undefinedPhoto Credits: Scott Webb

Solar energy has seen remarkable growth in the last few years. In the last decade, solar power has entered the mainstream allowing homes, businesses, and industries to harness the power of the sun and convert it renewable electricity.

According to Renewable Energy Association of the Philippines (REAP) President Erel Nerida, installation of solar panels is being seen as a long-term cheap alternative source of energy. He based this on a report that solar rooftops would comprise 1/3 of all solar energy fixtures in the country by 2030. He also said that total solar energy generation capacity of the country is expected to reach 8,700 megawatts in 12 years.

Although they have become mainstream, installing solar panels on the roof of your home, office, or industrial plant can be a challenge. When it comes to solar panel installations, there is no room for mistakes. If you make a mistake, you cannot say “Next time I’ll do better.”

As the cost of solar energy keeps falling, the number of installations keep increasing. However, if you are planning to install solar panels, there are certain factors you should consider before joining the solar energy bandwagon, there are certain questions you need to answer first.

Can your roof support solar panels?

If your roof is covered in shade throughout the rest of the year, there might not be enough windows for you to try out solar panels. This is something that you need to evaluate before installation. Likewise, if you are renting an apartment or live in a building with several units, it will also be unlikely for you to make the call to pursue solar panels.

However, if you have a workable rooftop, make sure that it is structurally sound. If your roof is up for renovation, you need to take care of that first before installing the panels. It will be more costly to disassemble the panels to have your roof renovated and then assembling them again. Also, you may want to check with the homeowners’ association and make sure that they don’t ban solar panels for aesthetic reasons.

In addition, envision the future of your yard. Your roof may not have obstructions right now. But once the oak you planted starts to grow, it may become an obstruction in the coming years. Be ready to prune your foliage to keep the solar panels clear.

Have you tried improving your efficiency first?

Your energy consumption will dictate the amount of solar energy that you will need. Before installing the solar panels, it makes sense to trim your energy consumption as well. Check your consumption first and see how you can improve energy efficiency before installation.

What kind of solar panel is right for you?

There are two types of solar panels to choose from—photovoltaic and thermal. The former uses an array of cells that transforms sunlight into electricity. The latter, on the other hand, harnesses the power of sunlight to make air or water hot for indoor use.

If you live in a home that consumes a lot of heat energy or where heating fuel is expensive relative to electricity, the thermal panel is your best investment. However, thermal solar panels are quite rare for homes and finding a qualified installer can be a daunting task.

Can it connect to the grid?

With solar panels, you have to make sure that it can connect to the grid. This will require a lot of logistics on your part. Also, check if there is a fee that you will have to pay. How long will you be able to get hooked up to the grid? How will you be billed for the electricity you will generate?

Check if your area is using net-metering. This is a practice wherein a utility company will reimburse users of solar energy at a similar rate they are being charged for the electricity they generate. The net-metering scheme is a provision set forth in Section 10 of Republic Act 9513 You can check with the MERALCO if you are qualified for this incentive. If you are, you need to apply for it. For more on the steps on applying for net metering, check this link.

Can you find a reliable installer?

Installing solar panels is both a home improvement project and electrical work. When considering hiring a solar panel installer, check their credentials and references. You would want to work with an installer that has experience doing electrical work. Also, make sure that the installer is accredited. Solar panels can be a major investment on your part so do get quotes from different providers before signing the contract.

Maintenance is another issue that you have to deal with when considering solar panels. Although they don’t have moving pieces and maintenance is very easy, you would want the installer to be around when your solar panel needs fixing.

Will you lease or buy?

Another important consideration when installing solar panels is whether to lease or buy? Let us check the pros and cons of each. Buying solar panels may entail upfront costs but it pays bigger dividends. Also, since you own the panels, you can keep on using it as long as you are paying the cost of your purchase.

On the other hand, when leasing solar panels, you can have access to cheaper electricity but you have limited benefits. The downside is that the company where you leased the solar panel is the owner of the system. When your contract with them expires, they can easily take away the system. Also, you will pay them a certain fee for electrical consumption.

When deciding whether to lease or buy solar panels, you should compare the lifecycles cost when leasing and weigh the potential savings compared to the benefits you can derive from ownership.

In making a cost analysis, keep in mind that solar panels can have a long life. However, electrical components like the power inverter can have a shorter lifespan. Also, consider the replacement parts of these components when creating your budget.

What are the terms of the contract?

Before signing the contract, make sure that the terms are spelled out in detail such as financing, ownership, and performance expectations. Solar panels are web-enabled devices so make sure that data about your home energy consumption and usage is protected and who can access your data. If you are not sure about the terms of the contract, the best thing to do is to get legal advice You don’t want to be on the losing end of your contract.

Installing solar panels on the rooftop of your home or office is a major decision. You will be investing money for the installer and the solar panel so give it a long hard thought. These 7 tips can help you make a better decision when installing solar panels.