallel. Your working solar panel array will provide an output in kilowatts. Knowing the DC output you can calculate the appropriate size of the solar system components.

Size The System Components

The wiring, the charge controller and bank of batteries will have an electrical capacity. The inverter/ transformer, converter and switching will have optimum operating ranges. A spreadsheet can assist you to list and work out an optimum capacity for your solar panel set up.

Most appliances are manufactured in fixed sized units. That means when choosing the appropriate component capacity you will need to identify the size that is sufficient to cope with the load. There will be a range of voltage and current levels at peaks during the day. You can select the type of appliance and then match requirement from among the sizes available.

Most installers will provide assistance to size your solar panel generation system within their quote. In most solar panel installations the individual nature of the site, the terrain, orientation and ground cover will vary. That means in working out power requirements there is no easy available one size fits all solution.

Remember the roof brackets and holding mechanisms need to account for the terrain wind categories, wind loading, dead weight of the panels and live loadings that will be imposed during installation and maintenance. The installers can size these to the material onto which they are being installed.

You don’t need to overdo the bracket size. There is a cost to mounting and holding down the solar panels properly to the location but the holding fixings don’t need to be overdone. For safety the brackets must be adequate for the expected dead and live plus anticipated wind loads.

Calculate the amount of power you would normally use in a year to the shortest period available. Your utility bill often has that daily information if you want it. Use this information for sizing your solar panels system. You need to think about when the power was used. Think about timing.

Look at how much electrical power was used in winter period; then look at the summer period’s use. You may find that the power used differs by season. Also the timing of appliances starting up and being used could change during the year. Your synopsis for maximum loads will give you a good feel of your annual energy consumption pattern.

Do a complete analysis of your electricity usage habits before you ask contractors to provide you with a quote. You want to buy a solar panel system based on your needs, so know what they are. When you sit down with your solar contractor installer have a clear idea of what you want from the purchase.

 Ask yourself, what appliances are you running?

  • Cooling/Heating: there might be more efficient ways to heat water using thermal solar heating
  • Pool: a solar thermal pool heating system can be operated using a small solar panel to run a pump that forces water through a thermal collector

It is possible there is a deal to be done. Often an installer can provide packages to meet your requirement. Be aware of the “your area marketing special” deal. Good sales people may try to have you sign a time sensitive deal now. “Sign today; that particular offer isn’t going to be available after this week”.

What are your financial goals from investing in your solar panel array?

Solar battery storage

How much are you willing to spend to accomplish those goals? What is the budget? If you intend sizing and purchasing a solar power installation make sure the system that matches your current energy usage and foreseeable changes. Your calculations need to consider a few things in coming to the conclusion about the panel sizing such as energy losses and system inefficiency.

Solar panel efficiencies are between 18 and 24% and work at optimum efficiency when the sun is perpendicular to the plane of the panel. Do you know the azimuth angle/ latitude of the location for installation? That is the angle north or south of the Earth’s equator.  

solar efficiency since 1970

When your solar panels aren’t facing the most appropriate direction (due to orientation of the roof structure, or the fixed slope of the roof) electrical production won’t be optimal. You will still generate some power from the solar panels but you will lose some percentage of your solar panel system production during the day.

To Get More Power Out You Need To Optimise

All this means that you may need a bigger solar panel array, or need to use brackets and attachments to improve the solar panel skyward orientation. The option of having the solar panels pivoting and tracking the path of the sun across the sky is going to be too expensive for a domestic system.

Solar access or panel siting is important; ensuring the panels are not in shade for any (extended) period of the day. It is worth investing some of your time to consider site planning. You must position your panels where they will get maximum sun exposure during the day.

disadvantages Of Solar

If you are going use more electricity in the morning or maybe only the afternoon, it would make good sense to adjust positioning the panels to accommodate time of day. You could orientate your solar panels slightly to face more to the east for morning sun. If you find that in the afternoon is when your period of peak use occurs then orientate the panels more to the west.

Is your location blessed with abundant sun and also high prices for electricity from the power grid? 

What about the cost of solar panels with battery storage?

You might get advice about the costs for a solar installation by getting a few quotes for the solar components plus their installation. 

When you add the cost of solar panels, inverter, transformer, electrical connection, fees and wiring you might see big dollars. But then to have the solar system also comprise energy storage capabilities add to that cost with a charge controller, energy storage batteries and safety cut off systems.

