With electricity prices on the rise and millions of households now living in homes with solar photovoltaic (PV) systems on their rooftops, there has never been a better time to consider going solar.
Grid-tied solar PV system is the most common PV system right now in the world. If you are considering install a system for your home but you don’t know how to start, this tutorial is for you with 7 detail steps of grid-tied solar PV system installation process.
- Do your research
- Contact your electricity retailer
- Find a solar retailer and plan your system
- Sign a contract
- Install your system
- Connect to the grid
- Maintain and enjoy your system
Why Invest in Solar PV System?
Before making the decision to install solar, it is important to consider whether the investment will be worthwhile for you.
As the cost of solar has fallen, so have government incentives. A number of different factors affect payback periods and whether you should go solar. The most benefit is gained by ‘self-consumption’ – that is, offsetting the higher retail tariff that you would pay by using power generated by your system instead of drawing power from the grid.
When you choose to power your home with free energy from the sun, your real estate values will increase. Having a good solar energy system in place is a great selling point for a home. Even if you don’t plan to sell your home, when you go solar, you can count on enjoying economical, clean, reliable power to your home for a quarter of a century or more.
#Step 1: Do your research
Before you design to invest in solar, it’s important to do your research so you know what will work for you. Think about what type of system you want to install, how much you want to spend and what government subsidies you might eligible for.
Why you choose Grid-tied solar PV system?
The most important things you have to think about before going solar is what type of solar PV system do you want for your home. There are 2 main types of solar PV we need consider are: grid-tied and off-grid. They all have their advantages and disadvantages and it really comes down to the customer’s current energy supply and what they want to get out of the system.
Grid-tied solar PV system – Pros and Cons
This is the most common form of solar system installed in the world.
A grid-tied system is a basic solar installation that uses a standard grid-tied inverter and does not have any battery storage. This is perfect for customers who are already on the grid and want to add solar to their house. These systems can qualify for state and federal incentives which help to pay for the system.
Some—particularly businesses that require a lot of power to operate—see the fact you can rely on the power company when you require additional electricity as the main draw to grid-tied solar. For others, it’s the fact that you can sell power back to the grid.
The goal in doing so is to offset the cost of the power you purchased, or simply to sell any excess power you have produced to the power company after you’ve taken what you need within a given time frame (typically monthly). This process is called net metering, where you can save money and potentially even make a bit more. In addition to the financial aspect, some find it an attractive choice because of its benefit to the community as a whole.
Grid-tied solar often has fewer upfront costs than an off-grid system. For one, it can cost less to install a grid-tied system because it does not require batteries, as off-grid does. For another, it’s more flexible, as you don’t necessarily have to install the number of panels you will need to produce all your energy needs right away. Some people choose grid-tied systems when they know they could only afford a certain number of panels at a given time, so their goal is to lower their electricity bills—but not eliminate them entirely just yet. Over time, you can always add more panels as you find the financial resources to do so.
In addition to the pros we already cited for the off-grid system, perhaps the most often-cited con of a grid-tied system is that it cannot function when the grid experiences a power outage. Some may erroneously think that if a power outage occurs, their panels will act as a sort of backup generator, but this is not the case since they’re still connected to the greater power grid. Also, as we touched on above, if you live in a particularly rural area it can be very costly to install power lines that connect your system to the grid.
Factors affect the cost of Grid-tied Solar PV System
The cost of your solar PV system can be affected by number of factors, including:
- Government incentives and support schemes
- Contractor installation costs
- Type and number of panels
- Type and size of inverter
- Type of framing equipment and other system components
- Height and accessibility of roof and whether it is tiled or Metal or concrete
- Any after sales service agreements
Extra costs to be aware of that might not be included in your initial quote:
- Application to connect to the grid
- Meter change or reconfiguration
- Upgrades to your switchboard or cabling
- Removal of trees or other shading
- Site preparation needs (for example, condition of roof or round)
Should You Lease or Buy Solar?
Buying your solar system is a great investment–once you’ve paid off the cost of the system, you’ll be receiving “free” energy for the rest of the system’s life. In addition, buying your system gives you access to financing options such as loans, as well as tax credits, which can reduce the overall cost of the system by up to 30% and may result in you paying less over the long run. If you are a business, or otherwise have a significant tax appetite, you can also treat the solar system as a depreciable asset, which can also result in tax benefits that will offset the system cost.
