Is Solar Right For You?
With technological improvements and lower prices, solar PV is
becoming more accessible for the homeowner. However, there are
still issues to consider to ensure that solar PV is the right
option for you.
Solar produces energy during daylight hours only. So, to use this
energy it is important to know when your home uses the most energy.
If your home is occupied during daytime hours and electricity use
is significant during that time, you can get good value from solar
panels. However, if your home is not mostly unoccupied during
daytime hours, you may get less benefit from a solar
Most solar PV systems are installed on new or existing roofs.
However, they can be ground or pole mounted as well.
To maximize annual production, it's important that the roof be
oriented toward the south. Those that aren't facing south have less
direct sun exposure. With today's internet capabilities, you can
get an idea of the sun's patterns by viewing your own home on
internet mapping applications or any other GIS-based mapping
website (e.g. Google Maps).
Is your roof over 5 years old? It is crucial that the structural
condition of the roof and shingles be evaluated before PV panels
are installed. A PV system may be in place for 20 plus years.
It only takes a small amount of shading to significantly reduce
a PV array's output. Ideally, a system should have no shade for at
least 6 hours a day, preferably between 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.
The annual path of the sun should also be considered in
determining if shading will impact the system especially during the
winter months when the sun is at a lower angle.
The tilt of your solar PV panel is as important as the
orientation. The standard practice is for the tilt angle to be
equal to the latitude, which in South Carolina is between 32 and 35
The angle of tilt of the panel from the ground should change when
the season change so your panels produce the most energy. If you
install panels that are flatter, you will see more production in
the summer days and less in the winter days. Your ability to change
this may be determined mostly by the pitch of your roof.
Before you get too far along with your solar PV system research,
it is crucial that you check with your Homeowners Association (HOA)
or Architectural Review Board (ARB) to make sure that an
installation of solar PV system is allowed on the roof of your
house, or mounted in your yard. Some subdivisions have strict
restrictions dealing with additions to houses. Check your covenants
to make sure.
Solar PV Contractor
Finding the right solar PV contractor is critical. Santee
Cooperative Does Not recommend a specific solar PV system type or
installer. However we do advise obtaining a solar PV contractor
that is experienced and certified by NABCEP (North American Board
of Certified Energy Practitioners) in South Carolina. http://www.nabcep.org/
Your contractor should handle most of the steps necessary to
install your solar PV system and connect it to Santee Cooperative's
electric grid. However, as a homeowner it is prudent that you take
an active role. Understanding the key steps that need to be done
will help you communicate with your contractor more
There are a number of things a contractor should do:
• Help you select and install the most productive generating
system for your home
• Work with Santee Electric Cooperative to ensure your system is
properly interconnected to the grid
• Obtain all necessary permits from state, city, county,
• Provide warranty information
• Set-up a repair and maintenance schedule
It is suggested that you request bids from at least 3 solar PV
contractors. There are two important figures that a contractor
should give you:
1) The amount of electricity the system will produce
2) The installed cost of the system per watt
Some questions that you may want to ask:
o Do you have a valid contractor's license?
o Do you have credible references?
o How long have you been installing solar PV systems?
o Have you installed solar PV systems in my
o Do you have manufacturer or other training for the type of
system you will install?
o Does the installation contract clearly state what is included
and what is not included in the price?
o Do you have insurance?
o Do you offer a warranty for equipment and workmanship?
In order to determine what an investment in solar can do for
you, you need to know:
• Your cost to install,
• How much electricity you will save,
• And the payback of the system.
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