If you are speculating about buying a solar PV panel to keep you energy independent you need to compare the benefits and costs.

Solar Panels - Timing Of The Use Of Power

How long will you wait before you invest in your solar panel power system? The capital cost of a solar panel array is projected to decline year-on-year (in real dollars). There is a similar story projected for battery storage and the technology is improving yearly as costs per stored kW also fall.

When is it best to opt in? Your decision will need to look at the economics and logistics. If you were planning to fix or modify your roof as happens when you undertake extensions, then you would be advised to delay the solar investment. Fix the roof first and then install panels.

Another day without solar PV panels being installed, contributing power to your home, is another day of accessing the grid for electricity. You may try to time when to stop paying those upward trending utility bills. A solar panel powered domestic system, when installed without batteries, can be designed to meet your needs and to operate using the grid as backup.

If the majority of your power is consumed during daylight hours then a solar panel system without batteries can stretch your budget with smaller net power bills. With a smart electrical meter the utility system will pay you for the excess power that you push back into the grid. If this daytime power use scenario describes you then this type of installation creates the savings to repay the capital cost and you probably will have access to power during the night at off peak rates.

At night there is no power produced from the solar panels and without batteries the grid will provide that power. If your night power consumption is small then waiting for 3 or 4 years until batteries become more affordable means another 3 or 4 years of paying for power at night but that might be a better value proposition until a battery storage option is economically feasible.

Solar Panels Without Batteries And Safety Of The Grid

If your solar panels are not configured to have battery storage backup then you will not be permitted to generate power to your house from the solar panels when there is a shut down of the grid. Your inverter will automatically shut off the power from the solar panels. That is not likely to be a concern for most places where the power is reliable and after an emergency the utility reconnects quickly.

Solar panels will be producing power during the blackout while the sun is shining but for safety reasons that PV electricity can’t be used by your home or go into the network grid. As your home is linked to the grid therefore power from your solar panels is not permitted to feed into your home.

This safety precaution prevents the utility linesmen working on lines to restore them being in contact with electricity from solar power generation. Electrical isolation of the network’s electrical wires requires that your solar panels are isolated (switched out) from the network as soon as there is no electrical current in the network.

You will need do a cost/ benefit and payback analysis to determine whether the added cost of batteries (along with everything involved in installing them) versus the cost of power from the grid at night with the risk of power outage during grid down time is worthwhile. Let the economics show you the answer.

Solar Panels For Autonomy

Advantages Of Solar

If you live in an area where there are regular bush fires, or in areas that have a reputation for power outages you might be swayed to add batteries to the initial solar panel array installation cost simply for peace of mind. Maybe the other consideration factors like total power availability offset the consideration of cost of having an autonomous power system in backup. Many places where power drop out is a regular even the house might be configured to isolate the power and have a generator for back up. This installation can be in addition to solar panels or in isolation of them.

When the day comes that adding batteries to your solar panel array make economic sense, or for whatever reason, then batteries are a modular adjunct. You can add that capability to your solar panel system with AC coupling. Total solar PV systems are modular so you have the capability to be a grid-linked customer or have ability to go off grid whenever you choose.

Solar Panels With Batteries Or Not

solar battery

There are years of savings available from installing a properly designed solar panel set up. If the economics for batteries isn’t there right now, waiting for cheap batteries to arrive is a good option. If you design and size the PV system to your future needs when you initially install the array you can retrofit batteries later. As batteries technology improves and electrical storage become cheaper the economics will make them viable.

When the economics of the system (solar PV panel without batteries or plus batteries) indicate they will pay for themselves then your installation won’t be based on your emotions and feelings. You will know when the time has come to get off the grid and there may be pride that comes with being self-sufficient. There may be solar panel envy  evolving in the neighbourhood.

Benefits Of Investment In A Solar Panel System Plus Batteries

The media hyperbole about solar panel energy systems is usually pointing to the cost of solar electricity. The utility grid is usually reliable about 99.9% of the time and electricity converted from the sun’s energy is just as reliable. However, you must own the solar electricity-generating infrastructure to be independent of the utility grid power and you must trust how effectively your solar PV system will perform, how soundly it’s designed and competently installed.

If you want to become independent of the power utility’s network grid’s upward pricing trend then you will need to consider solar panels for energy while the sun is shining and using battery stored solar power later when it is not.

