Solar Panel Installation & Racking
Everything About Solar Panel Installation & Racking
Table of Contents
Racking and Installation of Solar Panels
There is a rapid increase in the use of solar panels every passing day. New developments in the solar energy sector are on the rise. A lot of people find them to be viable long-term solutions for their electricity needs. Are you also intrigued by the recent wave of interest in solar energy? Do you have questions about solar panels, installation, and potential utility and drawbacks? Well, then you’re in the right place.
Read below to find out all you should know about solar panel installation, racking and mounting.
Ground-mount Vs. Roof-mount Solar Panels
Most people assume that solar panels are only installed on the roof since that is the place where they receive maximum sunlight. This assumption is wrong because solar panels can also be set up on the ground.
Both ground-mounted and rooftop solar panels have their benefits and drawbacks. If you’ve decided to purchase one but can’t seem to choose between one type or the other, don’t worry! We’ve compiled a list of each mounting types’ advantages and disadvantages for easier selection.
Ground-Mounted Solar Panel Pros
The primary advantage of ground-mounted solar panels is flexibility. Since they function on the ground, you can install them any way you want. You can position them in such a way that they directly face the sun.
Ground-mounted solar panels have a greater range of inclination compared to rooftop panels. You can also adjust the angle of tilt accordingly to capture the maximum amount of sunlight. In areas where it often snows, you even have the option of increasing your ground-mounted panel’s inclination to prevent the buildup of snow.
The cleaner your solar panels are, the more efficient they are. Any form of dirt or sand that gathers on your solar panels reduces efficiency and give you lower power output.
Ground-mount PV modules are more accessible, which is a significant advantage. You can quickly inspect them or check for any signs of damage or deterioration, such as cracks on the screen or loose bits of wiring.
The maintenance factor becomes even more critical in northern areas, where it snows throughout the winters. Snow is one of the factors that significantly reduce your solar panel’s efficiency. Snow particles accumulate on the surface of your solar panel and block the incoming sun rays.
iii. More space
Another benefit relates to low solar panels’ efficiency. To produce adequate electricity, you may need more solar panels. Else, you may install larger solar panels to capture enough sunlight to generate the power required.
To do so, you should have a home that has a large roof. However, most people do not live in mansions. In such a situation, ground-mounted panels are the better choice for you. They solve any issues relating to limited space during solar panel installation.
iv. Better performance
Typically, there are more options available for the design and positioning of ground-mounted solar panels unlike rooftop solar panels. You can adjust the solar panel positions according to your home’s specifications to increase the power harnessing.
From a general perspective, ground-mounted solar panels’ performance and efficiency are better than rooftop solar panels.
v. The grounding effect
Ground-mounted solar panels require less wiring because of their location on the ground. The distance to the electrical nodes is much less. This helps to safeguard your system against wiring faults and insulation problems.
vi. Cooling system
Another factor that affects a solar panel’s efficiency is temperature. Although solar panels require sunlight to work, extremely high temperatures hamper efficiency and reduce performance.
People living in hot climates should have a cooling system that keeps the solar panel’s temperature within an acceptable level. Doing this during the summers is even more crucial.
Ground-mounted solar panels are a good choice for hot areas because the air currents on the ground act as natural cooling systems.
vii. No changes to your home required
You do not need to add any modifications to your roof or the overall structure of your house. Doing this also helps you avoid any possible damage if the installation is done improperly or by inexperienced installers.
viii. Physical appearance
Many people don’t prefer solar panel installation on the roof since they damage the home’s aesthetic appeal and are even visible outside. Some home-owning associations do not permit tenants to install solar panels on the roof.
In contrast, ground-mounted solar panels do not affect aesthetics. The panels are installed in your home’s backyard, where they are not visible.
Solar panels are not 100% efficient devices. They operate at a low conversion rate of 22%. That is why you need solar panels greater in either quantity or size to meet your electricity needs.
Disadvantages of Ground-Mounted Solar Panels
i. More expensive
It is much more difficult to install solar panels on the ground than on the roof. This difficulty in installations makes ground-mounted panels more costly, resulting in people preferring rooftop panels.
A strong base is required to anchor the device in place. Furthermore, your solar panel installation company will also analyse the soil in your area to ensure it can hold a solar panel system.
ii. Space occupied
Since solar panels have a long lifespan, before installing a ground-mounted panel system, you should be sure you want the system to take up space in your yard for the next 25-30 years.
The solar panel presence may also stop you from indulging in leisure activities, such as physical sports, Bar B-Q’s, etc., for fear of damaging the panels.
iii. Safety Hazard
Solar panels produce electricity. Therefore, having them closer to your home is risky to family members, especially children. The danger of children electrocution is something that all parents worry about.
Ground-mounted solar panels are grounded, and wiring is well-covered to avoid the spread of electricity in the surrounding areas. However, it is still possible that with time and deterioration, a few loose wires get exposed. If wires get exposed, it can be a grave concern and an issue to consider for children.
