The beauty of solar power is once the system is installed, it delivers completely free power. It emits no carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases. Better yet, it’s cheaper today than ever before. Unfortunately, many homeowners rush into a decision without getting all the facts. If you’re thinking about a new photovoltaic system, ask your potential solar provider these 10 questions:
1. How many years has your company been around?
Lower manufacturing costs have increased solar panel popularity. However, most installers are relatively new companies with only a few years of experience, and they probably lack the financial stability of older businesses. If they go bankrupt, who will provide service for your system?
2. How reputable is the solar panel manufacturer?
Equally important is the solar panel manufacturer’s reputation. Some manufacturers produce inexpensive but unreliable panels, and the absolute cheapest system is not always the best choice. Many solar companies are also going out of business because of the sluggish economy.
3. Does your provider offer a free consultation and estimate?
Ask for a free quote with no obligation. Legitimate companies will be more than happy to provide this service.
4. What is the power tolerance of the solar panels you recommend?
Solar panels don’t produce 100 percent of their rated electricity all of the time. A 100 watt module with 50 percent efficiency will only generate 50 watts of power. Power tolerance is slightly different from overall efficiency. A 100 watt module with a 5 percent positive tolerance will generate 100 to 105 watts of power. A negative 5 percent tolerance means the panel will only generate 95 to 100 watts.
5. Should I use a micro-inverter?
There are still questions about whether micro-inverters are up to scratch for hot climates like Australia. Most micro-inverters are only rated to 65 degrees Celsius, roofs in many parts of Australia get much hotter than this. This means the inverter won’t perform at optimum efficiency and there’s a good chance it won’t see out its estimated life span of 15 years.
6. Does the installer contact the power company to connect to the grid?
Most installers will contact the power company to let them know that you have a new solar system feeding power back into the grid.
7. How will the solar panels be mounted?
Mounting determines not only how well the system will perform but how it will look on top of your roof.
8. What kind of maintenance will my system require?
Solar panels shouldn’t require significant maintenance. Most are rated to last at least 20 years. At most, you’ll have to climb up onto your roof to wash any debris off of the panels. The installer will be able to provide any special instructions to keep your system operating at peak efficiency.
9. How can I see how much energy I’m producing?
Make sure your system has a meter that records how much power you’ve produced. Newer meters hook up to your home’s wireless network, and you can view the results on your home computer. Meters are important to ensure that your system isn’t malfunctioning.
10. When will this solar system pay for itself?
This is the big question that most homeowners are dying to ask. Although solar power systems are much cheaper than they used to be, they are still significant investments that will require several years to pay off. Even modest systems can cost $10,000 or more. Fortunately, most systems will pay for themselves within a decade, but your installer can provide a more accurate estimate.
This article was written by the team at Infinite Energy, a Perth based solar power company.