More homeowners are considering solar power systems around the globe with benefits that include savings in electricity bills and living a more sustainable lifestyle. One of the most common questions homeowners have is what products they need to start going solar.
This article will guide you through the equipment your solar home system requires and how to get them installed.
What solar production and storage equipment do I need?
Solar panels represent the most obvious starting point since they are the true workhorses of a typical photovoltaic (PV) installation.
However, solar is a modular technology, and shopping à la carte can often provide you with better pricing, a larger selection, and higher quality. Equally important, your installer can correctly size the entire PV system’s solar capacity to fit your home’s energy needs.
The downside of buying individual components is that configuring and balancing the different PV parts becomes more challenging. Fortunately, it’s possible to mitigate these difficulties by buying all your solar components from a single vendor – especially one that can guide you on sizing requirements.
The remaining solar production and storage parts (besides the panels) are known as the “balance of system” (BoS). These typically include:
- The solar inverter, which is responsible for converting direct current (DC) electricity into alternating current (AC) electricity used to power your home’s or business’s appliances. Be prepared to choose among standard solar inverters, microinverters, and even hybrid inverters – all of which have slightly different setups and wiring requirements.
- The racking and mounting, which are the rails and chassis used to hold the panels in place on your rooftop.
- Wiring, switches, and disconnects, which are used to connect (and control) the different components of the property’s larger electrical system. Note that many modern breaker boxes and homes are solar-ready, requiring minimal configuration once you add PV modules. However, this is less common with electrical systems in older homes, so you may need to upgrade your fuse boxes and wiring. If so, be prepared to invest in DC/AC disconnects, surge devices, circuit breakers, combiner boxes, and junction boxes.
There also exist some optional BOS components that increasingly factor into modern solar PV installations. These include:
- Wi-Fi connectivity – thanks to the growing proliferation of solar monitoring solutions that track energy production and consumption stats.
- Solar batteries – batteries are necessary if you want emergency backup power or simply wish to store unused solar electricity for nighttime use. On-site storage often requires investing in charge controllers as well.
- Electric vehicle-charging – it’s best to check with the auto manufacturer’s technical specifications for exact installation details, safety guidelines, and training requirements.
Can I install solar power myself?
Some homeowners consider installing solar themselves – believing that this option will save them money. However, most homeowners underestimate the amount of time and effort that go into a well-installed solar PV system. Plus, there are many risks involved when working with high-voltage electrical equipment.
To install solar power on your own, you must receive proper training and certification. Getting certification from the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP), which represents the gold standard for the PV industry, may be the best way to prevent accidents, injuries, and property damage.
There are often also regulatory steps you may have to follow – including municipal solar permitting requirements, zoning applications, and homeowners’ association (HOA) approvals. In addition, there may be tax paperwork involved if applying for incentives like the Federal Investment Tax Credit or local solar rebates..
Most states require that grid-connected PV systems involve licensed electricians. This means that if you want to participate in net energy metering programs to boost your savings, you will need to bring in a professional contractor at some point.
What is the best option for my solar installation?
Considering the time, effort, and safety risks involved with installing solar on your own, it is always better to work with an experienced solar installer to help you navigate the technical and regulatory landscape.
If you are interested in going solar, click below to connect with an authorized Schneider Electric solar installer: