Preparing For A Solar Site Visit
One of the standard stages when considering solar for your home is the solar site visit. This involves a solar installer - some tips on finding the right solar installer - coming out to your home and inspecting your roof for the potential installation of a home solar system. It is a critical step in the solar process and one that a potential solar customer should be prepared for. On a solar site visit, the solar installer comes to your home and conducts the following assessments:
- A brief interview with you, the homeowner, to understand your electricity needs; and
- A physical inspection of the proposed solar panel site to see if it is suitable for solar.
With the interview, a solar installer will be primarily looking to see what your electricity use has been over the past year or two, particularly during the summer and winter months when electricity use is typically the heaviest. So it is important that you have between 12-24 of your past monthly bills on hand. Based on the size of your electric bill, the solar installer can determine what your options are in terms of potential sized solar systems and how much of your electric bill you want to offset. This information is important for the solar installer as it will form the basis for their formal bid to you. Depending on the size of your bill, a solar system that offsets 50% of your electric bill will be less expensive than one that offsets 90%. In addition to discussing your electric bill, your solar installer may recommend or even require that your home undergo certain energy efficiency improvements. By reducing your electric demand with simple energy efficiency improvements, you will not need as large a home solar system to reduce your electric bill.
The other component of the solar site visit is the inspection of your home’s roof for mounting of the solar panels. Specifically, the solar installer will be checking the roof’s orientation and solar access. Roof orientation refers to the direction the roof faces – a roof that faces directly south is the best with some margin of error for roofs facing to the southwest or southeast. The other variable the solar installer will be looking at is solar access. Solar access is essentially the percentage of time that a proposed solar system will be receiving full un-shaded sunlight during different days of the year. A roof with too much shade will not be a candidate for a solar system, although there are a few ways to address shading: looking at alternate sites on the home property, trimming or removing trees, or using a series of smaller power inverters in the system design rather than one large central power inverter.
In the end, the solar site assessor will take in all of this information and summarize his findings a written report that will be used to help calculate the economics related to your proposed home solar system, which will then become the basis for their bid to you. Remember to always ask your solar installer to include the applicable tax incentives/rebates as well as alternative financing mechanisms in any bid to you and make sure that you account for and are comfortable with each line item and cost in their bid.