Installing a Solar Power System in Your Home

One of the most important factors that will contribute to the success of your solar power system in your home is correct installation. Improper installation can decrease your system’s efficiency and create maintenance issues.

The first things you will need to consider are the amount of sunlight you get in your area, where you will locate your system, what size system you will require, the kind of system and electrical safety.

These factors are best evaluated by a contractor with experience in installing solar power systems. You may want to talk to more than one to be certain that you are getting the best answers possible to these important questions:

  1. Have you previously installed solar power systems that are connected to the grid? What about systems that are not connected to the grid (stand alone systems)?

    It is important to understand their experience because connecting to the grid is not an easy task. However, as stand alone systems are in other ways more complex than grid connected ones, it is best to find a contractor with experience in both areas.

  2. Are you licensed and certified?

    It is all too easy to find companies that do not have the appropriate licenses and certifications. Get their information and check up on it. Your area may require that they have an electrician’s license as well as a general contractor’s license. You will need to check with your city or county to find out which licenses are required.

    You also need to know what is required in order to get the rebates offered in your area. Some might require you to use union labor only, for example. Certification in installing solar power systems may also be required.

  3. Does the company have pending or current judgements/liens against it?

    This is some of the information you need to check on when you check their licensing. Check with the BBB as well for complaints.

Make sure you understand what is included in each bid, so that you can compare them effectively. You want to be sure that the location is where you want your solar panels to go.

You want to know which kind of panels each one proposes to install, as different systems will provide different amounts of electricity. Ideally, you want to know the system’s capacity in AC watts under standard test conditions. The contractor may point out that the actual output will vary by conditions at your location, but you still need to know for comparison reasons. Also ask about the annual production of the system in kilowatt-hours. This number doesn’t have to be too specific, as it will vary from year to year, so a range is acceptable.

Make sure every bid includes the total cost of getting your system up and running. This includes the costs of the hardware, installation, connecting to the grid, permits, sales tax and warranty. Make sure the warranty meets the requirements listed by any rebate programs you want to participate in.

Finally, ask about what routine maintenance will need to be done. Find out what you can do yourself and what will need a professional to come out. Generally speaking, solar power systems do not need a lot of maintenance, but there is some required. Proper maintenance will keep your system running more efficiently for a longer time.

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