How is your solar panel system designed?

Updated

a solar installer analyzing a solar panel system
Your installer will work with you to design a system that best fits your needs.

The design of a residential solar system is often a case-by-case process. Before a solar system is installed at a property, there are many factors that must be considered. 

This is a stage of the going-solar process that many consumers overlook, which is just simply due to a lack of understanding. This is why we want to provide some clarity with the process of designing a solar system.

Whether you’re wanting to install a solar system or undertaking a DIY solar project, you should understand why your system’s design is so important, as well as some of the key considerations.

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    Why is the design of your solar system important?

    A solar system's design can drastically impact its performance and the amount of energy that it generates. 

    A well-designed solar power system will optimize the roof space available and use the least amount of solar panels possible. Designing the solar panel system for each individual property will also result in the investment being more cost effective and your electric bill decreasing. 

    When going off grid, your system’s design is especially important; you need to make sure it accommodates your requirements completely since you will not be able to rely on the grid for backup power. 

    Factors affecting your solar system design

    There are a number of factors that will affect the way your system is designed and installed. Some of them have to be considered by the homeowner and others by the installer. Here are some of the most important factors to consider:

    Budget

    One of the most important factors affecting solar system design is the homeowner’s budget. Your budget will determine certain aspects of your solar system design, such as the modules used and the installers that are hired

    Check out our article, The best solar panels to buy in 2021, for a comprehensive list of the top-rated solar modules in terms of price, performance, efficiency, and more.

    To find out more about the cost and savings of solar for your home, check out our solar calculator below.

    Get solar cost and savings estimates for your specific home

    Energy requirements

    Your electricity usage will largely influence the size of your solar system. The size of your solar energy system varies depending on your energy consumption and how much of the energy you buy from the grid you want to offset.

    The more energy that you require, the larger your system must be. Your monthly energy use will also impact the wattage of your solar panels.

    Learn more: 3 ways to calculate solar system size for your home

    Peak sunlight hours

    A peak sunlight hour is an hour in the day when the intensity of the sunlight reaches an average of 1000 watts/meter². It’s also a useful indicator of whether or not solar panels are worth it in your location.

    The number of peak sunlight hours in your area also affects how well your solar panels perform, and helps dictate the panels and system size your installer will use. Find out more about peak sunlight hours in your state here.

    Roof size

    The size of your solar energy system will also be influenced by your available space. The more suitable roof space your home has, the more modules it can accommodate and therefore, the larger your system can be. 

    Your solar energy system's potential is often limited by the size of your roof. The size and orientation of your roof will also impact the solar panel’s mounting system and the way that your panel's racking is configured.

    Learn more: Is my roof good for solar? The 4 essentials installers consider and why

    Shade

    Solar panel output (and in some cases, the entire system) can be drastically affected by shade. 

    Prior to your solar panel installation, a shading analysis is conducted to ensure your PV panels are being utilized in the best way possible. If any part of your roof is covered by shade at some point in the day, whether by a tree or another building, it will impact the design of your solar system. 

    Depending on the type of system being installed, the parts of the roof that become shaded may be left bare in order to optimize the performance of the system.

    One thing installers do to improve the performance of your system is attach microinverters. Even if some of your solar panels are shaded, microinverters ensure maximum AC electricity flows to your fuse box and electric grid. 

    To learn more about the impact of shading on your solar panels, check out our article, Do solar panels need direct sunlight to work?

    Find out how much you can save monthly by switching to solar

    Key takeaways

    • A solar system's design can drastically impact its performance and the energy that it generates.
    • Your solar system’s design is dependent on a number of factors, including budget, energy requirements, peak sunlight hours, roof size, and shading.
    • These factors must be considered by both the homeowner and the solar installers when designing your solar system.
     - Author of Solar Reviews

    Cameron Bates

    Blog Author

    Cameron is a business analyst and content specialist at SolarReviews.

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