The number of solar cells sold jumped by 95 percent in 2016. Although much of this near-doubling was from utility installations, residential installations also noticeably increased. People across the country—and not just in sunnier regions—are turning to solar to lower their energy bills and take a proactive step to help the environment.
Homeowners pondering a switch to solar have options to consider. Using the best panels for home use is important to maximize the monetary investment you are making. And though there are many quality installers who will do the job right, there are others who are out to make a quick buck and will cut corners—and even use outdated solar technology—which is why you must be diligent. Here is a quick guide to finding the best solar panels for home use:
A Solar Primer
Simply put, the photovoltaic (PV) cells in a solar panel convert sunlight into direct current (DC) energy, which flows through an inverter to produce alternating current (AC) electricity that then powers your home. Panels are placed upon the roof to capture the sun, and energy can be harnessed even on a cloudy day. Most residential solar installations will not produce enough electricity for homeowners to go off the grid, but panels typically cut a home’s energy bills by as much as an impressive 75 percent.
The most common way homeowners go solar is by adding a rack-mounted system to the roof. A contractor—not always a roofer—installs brackets upon the roof, and the panels are then mounted upon those brackets. Though rack-mounted systems are popular, they aren’t always the best solar panels for home use. For starters, not every house can structurally support hundreds of pounds of hardware. Also, most roofs weren’t designed with solar in mind, so the panels could interfere with the flow of water off the roof, thus increasing the risk of leaks. A bigger concern is the installation itself: The contractor might be an expert with solar panels but not with roofs, and installers might inadvertently damage your home while attaching brackets or simply walking across it.
A rack-mounted system may work fine for your home, but before you make a decision, you should know about the latest technology: integrated systems. This innovation incorporates solar panels right into the roof instead of on top of it. Although an integrated system is more expensive than traditional rack-mounted panels, you are getting a new roof and new solar panels in the same installation. The panels themselves are sleek and barely three-dimensional—they don’t noticeably stand out like racks do. The black, monochromatic tiles blend into the roof and into the look of your home’s exterior. Integrated systems are the future and may be the best solar panels for home use.
Do Your Homework
Going solar is a big decision, and whichever system you choose will be an investment you will rely on for decades. Although integrated systems are an exciting option, they must be installed along with a new roof, and if your roof is relatively newer, it might not be cost-effective to take that route. Just as big a choice is the contractor you hire to install your solar panels. With the industry growing so fast, less experienced installers are out there and may not deliver the quality you need. Therefore, doing your homework is essential.
For rack-mounted installers, choose one with years of experience and happy customers, that is fully licensed and insured, and that offers strong warranties. Roofers install integrated systems, so look for one that is an expert with all sorts of roofs and works with top manufacturers such as GAF. For either system, customer service is important because if there’s ever a problem with the solar panels, you will be contacting the contractor for help. And don’t be afraid to visit online review sites such as Angie’s List to see what others say about a contractor.
When done right, solar panels offer numerous advantages to your home. If you are diligent in choosing a qualified contractor and a system best suited for your house, you will be happy with your decision for years to come.
How many homes in your neighborhood use solar panels?