Step by step guide on setting up residential solar panel

Introduction

Homeowners all over the globe are slowly switching to solar power. The installation of these PV power systems comes with multiple benefits like a lower carbon footprint, lower electricity bills and homes that value a little higher in the market.

The one-time installation and overall maintenance cost of residential solar packages should be next on your upgrade list. Today we will be telling you all about residential solar systems and why it is a good idea to install them. Let’s start with the basics.

What are residential solar systems?

This green technology of turning solar power (PV) into electricity has been around since the 1950s. However, it costed a bomb back in the day to get residential solar panels installed – at least for residential usage. Now, thanks to the declining prices of solar modules, these systems have become a financially viable technology to be used for commercial and residential spaces.

Let’s start with understanding what the solar output looks like and why is it viable.

The actual output for the PV system installed at your place is somewhere between 15-30% of what the theoretical output looks like.

Known as the capacity factor, it is important to note that residential solar packages might be a great idea for one household but a not so good idea for another. This depends on the energy consumption of the households and what their current bills look like. The initial investment is quite steep and might not be within everyone’s budget. Especially the type of systems that last over 15-20+ years and give a good ROI in the first decade.

There are definite benefits of installing residential solar systems in Brisbane. Some of them are listed below.

Benefits of residential solar systems

1) Beneficial cost savings

This is by far the biggest advantage of installing residential solar systems in Brisbane. The tariff rates for rooftop solar panels are cheaper by 17% in comparison with the industrial tariff rates.  And they are cheaper by 27% in comparison with commercial tariff rates. These panels also attain grid parity at many places. Not only do they help in cutting down electricity bills for building owners but also benefit from many ‘Green’ schemes by the Government of Australia.

2) Easy access to energy

An off-grid solar system setup helps you stay independent from the local power grids. And an on-grid system gives you additional electricity back-up in case there is a power outage.

3) Support from the government

The Australian government is giving major incentives to residential as well as commercial users of solar power. The tariffs and rebates provided are lucrative enough for you to make the switch. A solar system also increases a property’s valuation in the market.

4) Reduction in carbon footprint

At the end of the day, it is bigger than all of us. You can avoid the usage of noisy generators and thus cause a reduction in the neighbourhood sound pollution. Rooftop solar installation is the ideal way to go.

5) Low maintenance cost

One of the major perks of potentially switching to solar power is the low maintenance cost. All you need to do is make sure the panels are clean so that they can harness energy easily. Once in a while look at the wiring and do an annual check-up to see what the optimal functioning looks like. That’s it!

6) You don’t need any additional space to make this happen

As mentioned earlier, residential solar panels are ideally situated on the roof unless your roof cannot withstand the weight. In that case, you can go for panels that are mounted on the ground. The idea is to make the entire system function without any additional costs apart from the system setup.

The benefits are endless. The only thing you need to figure out before switching to solar is the installation cost. It can be quite a hefty investment but it is secure. The returns are assured and you get multiple tax benefits and rebates which will help with your overall finances too.

Now that the benefits are all listed, let’s look into how to set up a solar panel system at your residence.

Step by step guide to install residential solar systems

1) Start with gathering all the required parts

The major parts of a solar power system are solar panels, charge controllers, inverter and a battery pack. Apart from this, you will need brackets, breakers, meters, MC4 connectors and fuses among other electrical parts. A display set-up to help you monitor your usage. Depending on the type of model and available space, the components will differ.

2) Calculate your residential power load

This can be done quite easily. Gather all your electrical appliances and note down their power rating, how long they run and how often you need them. This includes your television, fan, fridge, heater, lights and so on. You can calculate the Watt-hour by multiplying the power rating and the run time of a particular appliance. Using an off-grid load calculator can do this for you easily. Make sure you have an estimate before you start assembling the parts.

3) Set up the battery

A battery is a good backup in case there’s a total power outage. A lithium-ion or lead-acid battery will store the power during the day and discharge it at night. Depending on your energy requirement, you can look into battery capacity. With the help of a power controller, you can monitor the battery charging. They indicate the charging state of the battery via LED lights and help adjust the power flow.

