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Is your home a good place for a PV system?
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 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 your system will produce.
The orientation of your PV system affects its performance. The best location for a PV system is typically a south-facing roof, but roofs that face east or west may also be acceptable. Flat roofs are ideal.
Solar modules can also be placed on the ground, either on a fixed mount or a tracking mount that follows the sun. Other options (often used in multifamily applications) include mounting structures that create covered parking or provide shade as window awnings.
PV systems work best in energy-efficient buildings. Adding insulation and energy-efficient lighting, appliances, and windows can reduce your home's overall electricity use.
How much space does a PV system require?
Some residential PV systems require as little as 50 square feet (for a small starter system) or as much as 1,000 square feet.
Some PV modules offer more efficiency per square foot than others and thus need less surface area to create a given amount of electric power, but they are typically more expensive. System sizing should be discussed with your PV provider.
What kind of roof do you have, and what is its condition?
An experienced solar installer will be able to mount a PV system on to any roofing material and eliminate the possibility of leaks. Composition shingles make for the easiest installations, slate shingles are the most difficult.
If your home will be in need of a new roof in the near future, you may want to replace it at the time of PV system installation in order to avoid future removal and reinstallation costs. In fact, PV panels can often be integrated into the roof itself; some modules are even designed to mimic roofing materials. These systems can offset the cost of roof replacement.
How big should your PV system be?
Consider what portion of your current electricity needs you would like your PV system to meet. Examine your electric bills over the past 12 months, and work with your PV provider to determine what size PV system you need to achieve that goal.
Other factors to consider:
- Some solar rebate programs are capped at a certain dollar amount; a solar electric system that matches this cap will maximize solar rebate benefits
- To qualify for the DER program in some service territories, your PV system must have a peak generating capacity
State of Hawaii and federal tax credits are available to help offset the cost of your PV system. To learn more, visit Tax Credits and Incentives.