Leasing, on the other hand, guarantees that you’ll be paying the system’s owner for the life of the lease (which can be up to 20 years), and while these payments are relatively low, they aren’t necessarily fixed–they often increase year over year. And while most lease agreements give you the option of purchasing your system at a reduced cost at the end of your lease, this expense is still high and increases the total amount paid over the life of the lease by quite a bit. Although you’re not putting money down up front, you’ll ultimately end up paying more if you lease rather than buy your solar system.
How about Government Incentives?
Federal, state and local governments offer incredible solar energy tax credits and rebates to encourage homeowners to switch to renewable energy to lower their energy usage and switch to solar power. The amount of the solar rebate subsidy varies by program, but some are generous enough to cover up to 30% of your solar power system cost (in US).
Estimate Cost of Grid-tied solar PV system in 2017
Cost in US based on system size (Don’t include 30% Federal Tax Credit you will be receiving in renewable energy). These number provided by wholesalesolar.com
And in Australia (provided by Solar Choice):
#Step 2: Contact Your Electric Installer
Before you agree to have a solar pv system installed, it is important you understand what will happen to your electricity tariff and your electricity bill if you install solar.
Contact your electricity retailer to find out about what feed-in tariffs are available and how solar will affect your current electricity tariff, and carefully weigh up the advantages and disadvantages before making a decision.
“Not all electricity retailers offer solarfriendly policies, so it is best to check and compare the following items before entering into an electricity trading agreement.”
Questions to ask your retailer:
- What price will they pay you for your electricity, in cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh)?
- What is the cost of the electricity you purchase from them (in cents per kWh) and will you lose your off-peak rates once you install solar?
- Will you be charged a higher daily fixed charge component if you connect solar?
- Are there any penalty clauses (termination costs) or other administration fees?
- What will be the form of payment for electricity you produce? For example will you receive cash or a credit on your electricity bill?
- What are the billing/payment periods?
After your system has been installed, make sure your electricity bill reflects the correct a feed-in tariff. What is feed-in tariff?
A feed-in-tariff is the rate you are paid for electricity generated by your solar PV system that you export back to the grid. The electricity produced by your solar panels is used in your home first, and then any extra electricity is exported to the grid.
The feed-in tariffs offered differ from state to state, and from retailer to retailer. In some states the government regulates a minimum rate, and in other states it is up to you to negotiate a deal with your electricity retailer. It is worth shopping around to find out which electricity retailers offer better rates for solar customers.
Feed-in tariffs are usually only available for solar systems up to a maximum size. This maximum varies from 5 kW to 100 kW depending on where you live and your electricity retailer. Contact your electricity retailer or the relevant state government department for details.
#Step 3: Find a solar retailer and plan your system
It’s important to shop around when buying solar. Before you select a system, talk to different solar pv retailers about options and obtain several quotes. If possible, speak with other people in your local area who have installed solar power systems. you may be able to pick up some tips from their experiences.
Who in the solar retail market?
The main parties involved in the sale and installation of solar PV are the solar retailer, designer and installer. Sometimes these roles are filled by one individual, which is typically the case with small retail businesses run by a qualified installer/ designer.
However, two or three different entities can be involved with medium- to large-sized companies that subcontract out their designs and/or installations. Many solar PV retailers in the industry now sell systems directly to consumers and subcontract the installation of those systems.
How about their reputation?
When selecting your solar retailer, make sure you go with a reputable company with proven experience. You should find out things like:
- How long they have been in the solar industry?
- Whether they are an established company that will be around in the future if things go wrong.
- Warranties and workmanship guarantees cease if the company goes out of business.
Contact the solar retailer/installer/ designer’s former customers to find out:
- If they were knowledgeable, easy to work with, and took the time to explain the system’s operation.
- Also if their systems are working well, if there have been any problems, and, if so, if their installer returned to fix them.
Online and mail-order solar retailers that never visit your home or business may have difficulty recommending the most appropriate equipment. A comprehensive, on-site solar and load analysis and two-way interview can help ensure a thoughtfully-designed and well-planned installation.
Do they have relevant experiences?
Try to establish how many systems similar to your system the designer/installer has completed, and when the designer/ installer last completed a system.
Are they up-to-date on the newest products, the latest regulatory issues and connection requirements? Local companies or companies that operate within your state may have better experience in dealing with your distributor and be more familiar with any state specific regulations.
Plan your solar PV system
What you need to do?
