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10 Most Common Mistakes Homeowners Make When Going Solar

  1. Trying to do everything by themselves

This first mistake is the root cause of many mistakes homeowners make when they decide to go solar. A lot of homeowners, especially the ones that like to get their hands on all types of work, think that buying and installing a solar energy system on their house is an easy process. Well, unless you are a certified solar installer and an experienced electrician, there are many factors that you should consider before going DIY in this field.

First of all, designing a solar energy system is not a simple process. In order for the system to suit your budget, your needs, your roof and many other parameters, you need to consult a professional solar installer who will guide you not only whether it is suitable to go for on-grid or off-grid system but also help you with the correct sizing, choice of components and estimation of savings depending on your bills. Secondly, don’t forget that a solar energy system is an electrical system with electrical components and circuits with voltage levels that could seriously put your life in risk during the installation. Apart from that, the installation of the mounting structures and photovoltaic panels on an inclined roof is a very dangerous process and the professionals who are doing this, take serious safety measures in order to avoid any accident while installing the panels.

2. Wrong sizing of the system

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This is a common mistake homeowners make for both off-grid or on-grid solutions. The difference is that while in the on-grid case, a wrong sizing will lead to different savings compared to what they expected, in the off-grid case, wrong sizing of the system could lead to being left without electricity in your house.

Homeowners that want to be independent from the grid, must have in mind that they should calculate their electricity needs in a very detailed way, not only in terms of typical consumption of each device they are using but also in terms of how many hours per day they usually use these devices. And of course it is very important to understand that electricity needs vary depending on the season.

For example during winter months, we need a lot more electricity for lighting and heating which may lead to even double consumptions compared to summer months. All these must be taken into consideration very carefully before choosing the number of panels, the capacity of the inverter and, in the case of off grid system, the capacity and number of batteries.

3. Wrong estimation of the savings they are going to have

In order to avoid any wrong decisions or disappointments once the system is installed, it is very important that the homeowners have a realistic estimation of the electricity their system will produce and eventually the savings they are going to have out of their electricity bills. Not all solar energy systems produce the same amount of electricity, even if they are of the same size.

How can it be possible? Well, you have to take into consideration that a lot of other parameters apart from the number of solar panels play a significant role in determining how much you will reduce your bill by installing a photovoltaic system. Firstly, the more south your house is located, the more energy your panels will produce, the more savings you will have out of your electricity bill. Secondly, if your roof is facing south and has an ideal inclination regarding the average sun position in the sky throughout the year, the more energy your system will produce.

A lot of homeowners forget that their roof should remain unshaded throughout the year for the maximum electricity production, else, their initial estimations will be wrong. Other parameters such as for exampe a slight natural drop in the efficiency of the panels, although not that important, still need to be in the mind of homeowners before calculating the saving in a 20 year period.

4. Wrong mounting on the roof

There are many homeowners that were not that cautious when they installed their solar panels. As a result of a bad installation, some of them had leakage issues on their roof. A correct installation by a professional installer has to ensure that not only there will be no waterproofing issues in the next 20 years or so, but also that the panels are installed in such a way that they are going to produce maximum power during their lifetime.

There are many other points to have in mind which are necessary for an optimum installation of solar panels on the roof. The correct sides of the roof receiving maximum daylight, well mounted panels, clean and structured cabling, the necessary gap between the panels and the roof that will let the panels being ventilated are some of the key points that many homeowners forget or do not take very seriously, when they install their photovoltaic system. Still, all of the above play an important role in reaching maximum production and eventually maximum savings from the photovoltaic system.

5. Not planning ahead

Many homeowners are installing a solar energy system thinking only about their current needs and desired savings. But a solar energy system is something that will produce electricity for decades, so it is really very important to plan ahead before going solar and deciding the size of your system. For example, let’s say that you are a young couple that has just moved in together and it seems like a good idea to install a small photovoltaic system to reduce your electricity bills.

But what if in 10 years you have two children and your electricity bills are much higher than today and at that time you wish you had already installed a bigger system which would save a lot more from your increased bills? Due to the fact that a solar energy system is not just the solar panels but also the inverters (and also the battery for off-grid system), a change in the number of panels will lead to a change of the inverter and additional batteries. So, it would be best to plan ahead and avoid additional changes in the future which will lead to unnecessary extra charges for the replacement of the basic components.

6. Not doing enough research on solar panels and installers market

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There are hundreds of solar panels and inverter brands out there. Nevertheless, a lot of homeowners do not make even the basic research on the market when they are choosing their solar panels or inverter and end up with low quality components which may be useless, even after a few years.

There are so many sites that include comparisons of solar panels and inverters, so many reviews on these products and so many information from third party companies, that everybody can make at least a basic research on the quality of the essential components of the photovoltaic system. But apart from the components themselves, it is also very important to be sure about the quality of the installation of the solar system. High quality components is one important thing but if the company that installs your system ruins your panels or your roof or has zero customer service you will still regret it! So make sure you check both components and installation companies by considering reviews and other homeowners that have gone solar before you.

7. Not paying attention to warranties

Since you will install a system that should work at its best for at least 20 years, then you should really pay attention to the warranties of the products and of the installation company. Usually solar panels have a product warranty between 5 and 25 years while the inverters’s warranty ranges from 5 to 10 years in most of the cases. Apart from that, the installation company must give you a warranty for the installation, covering usually a non-defect operation of your system. Most companies provide a warranty for smooth operation of the photovoltaic system for 2 or more years. All of the above are warranties that you need to take under serious consideration before choosing not only the solar panels and inverters but also the installer, since you do not want to be in a position where you will need to change one or more panels or inverter, paying extra money in the next few years. 

8. Considering cost as the only criterion to choose a solar energy system

A lot of homeowners try to find the cheapest solution in order to have the quickest payback on their money. But in the case of a solar energy system, that needs to have a long term life and that should produce the maximum energy from the sun, you must be really careful in order not to make cost the factor that will lead to future problems. That is why it is best to consult an experienced professional or a well-established company that will propose you the optimal solution that will be within the limits of your budget but at the same time within the acceptable quality limits for your solar energy system components. Also, be careful in order to avoid non certified installers / electricians since an installation that does not comply with the official guidelines not only can get you in trouble with the utility provider to whom you give your extra electricity but potentially could damage your home’s electrical system.

9. Not using a monitoring system

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It is crucial for someone that has installed a solar energy system to be able to monitor this system and its production. A monitoring system, even the simplest ones that are usually offered by the inverter provider, show the relevant information regarding electricity production and savings throughout the day and useful overview for a user-specified period (week, month, year). By this way, the user is able to estimate in real time, the total savings for the current period, cross check with the electricity bill numbers and detect any malfunction or defects that may appear in the panels or the inverter. This is very important since a non operating inverter or a string of panels that is under-producing will cause a significant drop in the electricity production, so it is for the homeowner’s good that any problem will be detected the soonest possible.

10. Not deciding to go solar in the end!

Many homeowners that are thinking about going solar,  have doubts and some of them decide not to proceed with a solar installation on their roof. Five years ago, the doubts would be somehow justified because of the cost of a home solar system. But nowadays that costs have dropped almost 5 times compared to the costs 5 years ago, going solar is the most clever solution for a homeowner with an appropriate roof. Big savings on electricity bills, the increase of the value of the house itself and a totally environmental friendly electricity source are advantages that no homeowner can ignore. In addition to these, federal government offers 30% of solar’s total cost back to homeowners via a tax credit on qualifying systems while individual states and local utility companies often offer aggressive rebate programs as well. It’s the best time to go solar!