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Five tips to simplify your solar power system design

Francisco CastroMay 6, 20192250

A recent entry in an Internet message board asked, “where do I learn Solar PV Designing and Installation? I wish to enter in Solar Business."

Maybe you’re not interested in going into the solar industry business (although it’s a growing field with plenty of opportunities) and you’re simply interested in saving money on your electricity bill with the installation of solar panels on your roof. Either way, once you start on the path to a residential solar installation - be it that you do it on your own or you contract an installer - you’ll be faced with decisions about where and how to place the solar panels on your property.

Correctly designing a layout for a solar array will guarantee your panels will generate the maximum amount of electricity by absorbing the most sunlight, thus impacting your return on investment (ROI) and how soon the solar power system is paid off. 

1. Ground or roof-mounted 

When it comes to designing the proper layout for your solar power system, the first thing that must be decided is where to put the panels. If you live in a rural area with plenty of open space around your property, you might opt for ground-mounted panels. 

There are certain advantages when choosing this option. For instance, ground-mounted solar arrays tend to have better efficiency since solar panels prefer to be kept cool. Ground-mounted systems offer a lot of space below them for air circulation. It might also cost less because of the ease of maintenance and installation. Ground-mounted panels can be cleaned and serviced without having to climb on the roof.

Also, ease of expansion if your energy needs change and increase in the future. 

In addition, ground-mounted panels are the best option when there’s not enough space on your roof for the amount of solar modules needed to power your home, or when the roof is not situated at the best angle to maximize solar energy production. And let’s not forget that a solar power system will surely outlast your roof. If you ever need to make repairs or change the roof, there’s no need to disassemble and reassemble your solar panels and equipment. 

2. How many panels?

Regardless if they’re roof or ground-mounted, the installer should evaluate your electricity usage on a monthly and yearly basis in order to recommend the right amount of solar panels to offset that cost. 

For instance, if you’re using 1,000 kWh per month, you divide that by the average hours of sunlight per day in a month. If you get 5.5 hours of sunlight in a day, that would give you 5.5x30= 165. 

Then divide 1,000/ 165 and that would give you a 6.06 kW solar power system.

Now you have to determine the wattage of the solar panels you’re considering buying. If you choose 340 W panels, you simply divide 6,000 by that figure, to give you 17 panels. 

An easier way to do these calculations is by letting the Hahasmart price checker gives you this information in a matter of seconds by simply using your address and average monthly electricity bill. They’ll recommend what the correct solar power system is for your home to offset those electricity costs, the total cost of equipment and even an estimated cost of installation of your solar panels. They can also help the installer or you in designing the layout of the system.

3.Orientation 

If you’re placing your panels on the roof, you need to adjust to the particular challenges and orientation of the roof. Generally speaking, experts recommend that if you live in the United States or the Northern Hemisphere, you place solar panels facing south, since that is where they’d receive the most sunlight. If your panels face south, they'll receive light throughout the day. 

4.Tilt

Equally important is the tilt. For the majority of U.S. homeowners, the ideal angle of a solar panel installation is close or equal to the latitude of your home. In that case, if you live in Southern California, the recommended tilt is 34 degrees. 

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) of the U.S. Department of Energy offers a PVWatts Calculator where you can enter the city where you live and it will provide a recommended tilt for a solar array.

5.Shade

Something else to consider is if there is any obstruction to the solar panels having access to direct sunlight. Trees, utility poles, silos, and other items that throw shade on your modules will reduce the amount of electricity generated by the solar array. Even partial shade on one solar panel can affect the overall energy output of the entire array if they’re connected to a string inverter. If there is shade hitting a panel at a determined hour of the day and you can’t remove that obstruction or place the panels in other areas, the best way to deal with it is to use microinverters for each solar module.

Another thing that might come into play in the installation of a solar power system is the distance to the inverter and connection points. All roof mount solar systems need at least one conduit run from the roof to the inverter or interconnection point. Consideration should be given as to where the conduit can be run, considering both aesthetics and ease of installation. 

Inverters can be installed inside or outside the building. If they are installed inside, it does not need to be in a climate controlled space, but it does need to be installed in a ventilated space. If installed outside, the preferred location would be in a shaded area. Regardless of installation location, consideration needs to be given to allow for enough space to install the solar inverters.

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