5 Worst Mistakes When Buying Solar Panels
Buying solar panels is easy, but buying wisely is another. Home solar panels are more complex than emergency residential solar kits, for example, and even a small mishap can end up being quite costly.
Many Filipinos just buy solar without really knowing the basics, they’re just thinking directly on how much they can save without really knowing how it works.
If you’re planning to go solar, here are several mistakes you’ll want to avoid.
Not Asking the Right Questions
Proper preparation is the single most important thing when it comes to buying and installing solar panels. Never before has the phrase “Measure twice, cut once” been so crucial. These things are expensive and you do NOT want to end up with an inefficient or non-working system.
Important preliminary questions include:
How old is your house? Can it support solar panels?
How much energy do you actually need to produce?
Are you willing to further reduce your energy usage?
Is your roof facing in the right direction?
How much shade/sunlight does your roof actually get?
Will you need to upgrade your energy meter?
Will you need any building permits?
How much are you willing to spend?
How long before your solar panels pay for themselves?
Your answers will give you a much better idea of how feasible solar energy can be for your situation. If you find out that it won’t do you much good, don’t feel bad about giving up (until you move somewhere where the feasibility is better, of course).
Declining to Be Informed
On the one hand, just as you can flip a switch and get light without understanding light at a quantum level, you don’t need to know how solar panels actually work to benefit from them. On the other hand, being completely ignorant is just going to come back and bite you in the future.
There are two main things you should understand, even if only at a cursory level: solar PV systems and solar panel specifications.
Regarding solar PV systems, you’ll want to look up the difference between grid-tied and off-grid systems (grid-tied are simpler) and all of the different components that are necessary for a working system (panels, inverters, batteries, etc).
Regarding solar panel specifications, there are several different terms and numbers that you’ll want to understand, including but not limited to: cell type, rated power at STC, rated power tolerance, module efficiency, power warranty, etc.
Mixing Various Brands
This one isn’t much of a problem for most people, but there are some who think they’re so clever that they can mix-and-match different components from different manufacturers to cut down on costs — which is totally possible, but may end up as a regret.
You won’t actually save much up front because, as mentioned earlier, you often get what you pay for in the realm of solar panels. On top of that, solar PV systems are designed to interface with certain parts, sometimes even specific brands.
At best, your savings will be marginal but your system won’t be as robust and may require lots of maintenance in a few years. At worst, it won’t work at all or may break down far quicker than you might expect.
Neglecting the Warranty Terms
The general rule of thumb — in and beyond the solar panel industry — is that the length of a warranty indicates how much confidence the manufacturer has in its product. In other words, a shorter warranty often translates as a cheaper and lower quality product.
When you buy solar panels, make sure you know what your warranty entails. Ask about what exactly it covers and for how long. Don’t be tricked by the deceptive “performance warranty” (which is usually 25 years) when you really want to know about the “panel warranty” (which is closer to 10 years).
Thinking You Can Do It Yourself
If you’re a DIY guru who has made all kinds of successful improvements to your home and you know your way around wood, wires, roofing, and electronics, then this obviously doesn’t apply to you.
On the other hand, if your hands-on experience goes no further than LEGO, then you probably don’t have the necessary expertise. You do NOT want to make a mistake during the installation process!
Leave it to the professionals. If your solar provider doesn’t do installations for some reason, hire a reputable third-party company who will. Don’t skimp here — using inexperienced or otherwise cheap installers is almost as bad as doing it yourself.