5 common solar design flaws to watch out for
5 common solar design flaws to watch out for
Every rooftop solar panel system is unique, designed to meet the specific energy requirements and aesthetics of the home on which it is installed. The number and type of panels you need to install, the layout and orientation of your panels, and even the location of wires and cables will also be unique to your home and solar system.
Your installer should work with you to design a system that meets your needs and expectations, but sometimes surprises happen. Here are a few common design flaws to watch out for in residential rooftop systems:
1. Miscalculating roof positioning and angle
The direction and angle of your roof are the two main factors in how much energy your panels produce for your home, also known as your panel efficiency. Your installer should ensure optimal location and tilt of panels to capture as much sunlight as possible through the course of a day.
Ideally, your panels should face south and be installed at an angle between 30 and 45 degrees, because solar panels produce the most electricity when placed exactly perpendicular to the sun. In other words, they capture the most sunlight when angled to face as close to the sun as possible, which maximizes what they can convert into electricity.
Solar panels installed on roofs facing east or west tend to generate about 20% less electricity than those that face south. This means you may need to install a few more panels to make up for the loss in production, since each panel will capture slightly less sunlight than it would if it were facing south.
2. Not accounting for shade
Shade can significantly lower the energy production of your panels, and it can come from places such as trees, chimneys, and neighboring homes. Be sure to quiz your installer about shading and how they have accounted for it in their designs. If you have any large trees shading your panels, ensure they are trimmed back as much as possible.
3. Leaving wires exposed
Exposed wires and electrical piping can make your system look messy and unfinished. Your installer should hide these wires as much as possible, often concealing them in loft space underneath your solar panels.
It’s worth noting, however, that hiding wiring completely isn’t always an option. In some cases, disguising wiring can involve extra work (and therefore extra cost). Speak to your installer about their planned approach to concealing any wiring. That way you’ll have a better understanding of what could be left exposed and whether there will be additional work and cost involved.
4. Designing an asymmetrical layout
Most homeowners want a symmetrical system. Highlight your expectations for a symmetrical design up front so your installer can account for it. In order to create symmetry, they may need to relocate items on your roof, such as aerials. When you’re reviewing the design, ensure all panels run in the same direction, whether that’s landscape or portrait. You’ll also want to check whether panels align neatly with any other features on your roof, such as skylights and chimneys.
Photo courtesy of Hot Purple Energy, Palm Springs, CA
Roof coverage can also affect the symmetry and overall appearance of your design. If your panels only cover a portion of your roof, you’ll want them positioned in proportion to the size of your property and its features; you don’t want to visually overload your roof. If the panels do cover your entire roof, ensure they run neatly from edge to edge. Either way, your panels should sit snugly side by side rather than having one panel in one place and others elsewhere.
5. Ignoring the feel of neighborhood roofs
A rooftop solar system should be in keeping with its surroundings, including any existing solar installations on neighboring homes. It’s important to work with your installer so your system is of a similar size, style, and layout to any neighboring installations. Even if yours will be the only home with solar panels in the area, it’s still worthwhile to keep your system aligned with the feel of the neighborhood to minimize potential objections from neighbors.
One of the best ways to get a rooftop solar system that meets both your energy needs and your design expectations is to work with a reputable installer with a strong track record in your area. Working with a trusted installer can give you peace of mind that your system will be designed to seamlessly fit in with its local surroundings and meet any location-specific design requirements.
Panasonic’s network of trusted installers can help you design and install the perfect solar system for your needs. Find a local installer near you to get started.