Is your home or business a good place for a PV system?
Can you locate your system so it works well?
A well-designed PV (photovoltaic) system needs clear and unobstructed access to the sun’s rays for most or all of the day, throughout the year.
To determine whether your home or business is a good place for a PV system, you can make an initial assessment yourself. If the location looks promising, your PV provider can determine whether your home or business can effectively use a PV system.
The orientation of your PV system (the compass direction that your system faces) affects its performance. In Australia, where solar uptake is the highest globally, with around 30% of homes with rooftop solar PV, the sun is always in the northern half of the sky but is higher in the summer and lower in the winter.
Usually, the best location for a PV system is a north-facing roof, but roofs that face east or west may also be acceptable. Flat roofs also work well for solar electric systems, because PV modules can be mounted flat on the roof facing the sky or bolted-on frames tilted toward the south at an optimal angle.
They can also be attached directly to the roof as “PV shingles.” If a rooftop can’t be used, your solar modules can also be placed on the ground, either on a fixed mount or a “tracking” mount that follows the sun to orient the PV modules.
Other options (often used in multifamily or commercial applications) include mounting structures that create covered parking, or that provide shade as window awnings.
Is your site free from shading by trees, nearby buildings, or other obstructions?
To make the best use of your PV system, the PV modules must have a clear “view” of the sun for most or all of the day—unobstructed by trees, roof gables, chimneys, buildings, and other features of your home and the 5 Investing in a PV system 6 surrounding landscape.
Some potential sites for your PV system may be bright and sunny during certain times of the day, but shaded during other times. Such shading may substantially reduce the amount of electricity that your system will produce. To be eligible for some rebates, your system must be unshaded between certain hours during certain times of the year. Some states have laws that establish your right to protect your solar access through the creation of a “solar easement.”
Your PV provider can help you determine whether your site is suitable for a solar electric system.
What kind of roof do you have, and what is its condition?
Some types of roofs are simpler and cheaper to work with, but a PV system can be installed on any type. Typically, roofs with composition shingles are the easiest to work with, and those with slate are the most difficult. In any case, an experienced solar installer will know how to work on all types and can use roofing techniques that eliminate any possibility of leaks.
Ask your PV provider how the PV system affects your roof warranty. If your roof is older and needs to be replaced in the near future, you may want to replace it at the time the PV system is installed to avoid the cost of removing and reinstalling your PV system.
PV panels often can be integrated into the roof itself, and some modules are actually designed as three-tab shingles or raised-seam metal roof sections. One benefit of these systems is their ability to offset the cost of roof materials.
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