It is more important than ever today to adopt sustainable alternatives for the environment. The growing concern about environmental degradation resulting in problems like global warming has warranted the switch to clean, affordable, and renewable energy.
Sunlight is available aplenty, and it’s only wise to harness the natural energy in our daily lives. Solar panels are devices that draw thermal energy from the sun and convert it into electrical energy. This energy resource not only saves a lot of money in the long run, but solar panels also come with long warranties to guarantee performance. It’s better for the environment, and with rapidly evolving solar technology, solar panels are also becoming more efficient.
If you’re also planning to be an upstanding citizen who plans to go solar for a better future, this article will make sure you do it right. Upfront costs for solar panel installation can be high, but you can save yourself from the extra expenditure by avoiding some common mistakes.
Installing a solar system is a big step, and you should be thorough with your research and analyses before investing in it. Diving into it headfirst is probably not the best idea since solar designs are much more complex than they appear.
1. Cost: There are a few things that determine the overall cost of your solar installation. You need to factor in the size of your home and how much energy you use. Apart from that, there are plenty of solar panels to choose from. In India, some of the leading solar panel manufacturers include Tata Power Solar, Vikram Solar Pvt. Ltd., WAAREE Energies Ltd., EMMVEE Photovoltaic Power Pvt. Ltd., and Moser Baer Solar Ltd.
2. Your roof: If you’re installing solar panels on your roof, it needs to be inspected to make sure it can withstand the panels’ weight. You can discuss with your installer or contractor whether your roof will be affected by the installation.
3. Residential location: Solar panels need about four hours of sun exposure per day, so if you live in an area where enough sunlight is available, you’re good to go. The more sun exposure, the greater is the solar panel efficiency.
4. Source of electricity: Whether or not you want solar power to be your only energy source is totally up to you. You can choose to harness some energy through solar panels while also staying connected to your city’s electricity grid. People living in low sunlight areas mainly consider this.
5. Warranty: There are two types of warranties – product and performance warranty. Warranties are dependent on the manufacturers, so there might be exceptions to what different warranties will cover.
6. Right contractor: Just like any other installation in your home or office, you need the right installer or contractor for your solar power system. If installed incorrectly, your roof could be damaged, and panels’ production output and lifespan can reduce. It’s also helpful to consult people who already have solar panels installed about their experiences.
It’s a common misconception to think that upon installation of a solar power system, you will disconnect from your city’s electricity grid. That would be a mistake.
Solar panels allow you to generate your energy, and you can stop paying for power from these grids. However, you do need a way to store the energy generated by solar panels for later use. With access to power lines, you can store this energy in the electric utility grid.
So, what you’re looking for is a grid-tied solar system rather than an off-grid solar system. This system allows you to generate power for your home and sell access electricity to the state government. You also get five years of payback time and free electricity for the next 20 years.
Off-grid solar power systems do not have access to power lines, so they need another method to store energy. This is where battery banks come in. Batteries are expensive and mandatory for the off-grid system. They eat up much of the return on investment (ROI) from solar panels.
Therefore, you can avoid a very costly mistake by staying connected to the grid. Installing solar panels does not mean being completely independent of the grid. So, if your property has access to power lines, a grid-tied solar system is the best way to go.
Designing a proper solar power system with proper sizing is more complicated than it looks on the surface. This is why it’s best to consult with manufacturers and installers about designing and planning the system.
If you think simply researching enough to buy panels that cover your energy usage is all, then you’re ignoring a lot of crucial factors. Climate, panel orientation, natural efficiency drop, shading, and other factors determine your system’s total output.
Some factors you can consult a solar panel technician on are:
1. Efficiency: Solar panels have an efficiency rating, and they suffer a 0.5-1% efficiency drop every year. It means 20 years after installing them; they’ll be 10-20% less efficient. So, while designing your system, you should account for this loss of efficiency by designing a little extra headroom. To do that, you could add a few extra panels.
2. Weather and location: Manufacturers test solar panels in ideal temperatures, ranging from 20-25ºC, inside factories. However, in the real world, your system is exposed to much harsher weather conditions. High temperatures can negatively affect the energy you generate.
Your location determines the number of sun hours you get. “Sun hours” refer to the amount of time the Sun is in the correct position to generate maximum energy. In India, the average sun-hours range from 5-8 hours per day. However, depending on the state, the exact amount would affect the sizing of the system.