Your batteries must be adequate for storing enough excess electrical energy produced by the solar panels during the day. That way, when the sunlight fades late in the afternoon until after it starts stimulating the PV cells next day, it acts as your continuing electrical backup. You may even need a generator for those extended periods when the day light is too poor to generate sufficient stored power to the batteries due to inclement weather.

Cost Of System With Batteries

Installing solar panels and adding battery storage is something that will add to your investment cost. It is good to question the value of savings for the solar power versus utility grid, if only for being aware of your electricity consumption cost. Knowing the consumption cost of appliances at particular times will help you avoid the network’s peak power pricing unless absolutely necessary. It is satisfying to be sufficiently independent to switch off and onto the grid as needed. What is your current viability of using solar panels installed without batteries and accessing the grid as backup? You can use a spread sheet to compare that arrangement with using solar panels with the added cost (and convenience) of solar batteries?                                    

You know the cost of solar panel arrays has fallen over the period since they became popular ten years ago. 

Advantages Of Solar
In that same period the electrical generating efficiency of solar panels has improved to just over 20%. You might speculate that adding solar batteries as a backup for storage of the solar panel’s energy will become 'affordable' with more manufacturers putting better and cheaper batteries into the market?  The most likely answer is “yes”. Battery storage is discussed in another post.

The benefits from solar panel energy are certain. However, the price of that outlay to buy the benefits may be less absolute. Do you only buy solar panel set-ups when you are certain they will pay for themselves within a certain time frame? Rational economic judgement might suggest that people look for a benefit that exceeds its cost. Checking the payback period is answering the question of when your solar panel array investment will be providing “free power”. It won’t answer the question of whether you buy or wait. That might be an emotional decision based on what you feel the future for energy looks like.

Your installer might have said that a set period of time will elapse and then the solar panel array is paid for with the savings. You can work out the payback period for solar panels and batteries. The payback period for your investment in solar panels will be the cost of your solar PV panel array, amortised against the difference in the cost between grid power and the level of savings that accrue from having solar power in place. From that process you will also know if it’s worth the added cost of solar batteries by looking at the after sundown energy cost from the grid against the cost of the storage.

Currently a residential solar panel array set up will cost you upwards of $10,000 and depending on the system size and sun hours required that cost might go to $40,000 to install solar panels with off grid backups. The cost of the solar panel system and saving accruing from the energy produced will directly relate to whether you want full off grid capability or simply daytime fee reductions.

The cost of the purchase is likely to take between 7 and about 15 years to be paid back depending on the location, orientation, hours of usable sunlight, system design, cost of grid power and usable life of the system’s components. The life of the solar panel array with most system components will usually exceed 15 years so at some time there will be a payback.

A lot of solar panel information can be garnished from suppliers. Solar panel manufacturers provide information about the average energy output of their panel, which is typically between 220-320 watts of direct current electricity. The figure will depend on the efficiency and size of the panel type installed. In an example where may have to achieve an output of about 5 kilowatts (kW) you would install 20 panels, each producing 250 watts.

Remember, there will be losses for relative vertical orientation, rain cloud shading, dirt on the panels and electrical wiring losses and so on. That means to achieve the required output the number of solar panels would need to increase to compensate for those losses. If say these inefficiencies and losses amounted to say 20% then an extra 4 panels (20% x 20 panels) would be needed.

After you have done your homework, you should know approximately what your energy usage for the house will be.

If you can't set up your solar system yourself, get multiple quotes!

When it comes to installing your solar panels and system you need to know what options are available in the market. It’s critical to get quotes. It’s good due diligence to get multiple quotes. Try to be clear about what your system requirements are, to the extent you can. Solar panel installers will want to charge you what the market (you) will pay. Unfortunately, you won’t know whether you have a good deal unless you check.

Check More Than The Price Of The Solar Panels

 Does the installer have a good reputation? Check or ask for customer reviews? 

  1. Do you buy local manufactured goods (USA) or buy equipment from overseas? 
  2. Ask how long does the particular item will last
  3. Ask how long will the particular item last           
  4. What is involved and what is the cost to maintain the system?
  5. Is my roof big enough/is the proposed installation location sunny enough?
  6. How big a system do I need? Check the answers given by multiple quote companies.
  7. What manufacturers system do you install? The installer might only use one manufacturer and will not supply alternatives.
  8.  What is the warranty on the system?

Warranty On The System

You should check that your solar panels and battery back up systems have an effective manufacturer’s warranty. What is the duration of your solar panel and the solar battery’s warranty? What does the warranty include and exclude?

