Choices to Consider

It’s easy to design bad or unnecessarily expensive solar, but it requires knowledge of currently available equipment – and experience – to design the higher tech systems available today. Anyone, essentially, can design a system that uses microinverters, bolt a package together and plug it in.  (Microinverters – Enphase being the most common brand – systems are essentially that simple.) Many people comparison shop to find the least expensive system available, but without knowing what brands are best or anything about the design or the installer’s work practices. Modules put out slightly less power with every year of age, and if the system design is marginal those modules may not generate enough power to “wake up” the inverter as early each day or even at all under some conditions.

So what are decisions will you need to make?:

  1. How much of your electric bill you want to eliminate,
  2. Battery, battery-less, or no backup, and
  3. Level of monitoring.

System output should be driven by your energy consumption as well as the space availabile for your panels. The liklihood of wanting to expand the system later should be discussed with your installer. For tight space constraints, more expensive high-efficiency panels may be required to meet your system output needs.

Whether you want to have power when your neighbors don’t – not the amount of shade or capability of your designer – should drive the decision to use either a string inverter or microinverters. Until recently, all systems shut down completely upon loss of power from the grid.

We recommend at least basic monitoring, so you know before your electric bill arrives if your system has shut down. Some systems will alert you by email if a problem is detected. More advanced monitoring shows what each module is producing. High quality modules are unlikely to suddenly stop working, so most system owners find module-level monitoring to be primarily a novelty. There is absolutely no need for monitoring services that charge a monthly fee.

Aesthetics is the forth choice, only because the variety of panel designs (black or blue glass, black or silver frame, frame or frameless) can be found regardless of system size, backup capability or monitoring level.

Long-term system cost is a concern for most people. While short term costs may be driven in part by buying features and capabilities you don’t need, long term costs are determined solely by the quality of the design, components and installation.

You will not have to chose how best to fit the solar panels on your roof, what components to buy (we provide only the highest quality components), wire sizing or whether you want to make the connection at your electrical panel. (We insist we do that, whether you buy a DIY kit from us or have us install it.)

Utah Applied Solar Energy, LLC  2015