There are a few important variables to consider when thinking about installing a solar panel system on any home or building, and costs are naturally at or near the top of this list. There are several different factors that may influence the cost of solar panels, and knowing these in advance will help you navigate the process and order a system that’s ideal for both your budget and your needs.
At Alternative Utility Services, Inc., we’re proud to offer both residential and commercial solar power solutions to a wide range of clients. We’ll walk you through this entire process, including helping you understand the different elements that will impact your costs, plus which are most necessary for your setup. Here’s a rundown of some of the most common variables we’ll be evaluating when you come to us for help with your solar panels and their costs.
Installation Type and Location
First and foremost, it’s important to realize that solar panel installations today can take place in a few different property areas. These include:
- Roof: By far the most common location for solar panels, roof-mounted systems offer the most unobstructed exposure to the sun. While this is generally a plus, it’s important to factor in the age and condition of your roof and whether or not you’ll need to replace it soon. Also, if your roof has a lot of shading then solar panel efficiency can be lowered.
- Ground mounts: These systems are installed on the ground, and are generally a good choice for larger properties or if you live in an area with consistent sun exposure.
- Carport installations: Most common in residential areas, carport installations are a good way to add solar power while also protecting your vehicles from the sun and weather — and even allowing for electric vehicles to be powered by this energy that’s created.
Depending which type of installation you choose, your solar panel costs may be impacted. For example, a ground mount system is typically more expensive than a roof-mounted one simply because of the extra labor and materials involved in installing it.
Next up, you’ll also be thinking about the actual equipment used. For today’s solar panels, there are two areas to consider here:
- Power density: The amount of power that a solar panel is able to produce per unit of size, or watts per square foot.
- Solar panel color: Basic solar panels have a blue cell with a white back sheet and a silver frame; however, modules with a black frame or cell, which may be more powerful, are also available.
Inverter or Optimizer Type
In addition, solar panels may be set up in a few different configurations:
- String inverters: When panels are linked together in groups, feeding into a string inverter that in turn connects several panels at a time to the grid. String inverters are one of the most cost-efficient options for solar panels.
- Micro inverters: Installed on each individual solar panel, micro inverters offer more independence for each panel and are less likely to be damaged in bad weather. However, they also tend to be a bit more expensive than string inverters.
- Power optimizers: These items do many of the same things as micro inverters, but at a slightly lower price (still usually more expensive than string inverters, however).
Energy Production Required
One of the simplest factors to consider in terms of solar panel costs: How much power your home or building actually needs. Many people are surprised to find out that they don’t need a system that can provide all of their energy needs; instead, investing in a solar panel system that meets around 80% of your needs can save you money in the long run and still reduce your reliance on traditional methods of acquiring power.
Shade and Other Weather Factors
To be clear, things like shade and the surrounding environment won’t have much or any impact on your solar panel installation costs — it’s in your long-term energy production where these factors come into play. For instance, if you have a lot of trees nearby that provide shade for your home, then your solar panels will be less effective at producing energy since they won’t be able to take advantage of the sun’s direct rays.
Similarly, if you live in an area with a lot of bad weather (hurricanes, high winds, etc.), then you’ll need to factor that into your decision-making process and decide whether or not solar panels are a good option for you. All things considered, these weather factors can decrease the efficiency of your solar panel system — but there are also ways to mitigate these issues.
Interconnection Cost and Distance
For solar panel systems, a process called interconnection is required to connect the solar panel system to the community power grid. There are varying requirements here depending on where your structure is located, and costs will also vary. Generally speaking, the farther away your home or building is from the nearest power substation, the more it will cost to connect your system — and knowing this distance ahead of time might be valuable to you.
In some cases, state or local governments may also offer tax breaks or other incentives for people who install solar panel systems; it’s worth checking into what’s available in your area before you make any decisions.
Solar panel systems are a major investment, but they offer many benefits in the long run. By taking into account the different factors that influence their cost, you can make a more informed decision about whether or not solar panels are the right choice for you. For more on this or any of our solar or other energy management and efficiency services, speak to the team at Alternative Utility Service, Inc. today.
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