The solar panel manufacturer’s warranty may have installation requirements. There may be exclusions and/or conditions that can limit and in some cases void the warranty if these requirements are overlooked or ignored. Ensure the installer completes all of the warranty forms that come with the solar panels and components and if that facility exists, ask to confirm they’ve logged the details on the manufacturer’s site or if you prefer doing it yourself, let the installer know.

A well-designed good-quality solar panel system will need to be checked and serviced about every 5 years. Confirm the components are operating within the required limits and that all connections are sound. Also depending on where your solar panel array is sited, it may need to be cleaned once per year. A good time to clean the solar array is when you’re clearing leaf litter from the house gutters and roof valley (if there are hips and valleys on the roof or box gutters). If there are trees that will shade the panels you might need to have the tree reduced, shaped or pruned.

solar panel envy

When you ask installers for a quote, ask those companies to give you a breakdown.

How much will the solar installation cost you exactly?

Try to obtain a clear understanding of your budget gets and what each quote is providing:

  • What are the brands of components they specified? (Google the brand name and serial numbers to see if you are getting quality appliances and material prices for the equipment),
  • How many labour hours are involved in the installation, and what are the rates (or is it a lump sum price regardless of any problems found)?
  • What will the finished job be expected to look like? (maybe they have pictures or someone who has installed a similar system close by), and
  • What guarantees come with the completed quoted work?

Get a clear idea of what the installation will look like and how long it will take to complete the installation. That will ensure that you will know how long it will be until you can be using the system. Knowing that information will help you understand how long you need to endure whatever inconvenience is coming.

Chapter 8:  What The Solar Panel Installer Provides

There may be a legal requirement in your state to use a licensed technician for part or all of the solar panel installation. When a technician does the solar panel installation ensure they:

  • Sign all documentation required for compliance
  • Complete the warranty forms, and provide you evidence they have submitted them
  •  Sign the test results record and submit them

Scope of Work

Where you have used a licensed technician ask them to:

  • Confirm when had all compliance requirements have been achieved
  • Provide written confirmation of the full solar PV panel and the power system’s compliance
  • Provide copies of all separate warranties that you will get for:
    • Your solar PV panel
    • Charge controller/ regulator
    • Bank of batteries
    • Inverter
    • Converter/Transformer
    • Components / connections/ wiring for the whole electrical system
    • And get a copy of the ‘performance warranty’ from the person who installed the system and tested it

You might ask the installation technicians for written confirmation about:

  • How they will undertake their warranty work
  • The duration of that warranty, and
  • What the warranty includes and what it excludes

Remember to ask the installer or company representative to explain:

  • Any particular terms and conditions of their contract
  • How their warranties work and particular cost relating to any call back 
  • Workmanship of electrical connection, fees and administration costs, parts replacement and wiring

Even if you encounter a rogue solar panel installer and they appear very relaxed with installation of your solar PV power set up, or they integrated the solar panel system into the grid, they won’t want a code or safety violation raised against their name. No householder or installer wants an investigation by the regulator or power utility that will prevent the newly installed solar PV power system being used.

The cautious client will have carried out their due diligence and checked the contractor’s record with the regulator and done whatever was possible to understand their own obligations. Not everyone checks to that extent so you might get some push back or initial reluctance to provide what you need in writing. A solid performer will have the information that you request or will happily find it.

A purchaser who takes care to get everything that was quoted in writing, who has judicially verified what is included in their contract and asked about warranty information, will have a better system installed as a result. The installer will be working with greater caution to satisfy the client who knows enough to ask questions and confirm the responses.

Conclusion

I hope this solar panel project discussion has assisted you. The blog covered a lot of information but maybe your take-aways could be:

  • A solar renewable energy system comes at a cost but the investment will save you money in the long term. Do your homework.
  • There is more to a solar system than just the solar panels, cheap panels are OK but they only make up 1/3rd of the total cost of the installed solar system.
  • Get more than one quote and ensure all contractor's undertakings are in writing, 
  • Ask for clarification of any items that you do not understand, and 
  • Ensure that the person installing is licensed to do all of the electrical work.

If there are other questions that arise you can find many answers in other blogs on this site. Take advantage of the free checklist that can be down loaded and if you want a broad view of renewables consider the E-book.

Feel free to share this article about solar panel envy and please do explore the website further.

If you have comments we would love to know.


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