4) Get to know your solar inverter before setting it up

The energy harnessed from the sun is produced in direct current (DC) but the appliances at home run on alternating current) AC). This is where a solar inverter comes in. It allows you to use electrical devices without an adapter and also comes in various power wattages.

Different types of inverters are pure sine wave, modified sine wave and square wave. The output of modified sine waves is not suitable for appliances like the fridge and square waves are not compatible with many devices. So using a pure sine wave inverter might be the best choice for your residential solar system.

5) Set up your residential solar panels on the roof

The idea is to ensure that the solar panels receive the maximum sunlight with no barriers like shadows and tall trees. You can set up the panels on a self-made mounting stand or one purchased from the market. The tilt of the mounting stand should be almost equal to the latitude angle of your location–this will ensure an unhindered supply of sunlight. Trace a small junction box at the back of your solar panel that will be marked with positive and negative signs of polarity. Larger solar panels will require more wiring. See what suits your system.

6) Connect the solar panels and the storage battery

In some residential solar packages, these two components come paired together, but if not, then they need to be connected in series and parallel connections. A series connection requires positive and negative terminal ends of devices coming together. For a parallel connection, you will connect the negative terminal ends of your devices. They have their pros and cons. Do your research before aligning them.  

You will also require stands for your battery and inverter. You can either build them or get them from the market. While you work on wiring, start with the controller and the solar panels. Then connect the controller to the battery and finally the controller with the direct DC load connection. You might need an MC4 connector to connect the solar panels and the charge controllers. The LED lights on the controller will light up when you connect it with a battery.

So, this is the step-by-step guide for setting up your residential solar system. You might need professional experience if you haven’t done any electrical or wiring work on your own. But in the long run, you must know what goes where and why, because that will assist you with the maintenance.

Things to know about residential solar panels and FAQs

1) What do residential solar systems usually cost?

This depends on the state and size of your potential system. You can get a fair estimate by doing a dollars per watt conversion. In 2021, a person pays $2.81/W as compared to 8$/W in 2008. While the energy prices have reduced given the green switch, these systems will still cost you a little fortune and then pay back over the decade.

2) What is net metering?

Consider net metering as a solar incentive where you receive bill credits from your local power suppliers when your system produces more solar electricity and you send it to the grid for consumption. This ensures that you have a power supply 24/7/365 because of these credits. On-grid solar systems function like that

3) How to finance my residential solar system?

There are 3 ways you can go about it – a cash purchase, solar loans and power purchase agreements (PPAs).

A cash purchase/direct purchase will help you in the long run because you have ownership of your system from the get-go and don’t need to pay instalments on it later. Gives the best payback. A solar loan will help you with the up-front cost for setting up your solar system and then you will pay monthly loan payments which are quite similar to your electric bills till the pay-off is done. You do own your system but it is on loan until you pay it off. Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) require no monetary investment from your end but also you don’t own the system. A third party installs it in your space and you buy energy from them at a specific rate. You are not entitled to tax incentives as you have no ownership of the system.

4) How long does it take to install residential solar systems?

The installation framework is pretty quick. After site visits, planning and final decision on the type of system you want to get installed, the set-up takes just a few days. Net metering might take a few days to get you connected with the grid and then you are good to go.

5) Who qualifies for tax credits?

Through the solar tax credit, you get about 26% of your total cost of the system as long as you buy and own the system. You get additional tax credits too. Check out the mandates by the Australian government about tax credits and rebates to find your sweet spot.

6) Should I get a solar system if I don’t plan on staying in my home for 20+ years?

Going solar is always good whether you use it in the long run or not. You can enjoy lower electricity bills and also if you plan on putting your place on the market you will get a higher valuation. People want to buy places that have a pre-installed system because upkeep costs are lower than installation. This might be a great time to go solar.

7) When will my residential solar system reach the break-even point?

While this depends on many factors, it is quite realistic to state that after 8 years you can start getting your payback from the system. Be it in the form of credits or no to low dependence on the power grid.

Hope this answers all your questions about switching to green energy and enjoying the multiple environmental and financial benefits it provides.

Conclusion Solar is here to stay. It is now a viable and cost-effective option for many households. Do your assessment and also get professional opinions where needed and then make an affirmative decision towards setting up your residential solar system in Brisbane. All the best.

Author: Harsh Patel

Date: September 28, 2021

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