1. Calculate your Electric Consumption
- Collect your electricity bills for the past year so you can calculate your average monthly electricity usage. Calculating an average is essential because electricity use peaks in the hottest months due to the high air conditioning demand.
- Add up the kWhs for all 12 months and divide that number by 12 to determine your average monthly energy consumption.
- Divide the monthly figure by 30 to determine your daily kWh usage.
To more accurately assess your home’s electricity needs, make a list of all your appliances, listing the power consumption for each in wattage and whether it is AC or DC power. Track how many hours you use each of those appliances per week, then for each appliance, multiply the watts by the hours/week to determine the number of watt-hours per week you use each appliance.
You can easy calculate your appliances electrical consumption by using appliance energy calculator by US Department of Energy
2. Determine your location peak sun hour
Use our peak sun hour world map to find out exactly number of your location.
3. Calculate your solar PV system size
By using this online calculator you can easy calculate your system size by few steps.
First, choose your location:
Add your system info:
And get result:
#Step 4: Sign a Contract
Before sign a contract, do you get any quote from retailer?
The quote will often form the basis for your contract. Remember that once you have received the quote, you do not necessarily have to go ahead with installing a system. It is important that you are aware of the system design and performance estimates for the system before signing the contract.
Once you have signed the contract, any variations to the system design must be documented and signed off by you before installation. If it is an unsolicited sale, you are entitled to a 10-day cooling-off period after signing a contract.
You should ensure that the following are include:
- A site-specific full system design including the proposed roof plan
- System performance estimates (daily, monthly and annual)
- The expected efficiency losses due to shading or orientation
- Full disclosure of all assumptions made in relation to systems and finance offerings
- The responsibility of each party for all aspects of the process (e.g. metering changes, grid connection, retail agreements, other paperwork)
- Warranties and guarantees, including installer workmanship
- Schedule of deposit and progress payments
- Service agreement
- An agreed timeframe for installation
- Any site conditions or circumstances which may result in extra chargeable work required that is not covered in the initial contract
#Step 5: Install your Solar PV System
Your solar retailer or installer should let you know when your system will be installed and provide you with all the necessary documentation on the day.
Make sure you receive everything you need when your system is installed. Documentation will be essential if you need to make warranty or insurance claims. A system user manual should be provided by the installer on the day of installation. It is the responsibility of your solar retailer or installer to ensure that you have been provided with the system documentation.
#Step 6: Connect to the Grid
Your solar retailer will usually arrange connection of your solar system to the network on your behalf, including preparing and submitting all relevant documentation required from the electricity retailer and/or distributor for meter installation and connection to the network. It is important however to be aware of the process involved, who to contact to follow up on progress, and to ensure that all parties are acting in a timely manner.
Connecting your solar PV system to the grid is a two-step process that involves:
- Making an application to connect your system prior to installation (where required)
- A meter change/reconfiguration and connection to the grid.
1. Application to connect
Most distribution companies require pre-approval to connect to their network. This should be done prior to sale and installation.
Depending on the size of your system and the characteristics of the local grid you are connecting to, the technical requirements of your distributor may vary. Make sure your solar retailer or installer lodges this application early on in the process as the approval process can take up to eight weeks in some areas.
2. Meter change and connecting to the grid
Your existing meter will either need to be reconfigured or replaced by a new import/ export meter before you can connect to the grid. This may need to occur before or after installation, depending on the requirements in your state.
Your solar retailer will need to notify either your distributor or electricity retailer to organise a meter change/reconfiguration. You will be charged for any costs associated with the meter change. This can be charged to you by your solar retailer or billed to you through your electricity retailer. Make sure you are aware of these costs and how they will be charged.
#Step 7: Maintain your Solar PV System and Enjoy
Once your solar system has been installed, it’s time to start saving money on your electricity bills – but you also need to make sure your system is maintained so it can continue to operate efficiently and safely.
A solar system is a complex electricity generating piece of equipment, and to keep it safe and operating efficiently, it is vital to both maintain your system and operate it safely. A maintenance schedule will be provided by your solar retailer or installer that you must take note of and follow. This is necessary to ensure that:
- It is operating correctly
- The system performance is maintained
- The system is safe for everyone in the premises as well as for any electrical workers working on the distribution network
Maintaining your system means much more than just cleaning your panels. An accredited installer will check that the system is functioning safely and efficiently, allowing you to maximize the savings on your power bills for years to come.
Some distributors may request that an anti-islanding test of the inverter be carried out periodically. Check with your distributor as each will have different requirements.