The smartest course of action in this situation is to regularly inspect your solar panels to ensure their protective coverings are intact. Having the installation process done by reliable and credible companies will also decrease the chances of your solar panel becoming dangerous for other people.
You can control how you position your solar panel, but you cannot control what other people will do. If your neighbors build a structure that will block the sunlight falling on your solar panel, you will face obstruction of sunlight.
v. Speed of installation
The final thing to consider is the time taken for your solar panel to be ready for use. Since ground-mounted panels have a more complex structure, it will take more time for installation.
Rooftop Solar Panels
As the name suggests, the solar panel installation is on the roof. If your roof can support the weight of the PV modules, this is a good installation method. It is also easier to install solar panels on the roof because you don’t put up a lot of structures.
However, some homeowners view solar panels on the roof as not cool. If you think solar panels will affect the aesthetic appeal of your rooftop, you should give this option a second thought. Some homeowners associations discourage rooftop solar panel installation. Inquire about the regulations in your location.
Advantages of Rooftop Solar Panel Installation
i. Low cost and time
The first is your rooftop’s condition. If your rooftop material has to undergo renovation to bear the solar panel’s weight, the costs will increase.
The second is your rooftop’s lifespan. If it has deteriorated a lot, you may probably need to rebuild parts of it later so that they can hold the solar panel.
ii. Unused space
People rarely spend their life on the roof. Thus, rooftop solar panels are an ideal choice. Since most rooftops have lesser use than backyards, their installation won’t cause any inconvenience to homeowners.
iii. Easier installation
It is much easier to install solar panels on the rooftop. There are fewer individual parts required. Fewer workers can complete the task in a shorter period.
If patience is not your virtue, then we suggest buying rooftop solar panels. For ground-mounted panels, you should first get the ground dug up to create the foundation.
v. Minimum shading
This benefit of a minimum shade cast is dependent on where you live.
In most situations, a building’s rooftop is the only place exposed to sunlight to the maximum degree. This minimal cover is because obstructions such as buildings and trees do not usually reach and cover a roof.
vi. More secure
Rooftop solar panel installation is more secure. You can keep children away from them, along with any unwanted intruders.
This benefit only applies if your rooftop has at least two different sides available to install solar panels. If you have two different sides, you benefit from choosing the best angle facing south so that your solar panels receive the optimum amount of sunlight. If your rooftop has one side only that doesn’t face south, this benefit becomes a weakness.
Disadvantages of Rooftop Solar Mounting
Let’s end this discussion by reviewing the cons of rooftop solar panel installation.
i. Limited size
If your rooftop is small, then your solar panels probably can’t sustain all the devices in your house. In this case, you should decide which devices are important enough to connect directly to your solar panel system.
It is more difficult to access and clean rooftop solar panels. Many owners use high pressured water to clean the panels, but they risk damaging or cracking the glass covering because of the pressure.
You would be surprised to know that there is now the development of floating solar panels apart from these two types. Yes, these solar panels float on a body of water. Talk about ample space!
Solar Panel Pole Mounts
Pole mounts are devices for people who don’t want to install solar panels on roofs. The mounts keep the solar panels up and stable during harsh weather. They also make it easier for you to clean your solar panels since they are more accessible.
You should opt for a pole mount if you don’t plan to install your solar panels on your roof, but you want to increase the amount of sunlight the panels get. Pole mounts are the most suitable if you have many obstructions and tall structures around the home. The pole mounts ensure that your solar panels receive adequate sunlight.
Solar Trackers: Do You Need One?
Solar trackers are the latest development in solar panel additions. They are rapidly rising in popularity. Solar panel trackers essentially track the sun’s movement and shift your solar panel’s angle accordingly to ensure it receives the maximum sunlight. Solar panels that track the sun’s movements produce 30% more energy than those that do not.
Single-axis Solar Trackers
The single-axis solar trackers move in a single direction: either west to east or south to north. Solar panel installers should understand sun position and movement in your area for optimal position of the trackers. Some single-axis solar trackers serve a single PV modules (decentralized), while others can serve a several solar panels (centralized).
1. Single-axis trackers are reliable. They offer consistent performance throughout their life. You don’t have to worry about maintenance and inspection costs. They are relatively simple to operate and do not require complicated technology.
2. Single-axis trackers also boast a long lifespan. They can continue working for many years.
3. If you’re looking for a cheap solar tracker, then single-axis are the best choice—the low-cost results from their simple and easily operable technology.
4. You should consider buying single-axis solar trackers if the area you live in has cloudy weather. It is a cost-efficient solution to this problem.
5. Solar trackers increase your efficiency by around 30%. Keep that in mind and decide whether the benefit is worth the price.
6. The trackers increase your solar panels’ yearly output power by an estimated 15%— another thing to keep in mind before you make your purchase.
7. Solar panels start saving you money after a considerably long period. Many people aren’t ready to wait that long. If you’re one of those people, solar trackers may be the right choice for you since they will drastically reduce the payback period and increase your earnings.
- Single-axis solar trackers don’t have a high energy capacity.
