Top 5 Questions BEFORE You Install Solar Panels
Whether installing solar panels is a do-it-yourself project or you’re planning to hire professionals, installing a few solar panels to lower – or eliminate – your electricity bills seems like a great idea, and it should, especially when trying to reduce your carbon footprint at the same time. Before climbing up on your roof and driving a few bolts through shingles, consider the following factors to help determine if this is a project best suited for the pro’s rather than to DIY. Here are 5 things to consider when installing solar panels:
- What is your current household power consumption?
- Where is the best location on your roof for solar panels?
- Have you attained the necessary building permits?
- Should I reroof my home at the same time as installing solar panels?
- Will my roof shingle warranty be void when installing solar panels?
Full disclosure, this is not a guide to help you install your own solar panel system and with the inherent dangers involved in this project we will not encourage homeowners to take on this type of project for safety reasons. Qualified electricians and engineers should be consulted and contracted to perform this work. Nonetheless, being able to answer these 5 questions will put you on the right track to understanding the scope of work required for installing solar panels.
What is your current power consumption?
In British Columbia, our electrical rates are based on a 2-step billing system, where at the start of your billing cycle you are charged a rate of approximately $0.10 per kWh. Once you have consumed 1,350 kWh, you begin getting charged approximately $0.14 per kWh. This occurs within each 2-month billing cycle. It may not seem like much, but costs can add up quickly once hitting the Step 2 rates.
The average Canadian household consumes 11,135 kWh of electricity per year, or 1,856 kWh per billing cycle and enters the step-2 billing rates.
Knowing your consumption can allow you to make a few decisions. Can you reduce your consumption by replacing incandescent light bulbs with LED’s? Or hanging clothes to dry? Do you install enough solar panels to ensure you never hit step 2 rates or do you want to be Net-Zero by eliminating your electricity bills?
Where is the best location on your roof for solar panels?
Naturally, solar panels perform best when facing South. The goal is to maximize the production and efficiency of your solar panels by having them face the proper direction, and to be placed at the right pitch.
If your roof isn’t pointed directly South and you have multiple gables, it could become a little more difficult to determine the best layout for your solar array. Also, any shaded areas of your roof may not perform as efficiently. Be sure to consider buildings and trees that may contribute shade to your roof, and to forecast the growth of any large trees that could effect the efficiency of your solar electricity production.
Thankfully, at Penfolds Roofing & Solar, we have access to databases showing 30-year historic weather patterns and 3D imaging of your roof to forecast the precise placement of your solar panels within inches to maximize your solar production over the next 40+ years. Visit our article about Vancouver Weather to see how we maximize the performance of your solar installation.
Have you attained the necessary building permits?
Any building modification, even solar panels, will require various building permits. These permits differ by city and are subject to inspections. Anyone who’s gone through building a home or a major renovation can likely share stories of the challenges in gaining the required approvals and the delays created. In order to attain the required building permits, you will need to supply engineering drawings of your solar installation to the city for approval.
Our team has relationships with each of the cities across the Lower Mainland and are well versed in the processes and requirements to attain permits and pass inspections without costly delays.
In addition to building permits, there can often be minor or major structural changes necessary to complete the solar installation and current building codes must be adhered to. It’s not uncommon to get on a roof and discover a deteriorated section that must be replaced prior to installing the solar panels. Knowing the up-to-date building codes will ensure there aren’t unwanted surprises with inspections. Although solar panels aren’t overly heavy, the new load of your solar array may require the roof trusses to be reinforced as well.
Of course, electrical work requires proper permitting and knowledge of current building codes. We’ll touch on this later.
Should I reroof my home at the same time as installing solar panels?
Depending upon the type of roofing material on your home, you can expect asphalt shingles to last up to 20 years. Solar panel systems can easily last 40 years, meaning you will be faced with having to remove and reinstall the solar array when reroofing. As long as you have 7-8 years of life remaining for your roofing material, you will still be profitable when installing solar panels.
Prior to installing a solar array, consider upgrading your roofing material to a Ziplock Metal Roof or EcoRoof rubber shingles, as these products have lifetime warranties and can last 40-70 years. This way, you won’t have to remove the solar installation to re-roof your home for many, many years.
In most circumstances, a solar do it yourself project will void the manufacturer warranty on your shingles, or other roofing materials. With Penfolds Roofing & Solar, we provide no-cost lifetime insurance when we install your solar array that covers both the solar panel system and your shingles – even if we didn’t install the shingles!
We hope this information serves you to better anticipate the scope of your project and what to consider for a solar installation that will be effective and meet the electrical needs of your family for years to come. Ready for more information? Contact us today for your free solar assessment to show you the best options for your home!
Top 5 Questions BEFORE You Install Solar