Buying a home solar power system can be a very exciting experience, if done properly also lasting experience.  Be sure to focus on the important aspects of your purchase as it’s a substantial investment and one you’ll want to be living with for a long time.  Here are 10 tips to help you plan better.

  1. Do a proper Solar PV Assessment for your roof.
  2. Use a Panel suited for your area
  3. Determine your power needs before you buy the inverter and batteries
  4. Design a proper schematic diagram or wiring  of the system.
  5. Make sure the roof structures are strong enough to handle the wind force in your area.
  6. Choose a reliable inverter and mppt that can handle the loads you want to run
  7. Determine your battery requirements
  8. Ask for referrals before giving the order
  9. Make sure the System can log data
  10. Have realistic price expectations

Do a proper Solar PV Assessment for your roof.

A proper roof assessment will include the yield of a few different panels selections over time.  This may also include a possible layout plan to maximize your roof or roof sections ability. Even though you will probably not install panels on the whole roof section, you will get a realistic expectation on what energy yield your roof can yield over time. Because Solar is an investment this will give you the best indication on what ROI is possible from your roof, or roof sections. The roof assessment should  also include a few good panel selections to differentiate between  poly crystalline, mono crystalline and percium mono crystalline  performance. Different options to choose from will give you a better understanding of the ROI over time, if the analysis is done properly. This will also help to determine the correct roof structures to use for your type of roof. You might need to pay a small fee for a proper roof assessment, but it will be money wisely spend.

Look at Panels that will increase your Homes aesthetics

Some panels look Aesthetically  different to others. A aesthetically pleasing panel can and will improve your properties value. Make sure to that the roof assessment include some photo examples of a few different panels to compare your roof.  Photoshop is a powerful tool and a proper roof assessment can include some photos with a example of how the panels will look on your roof.

Determine your power needs before you buy the inverter and batteries

Your power needs, will determine the correct and optimum size for the Inverter and Battery storage. Take the time to make sure you know what loads you want to run on the inverter and for how many hours per day you need battery backup. For example during load-shedding, your batteries may be the only part of your system that provides power, and if they are not the right size or used incorrectly , you will run out of power faster and may not get through the load shedding or power outage period.

You can use our power assessment form for free to help you determine your load requirements more accurately, just send us a email and we will forward the form for you for free.

Draw a proper schematic diagram or wiring diagram of the system

A proper schematic or wiring diagram will make it easier for your installer to do the job correctly, and will also give you a real indication of how the system may function. You will also need a proper diagram should you need to register the system at a later stage, so its important to have it done right the first time. This in essence will be your system design spec if done properly.

Make sure the roof structures are strong enough to handle the wind force in your area.

Ask your installer do a proper structure report , it must include the wind force applied on the panels on the roof for your area, the forces must take the  height and embankments into consideration. The calculations done properly is not negotiable , it will help to specify the correct number of roof support brackets and rail types to use for your system , if the structure components is chosen  incorrectly, it could mean the difference of your panels staying on the roof or being blown away. There are many types of structures, and choosing the correct setup means you will probably need expert advice, if you want to do it right.

InverterChoose a reliable inverter and MPPT that can handle the loads you want to run

Inverters are very different between different manufacturers. Most low budget inverters don’t have proper protection circuitry and may not be reliable over long periods of use, some products also have problems operating on hot African days.  The biggest reason for this is that poor cheap quality copper and zinc are used inside the electronic circuits and transformers of many products to lower manufacturing costs, so in these cases the equipment may suffer from many  efficiency and quality issues. Also keep in mind that many inverter models are not legally approved for operation, and wont be allowed should you later wish to register your system. Then cost also will play a factor as most clients budgets are tight they normally look for the cheapest inverter, but this can be a big mistake.

Be prepared to spend a little extra and buy a product that offers the following:

  • Reliability and Robust operation for long periods.
  • Protection build in against overloads and high temperature.
  • Proper battery charging ability for different battery tipes
  • Wide temperature range of operation
  • At least a 5 year warranty
  • External MPPT
  • Modular ( Must be able to run more than 1 unit in parallel)

Al thought many installers and manufacturers may argue with this point, but from our experience over the last 7 years  its much better to have a external MPPT and not a build in one inside the Inverter. We have found that the build in  MPPT adds extra heat inside the Inverter, especially on hot sunny days and this may cause early component fail and short life time.

The added benefit to having the MPPT outside also means  you don’t have to replace the whole inverter should the MPPT fail and vice versa, so if the inverter fails you don’t have to replace a MPPT , the extra benefit of less heat inside the Inverter means  the inverter will most probably last much longer in warm African climates.

Determine your battery storage requirements before buying.

Once you have determined you best Inverter solution, it becomes time to plan for energy storage, if required. For Grid tied systems you might not need energy storage but for Hybrid and Off-grid solutions you will need storage.

Determining the right amount of kw/h or amp/h you need can be tricky, you will have to do some math or ask your system designer to help you. then you also need to know what the maximum current will be that will be drawn from the battery. hen its important to decide what type of battery chemistry to use.

Choosing the right battery can be tricky , but once done correctly, it can be a great pleasure and feeling to know your system is working properly.

Ask for recommendation before giving the order

Its always good idea to ask your installer for proper referrals.

Have realistic price expectations

If you are paying substantially less than many other similar size systems quoted, you may find poor quality equipment and/or poor installation work. Quality equipment and installation isn’t cheap and, like all other purchases, you often get what you pay for. Compare components and warranty periods for different products and check into the manufacturers of the products. Some manufacturers use children as labor force, so its always good to choose a manufacturers products that have a good track record even if the prices are not the cheapest. Also be careful to buy tier 1 or the latest products as older stock may be second hand goods and tier 2 equipment

We hope this helps a little, as installing a solar system is like putting in a new pool or buying a new car, there are many pitfalls and one need to know what you are getting into before you give the order.

If you require our assistance with the planing and installation of your solar pv system ,  you welcome to contact us to discuss the options available or to schedule a meeting.