Is my home suitable for solar?

This is part 8 of the FREE solar for beginners email course. If you’ve stumbled across this page and would like to sign up from the beginning, click here.

Started imagining your home with solar yet?

Where might the panels go? What direction will they face? What type should you get?

But before you start getting carried away, how do you know if your home is suitable for solar in the first place?

Shall we begin?

First, let’s start with some good news.

Nearly every roof is suitable for solar.

Whether your roof is flat or steep, tile or steel – it all works. But there’s one exception.

Slate.

Though it’s feasible to install solar on slate, because it’s so fragile – most installers aren’t willing to work on it. Or if they will, they’ll probably charge you more.

But besides this, all other roof types are fine. Phew.

Next, do you have enough space on your roof?

5kW system

An important consideration right?

Well, let’s run some numbers.

Solar panels are typically 1.6m tall x 1m wide. So if you were to install a 5kW system (the most commonly installed sized system), you would need about 15-20 panels (depending on the wattage of the panels), so an area of 25-35m2.

Don’t have enough space?

If you can’t fit 5kW, don’t panic, you can always just fit as many panels as can fit on your roof. And if your roof is a bit more complex (let’s say you don’t think you can fit so many panels facing one direction), don’t despair – you can configure the layout of the panels in almost any way to meet your available roof area.

Is your roof strong enough?

You want to know before you install the panels right? We would too.

After taking into account the mounting equipment and the panels, the system typically weighs 10-20kg per square metre.

So how do you know if your roof can withstand this?

Well, a simple way to check is this.

If someone can walk on your roof without any dramas, your roof should be fine. But if you have any concerns, let’s say, an old roof, leaks or any other repairs that might be needed, it’s important to get this sorted before you get your panels installed. Doing this after having the panels installed can be complicated (though possible), so best to deal with this prior.

And if you’re still unsure, don’t worry – an installer will inspect your roof regardless.

Is your roof facing the right direction?

If your roof isn’t perfectly north-facing, that’s okay too.

Panels facing north produce the most electricity, but east and west work well too. Though you’ll get less production (around 12% less), it can work well as it can better match when you use energy. East-facing panels will give you slightly more electricity in the morning (perfect for running heaters in the morning in winter), while west-facing panels will produce slightly more in the afternoon (ideal for summer cooling).

How about south-facing?

Sound-facing is generally not recommended in Victoria as they don’t get enough direct sun. Make sense?

And now comes the important part.

Have you checked out if you have shading on your roof?

Think trees, chimneys, TV antennas, neighbouring buildings…As you can imagine, solar panels work best in direct sunlight without shade, so place the panels out of shade, where possible.

But if you have shading, what are your options?

First, is there anything you can do to avoid it? Can you place the panels on another part of your roof or remove the cause of the shading?

If not, panel optimised panels (with micro-inverters or DC optimisers) are the way to go. This technology is perfect for roofs with shading, as it’s specifically designed to maximise the amount of electricity produced at each panel. This can make up for any production lost with shading.

Unsure if you have shading?

This is something your installer will help you with. A good installer will use software to look at the shading on your roof, and provide a design accordingly.

This raises the question though – how do you find a good installer? Someone who you can trust to provide you with the right recommendations?

Well, guess what? Tomorrow we cover this in the final section of our course.

Stay tuned.