- Since they are simple machines, there are few upgrades or modifications available. Therefore, if you intend to purchase one, remember that it will probably remain the same during the entirety of its existence.
These trackers can tilt solar panels from south to north or east to west, and vice versa. They are ideal for homes or offices with limited spaces to mount solar panels. The devices can increase efficiency by 45%, but this comes at an extra cost. Before buying dual-axis solar trackers, you should do a cost-benefit analysis to determine whether it is worth the bucks.
1. Dual-axis can follow the sun more precisely. Hence, they give you power throughout the day.
2. These solar trackers provide a reasonable solution to your electricity shortage problems if the grid you are connected to experiences frequent power outages or transmission problems.
3. If you’re worried about space, then dual-axis trackers can prove to be a good option. They occupy a minimal area, and you can use the remaining space for any other activity.
4. Solar trackers are an ideal purchase for locations where obstructions block the sunlight. This is where they provide the most benefit, as they can change their positions to match the sun’s movements. If you live in a place where trees and buildings prevent sunlight from reaching your solar panels fully, then you should consider buying dual-axis solar trackers.
5. Dual-axis solar trackers shorten your payback period even more than single-axis trackers, and the profits are also considerably more.
1. The solar trackers house much more complicated technology and machinery. Therefore, they are also more likely to suffer from technical faults or errors.
2. Dual-axis solar trackers have a shorter lifespan. If you’re looking for a solar tracker that will last you a long time, then they probably aren’t right for you. They are also less reliable, as explained previously.
Buy or Not: Is Solar Tracking Worth It?
If you do not want to spend a lot of money on a solar tracker, you can build your own tracker in a few simple steps.
Solar trackers were a smart purchase in the past, when solar panels’ cost was quite high, somewhere around $800 for a 225-watt panel. It made much more sense to buy solar trackers and increase your solar panel’s efficiency at such inflated rates.
But now, the opposite is true. Solar panel prices have been dropping steadily for the past 8 or 9 years. Today, if you want to increase your power production, purchasing an extra solar panel makes much more sense.
Should You Buy Solar Trackers?
A standard mount or frame for a single panel typically costs you $80. Therefore, a six-panel frame is worth around $480.
A tracker, on the other hand, costs around $600-$1000 per panel.
Let’s also factor in the increased efficiency, around 20-30%. Keeping that in mind, you are still paying around $3000 for a few extra hundred watts of production.
If that extra production capacity is still an absolute necessity for you, what makes more sense, purchasing a solar panel for a mere 200 dollars or a solar tracker for $3000?
Maybe save the money and wait till solar panels are produced out of a groundbreaking material that follows sunlight, without even a tracker. Amazing, right?
Who Needs Solar Trackers?
When considering the merits of solar trackers, keep this point in mind: solar trackers don’t save money; they save space.
One situation in which solar trackers are beneficial is when working with limited space. The trackers will help to generate a sufficiently large amount of power from that area.
If you have the task of installing solar panels in a remote area, such as in mountainous terrain, solar trackers will be ideal for you. It is tough to arrange many solar panels on top of a mountain; digging up holes on rocks is also extremely hard. If you have such a case, then solar trackers will definitely be worth it.
Let’s do the math. Given a solar tracker’s price, a 30% increase in a 3000-watt power capacity isn’t that impressive. But a 30% increase in 100 megawatts of power? That’s a lot!
- The first factor that we need to consider is that the cost of acquiring extra land is high in certain places. Thus, it is more sensible to arrange your existing solar panels in a more compact space, increase their efficiency and save yourself from extra costs by using solar trackers.
The second factor is the cost of solar panel installation. Large commercial systems have a higher installation cost since connecting all the solar panels and bringing them into the proper arrangement is more difficult. Solar trackers save you money in this situation since the drop in labor and installation prices eventually outweigh the high purchase price.
If you fall in the two categories or any of the ones mentioned previously, then solar trackers might be the perfect option for you.
Can I Install Solar Panels?
You can install solar panels on your own, but you shouldn’t. From a technical perspective, it isn’t challenging to install solar panels. You can do it yourself.
We haven’t even come to the electrical bit yet. Solar panels conduct electricity. Toying with such complicated machinery on your own may put you in danger. A loose wire or piece of a conductor can be fatal.
Therefore, it is better to call a solar panel installation company to do it for you. Doing this will also ensure that your solar panel is installed correctly.
How you design and where you place your solar panels depends on your needs. If you have a huge backyard and want your panels to be obstructed from the view, you can go for ground-mounted solar panels. Otherwise, going for rooftop panels is a good idea and will prevent unnecessary shade casts on your panel. You should keep the advantages and disadvantages in mind.
Getting a tracker also depends on how much money you have to spare and whether you absolutely need it or not. Given the reduction in the price of solar panels, people don’t really need trackers anymore.
So, in the end, there is no one hard-and-fast rule for installing solar panels. It all depends on your preferences and your needs.
Well, that’s all for now regarding solar panel installation, racking, and mounting. Solar energy is rapidly dominating the industry. We will likely see a host of new devices emerge in the future.