Almost all solar panels sold in the U.S. carry a 25 year warranty, most inverters are guaranteed for 10 to 25 years, and as long as you get occasional heavy rain your panels do not need regular cleaning. So if you are thinking about solar for your home, the most important considerations – besides price – are the quality and reliability of the installation itself. With these factors in mind, here are my top ten tips for 25 years of trouble free solar power:
- Find an installer who has been in business for 5+ years and uses their own installation crews (not subcontractors).
- You get what you pay for – so be careful about selecting an installer based on the lowest price.
- Prices for battery storage systems are coming down fast, storage incentives in many states will be available soon, control software is being developed, and the reliability of this new technology is improving rapidly. My advice is to get a battery-storage ready system, while waiting for these improvements to settle down in the market over the next few years.
- Panels from the major manufacturers are all very reliable; the biggest difference is simply that higher efficiency panels cost more. In most cases it does not make sense to pay extra for highest efficiency panels if you have enough roof space for slightly lower efficiency panels.
- The most common customer service issue relates to inverter monitoring. A distant second is a problem with the inverter itself.
- Squirrels and rats like to nest under rooftop panels and chew wires. Pigeons prefer barrel tile roofs. If you have any of these pests on your roof, talk to your installer about installing screening around the perimeter of your panels.
- Make sure your installer uses the proper flashing and sealing techniques on your roof mounts. Flashings are mandatory on all composition shingle roofs.
- Heavy rain does a great job of cleaning off debris from rooftop panels. NEVER hose off your panels – mineral deposits from tap water can permanently damage the glass.
- Wiring should be securely tucked-up beneath the panels and racking. Contact your installer if there are any wires hanging down on the roof surface.
- To make sure your system is operating properly, keep an eye on your inverter display (or online display), as well as your monthly electric bill. Even if your installer is monitoring your system they might not always notify you if there is a problem – especially if there is a problem with your monitoring.
For details on these ten tips for 25 years of trouble-free rooftop solar, Listen Up to this week’s Energy Show on Renewable Energy World.