3. Voltage: While inverters and charge controllers have maximum and minimum voltage input windows, panels and batteries have voltage ratings. Your system’s design depends on the voltage requirements of the equipment being used. Temperature also affects the voltage and system performance. Not having the proper voltage from solar panels or battery banks can lead to poor system performance and damaged hardware.
4. Battery Bank Sizing: If you’re using the off-grid system, you’ll require a battery bank. A common mistake that happens with battery banks is mismatching the battery bank with the charging source. Your battery should get enough power supply to keep it charged but not too much power so that it doesn’t overcharge.
While overcharging can damage the batteries, undercharging can have an even worse effect. Some batteries need to be fully charged daily, or they run the risk of failing prematurely.
Even though you’re generating your own energy, you can expect your electrical appliances to stay functional even during a power outage. This is primarily for grid-tied solar systems. While the panel generates the power, it gets stored in the electric utility grid. So, when the grid power goes out, yours does too.
The only way to remedy this situation is to have a grid-tied system with a battery backup. When the power is on, the standard grid-tied system is functional. When there’s an outage, the backup battery bank takes over. It does cost a bit more, but you can rest assured with the backup, especially if you live in an area with extreme weather conditions.
Agreeably, investing in solar energy isn’t cheap. It’s a big commitment with a large upfront sum payment for the installation. However, electricity from the power company isn’t cheap either, and it’s only going to get more expensive with the exhaustion of nonrenewable resources.
In the long run, installing a solar power system is much more beneficial. Most grid-tied systems pay for themselves and make you profit over the warranty period.
In India, on average, a solar system (with a battery backup) of up to 10kW is installed in homes, known as the residential solar system. The investment is around Rs. 1,00,000 per kW. Installing a solar system in such a residential setup could lead to annual savings of up to Rs. 8,400. The investment is expected to have a payback period of approximately 10-11 years, and return on investment (ROI) will be around 8%.
Commercial solar systems (grid-connected), such as those installed in hospitals, factories, offices, resorts, etc., require 25kW capacity. The investment is around Rs. 50,000 per kW and annual savings are around Rs. 14,000. The investment is expected to have a payback period of approximately 3-4 years, and the return on investment is around 28%.
Investing in solar power is great as long as it’s your own system. Leasing the system from a third-party can diminish the value of the investment. Solar leasing wasn’t very popular in India, but now more solar companies are entering the leasing space. Hero Future Energy, SolarTown Energy Solutions, First Green, and SunAlpha Energy are some of them.
The problem with leasing is that the third-party lender owns the system, so they’re eligible to claim the incentives. You do not get the incentives, and you will also have to pay a premium rate for leasing and the interest on it. It can be more expensive than financing your own system.
Leasing also makes it difficult to sell your home if you’ve decided to move. It limits the number of potential buyers for your home.
Not planning while designing your solar power system can give rise to problems in the future. The common mistake made while planning a solar power system is thinking about the present needs. People often don’t think about how their needs might change in the future.
You could have children, build more rooms in the house, buy an electric car, or start a business at home. All of this would increase energy consumption. If you don’t know the factor in these things at the time of your planning, you won’t be able to expand your system in the future.
Make sure you have the space to expand the current installation. If the panels already cover the entire roof, where will you place more panels in the future? Another thing to keep in mind is whether the system is designed to expand. It’s not as simple as just adding more panels to expand the system. You need to ensure that other parts like the inverter are sized to match.
For an off-grid system, you also need to think about battery sizing. Your existing battery bank might not be expandable. Lithium battery banks can be expanded, but lead-acid batteries have limited options. This is because new lead-acid batteries tend to absorb the characteristics of the old ones. So, the new batteries can age prematurely.
Recycling, reusing, and thrifting are excellent practices, but not so much when it comes to solar system installation. If you’ve acquired different parts of the solar system over time from different sources, you cannot just slap these parts together and build your solar system.
Just like with other electronics, you need compatible parts for building the solar-powered system. Otherwise, you might have undersized inverters, differently-sized panels, components that have different connectors, a power center with missing essential components, among other problems.
You’re not building a solar-powered Frankenstein monster. Piecemeal systems are bound to turn into a disaster and a waste of resources. Unless you properly plan and design your system and acquire the parts after proper research, you won’t be able to build a functional solar system.
You might have realized by now that installing solar panels is not an easy affair, but it’s necessary in today’s times. The best way to go about it is by conducting thorough research and consulting experts and technicians regarding design plans and other variables. When you’re making this big an investment, you need to make sure you get some experienced set of eyes to look at your plans. It will help you identify and eliminate some costly mistakes before you dive in.