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How to upgrade an existing solar power system

Francisco CastroMay 21, 20192570


How to Upgrade an Existing Solar Power System

Ten years ago, the price of solar was simply out of reach for many homeowners, who opted instead to lease or own one through an agreement with a third-party supplier

Prices of solar panels have dropped significantly since then and there are now more incentives, rebates and tax credits and exemptions available to encourage you to power your home with sunshine.

Still, it might still be out of reach to some.

One way you can start is small. 

When most people think of adding a domestic solar power system to their home, they think big. They imagine sea of solar panels covering the roof, soaking up enough sun to power the whole house day after day. 

For those going small, perhaps it means only getting enough solar for a portion of their home, and for others, it’s a first step in building up a full system, upgrading until you reach the size of the photovoltaic (PV) installation that covers your entire needs. 

If you’re going small, think about installing a few panels at the beginning and adding a few more along the way. 

Choose microinverters

If this is the route you take, your best bet is to choose microinverters instead of regular string inverters. Microinverters are placed on each solar module where they individually convert DC power into AC electricity. 

Experts note that for a given solar installation they provide up to 20% improvement in price/performance over the life of the system compared to existing inverters.

Microinverters have warranties of 25 years and allow for easy expansion of solar arrays. You can add additional panels one at a time with another microinverter and you can also use different brand or size panels in the system. 

Upgrading

Whether you started small or your energy consumption has increased over the years and the size of your solar power system is not able to match it, when you are ready to upgrade your solar array, you need to first determine what you have. 

If you are lucky (and the installer has done a good job) you should have a detailed system manual which described everything that was installed and the energy generation predictions. 

Next, you should decide how many extra panels you will need.

If you’re once again working with the solar installer who did the job initially, the contractor should be able to let you know. 

If not, you can access the Hahasmart price checker that will provide you with the correct size of your solar power system. Just provide your address and your average monthly utility bill and you’ll get the actual price of solar panels and inverters - which are the most critical parts of a solar powered system - as well as provide you with an estimated cost of installation based on thousands of completed solar projects in your area. 

They’ll even provide you with an estimated buyback period, the point where the electricity savings achieved with your solar array cover the purchase of your residential solar panels and your system becomes free.

In addition, they’ll connect you with their installer network to get your residence equipped with solar power as possible.  

Challenges

Beware there are some challenges when you decide to add more panels to an existing array.

If you go years between additions to the system, it could be challenging to find compatible panels that are the same make and model as the ones you already have.
If you initially installed solar panels with a string inverter, it’s very likely you will have to replace that inverter with one of larger capacity. 

Your string inverter should match the maximum output of energy from your solar panels. Because the direct current (DC) electricity being produced by your panels is being converted to alternating current (AC) at the inverter, the power rating of that inverter can be a bit smaller than the panels because of the energy loss that occurs during the conversion process.

If you’re adding several panels and your entire solar panel system is much larger than the original size, it may generate more electricity than your pre-existing inverter can handle.

Another consideration is how much space do you still have on your roof?

In the Northern Hemisphere, panels should be pointing in the southern direction. If there is no more room on your roof towards this angle, you will have to find extra space somewhere else. You can try placing them on a carport, gazebo, shed or any other structure in your property, unless you have additional space on the ground. 

The process for adding on new panels isn’t too complicated. It involves minor adjustments to the mounting racking, like adding different clamps. Depending on the brand and frame size of your panels, you might be able to bolt it on to your existing hardware without any changes at all.

But this will all depend on how much you plan to change your existing solar array.

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Great. Your address is perfect for solar. Solar incentive is still available. Select monthly utility cost and calculate the size of solar system you will need now.

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