Why Solar Panel Kits Don’t Compare to a Customized Array
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Many people have taken on some amazing DIY projects. Refinished or repurposed furniture, home improvements and life hacks are all over the internet.
These are great feats of accomplishment that have saved money for these individuals. However, some DIY projects require specific skill sets that not everyone has.
Solar installations are one of these projects. Solar panel kits seem like an easy to install solar solution. The ads make it look like all you need to do is buy the kit and put it on the roof — this, however, isn’t the case.
Solar installations are a bit more complicated than putting some shiny panels on a roof. At the very least, it requires electrical expertise and correctly calculated solar panel placement.
How Solar Arrays Work
Before starting a solar installation, it is good to get a basic idea of how it works. How solar panels works is quite fascinating, though it isn’t the only factor to consider. Solar arrays have both on and off-the-panel features and they all play a part in making the magic happen.
On-the-panel elements are anything that is in the solar panel. These are the components within a solar panel that convert light into electricity.
Off-the-panel factors include everything outside the solar panel that goes into generating power. This includes both other parts of the solar array as well as paperwork and solar metering.
Before getting the ladder and nail gun, let’s take a look at some of these components.
The first step to creating solar power starts in the solar panel. Without functioning solar panels nothing would happen.
There are many different types of solar panels on the market today. However, generally speaking, each of these solar panels uses some sort of semiconducting material. Often this material is silicon, but there are other semi-conductors out there.
The semi-conductor has electrons on it that get knocked off by light particles. These freed electrons create a current of electricity known as direct current (DC).
To create this current, freed electrons are collected by conductive plates. These electrons are then transferred to wires. Once the current reaches these wires they can move outside the solar panels.
Some of the Off-the-Panel Solar Factors
Leaving the solar panel isn’t the end of the story for these electrons. The current needs to be switched to an alternating current (AC). AC is the current that flows through homes today and powers our lives.
An inverter switches the direction of the current, which inverts the current from DC to AC. The home now has power from the sun. However, solar arrays typically produce more power than needed for a day without a way to store it for later.
Most stay connected to their electric companies so they can put this excesses power on the grid. In exchange, they get credited for their excesses solar.
However, if there is a power outage the solar array may need to be temporarily disconnected or shut off. To do this an automatic shut off switch is often installed into the inverter.
This, however, is only the process of generating solar. There are other processes in place for actually installing it.
Requirements for Solar Panel Installation
It would be easy if a solar installation could start as soon at the equipment arrived. However, this isn’t how the process works.
To install a solar array not only is the proper equipment needed, but there is also paperwork. There is paperwork before and after a solar installation.
Without proper paperwork, it causes extra hassle and costs more money and time. On top of this, if the person installing doesn’t have proper training, it could take even longer.
Steps for Installing Solar Panels
There are some steps before, during and after a photovoltaic (PV) installation. Each of these steps is important and can’t be skipped.
The first step is to get a site evaluation. Not every home is a good fit for solar, which is why this needs to happen before purchasing the panels.
Once a site evaluation has occurred, city, utility, and in some cases, HOA approvals come next. Solar installations can’t start until the plans get approved.
Once approved the installation can actually begin. A solar installation team can complete a solar installation within 1 to 3 days. Depending on the experience, available time and help of the person completing a solar panel kit it can take quite a bit longer.
Once installed the array needs both a city and utility inspection before it can be turned on. Once turned on the monitoring system need needs to be set up.
Solar Panel Installation Training
Solar arrays can be very dangerous if they aren’t installed properly. This is why there are solar specific licensing and certifications in place.
These credentials ascertain that the person with it has the necessary knowledge and experience to safely install a solar array. The NABCEP is one of these credentials that qualified solar installers should have.
Having this certification isn’t necessary for a solar panel kit installation. However, those that have it or similar training will be able to get the job done more efficiently.
Solar Panel Cost Comparison
The cost of solar is one of the major reasons why people want to install it on their own. Because there are fewer people involved, solar panel kits are able to sale at a lower price.
At first glance, a solar panel kit seems like the more economical option. However, if you don’t know what size to get and how to install the system, it can cost more in time and savings.
How Many Solar Panels to Power a House
One of the first questions that need answering after a home is solar qualified is how large of a system is necessary. This question, however, does not have an easy answer. There are several different factors that go into determining it.
The first thing needed to determine array size is the monthly usage of the home over a year. This tells how much energy the system needs to produce.
The array size is then determined by a couple of different factors. Some of these include the amount and direction of unshaded space, the type of solar panels and solar regulations for the area the home is in.
The Cost of Convenience
When someone has a customized solar array installed they are paying to not worry about the process. The extra cost covers the permitting and utility fees as well as the time that appointment setters, solar installers, customer service and solar designers put in to make sure your experience is as seamless as possible.
In the end, the cost of convenience sometimes outweighs the savings of doing it on your own. This doesn’t make you any less of a person, it just means that you value your time and sanity.