Everything You Should Know About Solar Panel Installation
Dec 16, 2021
by Tara McDermott
On Long Island and in NYC more and more homeowners are installing solar panels on their roofs to offset rising electricity costs and minimize their carbon footprint. With every passing year, solar panel installation costs decrease and solar energy becomes more popular. When considering the switch to solar, it’s important to understand the options available to you.
Types of Solar Power for a Home
Solar power systems always include solar panels (or modules), inverters, racking/mounting hardware, and a monitoring system, but there are different ways to assemble your system to produce clean energy.
The two main types of residential solar panel systems are grid connected (no batteries) and grid connected (with batteries). Each benefit homeowners in a variety of ways, so we’re here to break down those advantages for you.
What Is a Grid Connected Solar Panel System?
A grid connected solar panel system, also known as a “grid-tied” or “on-grid” solar system, directly connects your home to your utility’s electric grid.
Grid connected solar panels allow you to pull power from the grid during times of lower production, such as overnight, in the winter, or during inclement weather. Switching between your solar panel system and the grid is seamless and does not interrupt your service.
Grid Connected (No Batteries) Solar Panel Systems
Grid connected roof solar panels make up the lowest cost systems, as they require less components than off-grid systems. They are often the most common, since they can help balance your home solar system’s production and your energy needs.
In the event that your grid-tied solar system produces excess energy, like during high-production summer months, you can benefit from a process known as net metering. The extra energy that your home does not use is sent back to the grid, earning you energy credits which can be used at times when your system is not producing the energy you need.
Once a month, PSEG LI or ConEd will review how much energy you have used from the grid. At the end of the month, you will be billed only for the net difference between the credits you have earned and the energy you have used from the grid. If there are any credits in your energy bank at the end of the month, they will be shown on your bill and can be carried over to the next month.
Since you are participating in net metering and selling your energy back to your utility, grid connected solar panel systems do not require backup batteries. It is important to note that without a battery backup system, if there is a power outage your panels will stop working. This is because they will automatically disconnect from the grid for the safety of the utility workers attempting to restore the power. Once the grid is restored, however, your system will reconnect and continue producing power within a few minutes!
Grid Connected (With Batteries) Solar Panel Systems
The second type of residential solar energy systems is very similar to the first type, but with the added value of a battery. Adding a battery backup system, like the Tesla Powerwall, to your rooftop solar panels will help deliver even greater benefits to you.
When the sun is out, your home’s solar system collects that solar energy and then uses it to directly power your home. If you don’t have immediate energy needs matching the amount of energy produced by your solar panels, that excess energy can be saved in your backup battery for later use rather than sending it back to the power grid. By banking this energy at your home, you can access reliable energy when you need it most.
Because a grid connected solar panel system with batteries requires more components and labor, it is more expensive than a standard solar panel installation. However, homeowners who experience outages several times a year or have critical electrical loads that cannot be interrupted benefit greatly from having a dependable power supply that does not rely on the aging electric grid.
Do I Have Other Options for Solar Panel Installation?
Some solar companies may offer off-grid solar, but we recommend against that type of solar panel installation. Off-grid solar is rarely cost effective, as supplying and storing all of your home’s energy needs all day, every day would require more panels, higher capacity inverters, and significantly larger batteries. Grid-connected solar panels make the most financial sense.
Direct Mounted vs. Ground Mounted Solar Panels
Once you’ve made the decision to go solar, you’ll need to work with an expert to decide how to mount your solar panel system, taking into account available space, budget, and a few other factors. Direct mounted solar panels and ground mounted solar panels are the most common installation types.
Direct Mounted Solar Panel System
When it comes to residential solar installations, there are different ways to mount a solar system on your roof. Using SunPower’s InvisiMount technology, we are able to ensure that your system is more flush to your roof than other solar panel installation companies might use. This mounting hardware can be used on most roofing types, and has 70% fewer visible parts compared to other conventional mounting systems.
Ground Mounted Solar Panel System
Though solar panels are typically installed on rooftops, not every roof is ideal for solar, and some homeowners prefer to leave their rooftops bare. Large backyards or extra plots of land make a great home for solar panel installation. Ground mounted solar panel systems have similar components to rooftop solar systems, just with a slightly different installation process. A ground mount system includes panels which are secured to a metal racking structure. That racking structure is typically installed into a poured concrete base, which further secures the system. A small trench will be dug to run wiring from the solar panel system to your home, then backfilled to protect the conduit. As long as the conditions are ideal for solar, these panels will work just as well as those mounted on a roof!
How Are Solar Panels Installed?
Solar panel installation is a pretty straightforward process, consisting of just seven steps. Here’s a summary of what you can expect when you go solar!
- Electric bill review
Submit a copy of your most recent electric bills for our solar experts to review. By inspecting your current usage and discussing future home or lifestyle updates, we can accurately and efficiently plan your new custom solar system.
- Property assessment
Our team of technicians will coordinate an assessment of your property. In many cases, we can quickly, safely, and thoroughly conduct assessments by drone, collecting accurate measurements and information about the surrounding areas.
- Permit acquisition
Our internal permitting department will work with your local building department to obtain the necessary construction permits for your project and submit the engineering plans for you.
- Project scheduling
Our project management team will work with you to select a day to begin your solar panel installation.
Your dedicated Site Foreman will lead their team of solar installers to install the racking system to the roof or ground, then attach and connect the solar panels to your external meter and interior electrical panel. Next they will mount backup batteries and electric vehicle chargers that you have selected.
- Project inspection
After your solar panel system is in place, we will schedule a final inspection of the property by your local jurisdiction to close out your building permit.
- Activation and monitoring
With your system up and running, we’ve also connected you to the net metering system and any backup batteries you may have purchased. At this time, you’re able to monitor your entire system on your smartphone and ready to control your own energy!
What Type of Solar Panel Installation is Best for Me?
To decide which type of solar panel installation is best for you, we recommend reviewing your options with one of our solar experts. They can help guide you through the process of going solar, calculate your monthly savings, and provide custom solar design options for your home. Contact us to learn more!
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About the Author
Tara represents EmPower Solar as the Chair of the Long Island Solar & Storage Alliance where she is the government liaison for policy issues related to solar and energy storage. In 2018, Tara was named one of the Top 50 Women in Business by the Long Island Business News. She was also inducted into the Social Justice Distinguished Scholar Academy for her work in environmental justice issues in collaboration with Farmingdale State College.