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7 Things You Should Know Before You Install Solar Energy

Jun 1, 2023 | Energy

What with loadshedding and the mounting energy costs, it’s understandable that more South Africans are looking into generating their own power through solar.

It makes sense. It’s a viable way to save money on electricity or spare yourself the frustration and inconvenience of power outages and loadshedding. While it’s tempting to go completely off grid, this is quite expensive. As a result, most homeowners are opting to install alternative or renewable energy systems in order to make smaller adjustments.

Even this isn’t a small cost to bear, which is why it’s important to get your ducks in a row before you start investing.

Here are seven things you need to know in order to prepare your home.

  1. Time For An Energy Audit

An energy audit can help you understand exactly what size your system needs to be. Of course, an energy audit can also help if you’re simply looking for ways to reduce your energy consumption. It can identify places in your home from which you can remove load, like replacing your electric oven with a gas-powered stove or switching to a solar geyser.

While you could interrogate your monthly electricity bill to get an idea of your energy consumption, it’s better to get a precise measurement. To do this, you could have an energy meter installed and run it for a week or two. This will give you data through 24-hour cycles, giving you the complete pattern of usage.

  1. Consider A Phased Approach

You might find from your energy audit that you can’t afford a system capable of supporting most of your needs. At least not yet. In the interim, what you could do is take a phased approach.

The key is to make sure you phase it correctly so that you’re able to expand your system over time. Very often, it’s better to double-check with your chosen system designer and installer on the prospects for future upgrades.

What you don’t want to end up doing is have a smaller solar panel array installed with insufficient output that can’t handle any expansions later on – or incur incompatibility problems. With that in mind, it’s best to under-spec other parts of the system, like the battery, which can be upgraded more easily.

  1. Roof Mapping Is Essential

Roof mapping is how you can assess your rooftop’s solar potential and it works by measuring the parameters of your roof to calculate the solar potential of your home. This way, you can use the space available to estimate how many solar panels your roof can accommodate and how much power these will generate.

  1. Home Repairs

Roof mapping doesn’t only prep you for how much power you can generate and how much it should cost you, but it also gives you the opportunity to check the condition of your roof.

Check for damaged tiles, rust, and water damage. Roofs that are in a state of disrepair can make it difficult to install a solar system. It may also mean that if the damage worsens, you’ll probably have to remove the panels to get your roof repaired or replaced – which is an additional cost that you don’t need.

  1. You May Need Approval

Generally, you’lll need municipal approval for your solar system. The exact requirements for approval may vary from one authority to the next, so do your homework.

You should also find out if you need to obtain neighbourhood or Homeowners’ Association approval if you live in an estate or a complex.

Additionally, your system will need to be registered with the municipality or local authority. This is something that you can do by yourself, provided you know your way around the paperwork, but you can usually turn to your installer for help.

  1. Get Qualified

No matter the size of the system you choose, you absolutely need to use qualified professionals to install and sign off. This isn’t only for safety reasons, but is often required under municipal laws and for insurance purposes. In fact, warranties on solar equipment are often subject to the correct installation procedures being followed.

The professionals you need include a qualified electrician registered with the departments of energy and labour, and a professional electrical engineer (Pr Eng), to sign off on the work.

You may also want to get a structural engineer to validate the roof’s integrity for carrying the weight of the panels.

  1. The Likelihood of Lightning

Solar panels are designed to cope against physical strikes, so things like hailstorms aren’t typically considered an issue. However, a lightning strike could take out your system.

In some areas, lightning isn’t really an issue, but regardless of the probability, it’s vital to consider installing an arrestor alongside a solar system. Some insurers may even insist on this, and failure to install one could lead to your claim being denied.

Feeling Informed?

AA Inform is home to a range of useful tools and resources, so in addition to free property valuation report, you can also use AA Inform to use our personal loan calculator and get a free credit report.

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