Our Solar Expert’s Guide to Selecting Your Installer, Inverters, and Battery Storage

Selecting the different components of your solar energy system can seem like a daunting task. That’s why we’ve asked our solar experts some of the most vital questions on making the best choices for your solar energy system. Whether you are unsure of what steps to take to select your installer, or if you should commit to a grid-tied or storage-based inverter, we are here to help you!

How should I choose my installer?

When finding the right installer, you’ll want to thoroughly research each installer to evaluate whether they are a good fit for you. Some important things to consider are their rates, customer reviews, and proximity to you. Our first recommendation for selecting installers is to find our preferred installers close to you.

We recommend contacting more than one installer at a given time to help you better understand how different installers charge and operate. A lot of installers also provide free consultations and give homeowners an assessment to help determine what they need. However, be cautious of incurring any work for installers that they could charge you for. To avoid this, make sure you research thoroughly and communicate effectively to understand how each installer charges for their services.

To determine if the quality of work is appropriate, you can navigate to the installer’s website to search for customer feedback and reviews. This will often come in the form of customer testimonials or survey feedback. Installers also typically showcase a photo gallery of installations for previous customers. However, if you are unable to find any variation of customer feedback or review, you may contact the installer directly and request references from customers. This way, you can mitigate the risk of working with installers that do not align with your expectations. It is paramount for homeowners like you to perform the necessary research to ensure you have a comfortable and smooth installation process for your solar energy system.

What inverters should I purchase?

There are two main types of inverters: grid-tied inverters and storage inverters. The purchase that you make for inverters depends entirely on your needs.

Generally, grid-tied inverters have lower upfront costs and can offer high bill savings. However, if you’re in a location with high utility prices or perhaps grid-outage prone locations, then you definitely want to consider looking towards storage-based inverters. To take that a step further, a storage-based inverter makes even more sense if you’re currently on a time-of-use (TOU) rate plan. Having one will allow homeowners like yourself to better allocate your consumption of energy to maximize your savings. To elaborate more on that, the price of electricity increases during peak hours under time-of-use rate plans. Typically, peak hours are during the evenings, 4 – 9 pm. By owning a storage-based inverter, you can easily source energy from your battery bank, avoiding excessive usage of electricity at higher rates.

Moreover, with a storage inverter your home will be completely self-sufficient with energy during unpredictable power outages. The key difference between a grid-tied and storage-based inverter is that grid-tied inverters cannot produce power in the absence of the grid, while storage-based inverters can provide backup power. Grid-tied inverters will offset your energy usage by the amount of solar produced. If loads exceed PV production, the deficit will be supplied from the grid. If PV production exceeds loads, the excess may be exported to the grid and solar credits may be available via a net metering agreement (NEM).

Do I need to purchase a battery?

To receive all benefits of a storage-based inverter, you need to purchase a battery for your solar energy system. If you are experiencing frequent power outages, battery storage is our best-recommended solution.

With that in mind, let’s explore more on what battery options there are for homeowners.

Lithium-ion batteries are one option that you could consider when pairing with a storage-based inverter. They have moderately high upfront costs but are generally very cost-effective in the long term. The lifespan of lithium-ion batteries can extend to as long as 15 years. Lithium-ion batteries are considered premium in price and performance, requiring no maintenance from homeowners. If you are willing to pay the premium price for lithium-ion batteries, it is a very reliable and well-performing solution for your solar energy system.

The other option for solar batteries is lead-acid batteries. These batteries have a lower upfront cost compared to lithium-ion batteries but generally don’t have the same usable storage or life cycle. Its weight and size are typically larger than lithium-ion batteries as well. This is primarily because of the materials that are used and the need for an electrolyte (typically wet cell, glass-mat or gel). It is also important to note that flooded lead-acid needs to have distilled water added periodically to replenish electrolyte levels.

Now that you have a better understanding of installers, inverters, and battery storage; you can read more about our home solutions and get started on your solar journey!

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