Ideal Conditions For Solar

by staff on September 21, 2011

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There is a lot of information circulating about the best location, climate and structure conditions for a solar panel system. Many people assume that a sunny location is all you need. If that’s true, why is Germany (with 9,785 MW of solar energy in 2010) the country with the most solar installations? And how come New Jersey (with 293 MW of solar energy in 2010) is one of the U.S. states with the highest number of solar arrays? Germany and New Jersey aren’t known for their sunny weather, showing that geographic location isn’t the most important factor when considering a solar system. What is important in determining the feasibility and efficiency of a system is the orientation of the roof, amount of sun exposure on the home, and amount of space available for the installation.

Even if you don’t live in sunny California, your home may be in a position that is perfect for PV panels. Listed below are the things you should consider when evaluating whether or not your home is a good candidate for a solar PV system.

Southern Facing Roof

The orientation of your roof is very important when considering the possibility of installing a solar PV system. A southern facing roof is ideal for a solar panel installation, however east and west facing roofs will also work. The southern facing portion will receive the most hours of direct sunlight throughout the day, making the system as efficient as possible. A pitched roof is optimal in order to receive southern facing exposure but a flat roof will also work. If the roof is flat, the installer will attach the panels to a frame that is tilted at the optimal angle.

Good Sun Exposure

It is crucial to the efficiency of the system that it receives ample sun exposure. This means that the roof should have very minimal, if any, shading. It should be clear of surrounding trees or neighboring buildings that create shade on the roof. Open, flat roof spaces also accommodate the panels better than complex, angled roofs. The angles of a roof can create shading and limit the continuous space available for the solar panels to be installed. The amount of sun exposure is the single biggest factor in deciding if a site will work for solar.

Cool, But Sunny Weather

It is true that the sunnier weather the better, but that does not necessarily mean the warmer weather the better. It may be surprising to find out that solar PV panels actually operate better in cooler conditions. It is important to remember that the sunlight, not the temperature, is being converted into solar energy. This means that the amount of full sunlight your home receives is what’s important when considering the weather conditions of your location. Occasional rain and wind can actually be of benefit to the solar panels because they help to remove any dust or debris.

The Roof Is In Good Condition

Installers will check to make sure the roof is in good enough condition to support the solar panel array. As long as the roof is in relatively decent condition, it will be able to support the weight of the panels and installation. Most systems will last at least 25 years so installers want to make sure the roof will not need to be replaced in the near future. It is best if the home is fairly new or the roof has recently been replaced. It is ideal that the condition of the roof is good enough to outlive the solar system.

Sufficient Space

The roof needs to have an adequate amount of space for the solar array. The amount of space needed for the installation varies depending on the size of system needed which depends on your electric usage. An average home installation is about 4kW which requires roughly 20 PV panels. The panel size varies depending on the products the installer uses, but a 20 panel array takes up about 300 square feet of space. In general, most systems require about 300-500 square feet of unobstructed roof space.

Is solar energy a good option for your home? If so, get in touch with a local solar installer to get information on pricing, local and federal rebates, and future savings on your utility bill!

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