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Your Questions Answered

Explore our frequently asked questions to find answers to common queries about solar energy.

residential home project by SunKissed Energy
Photo: SunKissed Energy
Is my home a good site for solar?
Many homes are good locations for solar panels, which is one of the strengths of the technology. Ideally, you want a south-facing roof that’s not too architecturally complicated. Other considerations would be self-imposed shading from the building itself (dormers/second stories) or nearby buildings and shading from trees, which can turn a theoretically perfect location into a non-viable one. You know your home better than any contractor so take the time to walk around and look at the roof critically and think about where you would place the panels to get the most sun.

A Solar System Design Brief, or solar proposal/quote is what a solar installer will provide a potential client. Typically, a proposal will include the number of panels that can fit on a roof in a viable configuration, either done through satellite imagery, drone photos, or physical roof measuring.

It will have a calculation for the annual kWh production of the system often compared against an existing power bill. It should list the brands/model numbers of the equipment, particularly panels and inverters.

Solar proposals are often presented as a long-term investment. The idea is that the amount of power produced should remain roughly the same year to year, but the “escalation rate,” or the rate of power you pay for, will increase over time. Historically, the escalation rate has been 3-3.5% per year over the past 10 years. However, an installer is free to set whatever escalation rate they think is best for their proposals.

The Design process for an on-grid system is very different than that of an off-grid system. An on-grid system typically does not have batteries and does not require batteries except in a grid outage. An off-grid system requires an in-depth knowledge of the electrical loads and battery maintenance by both the installer and the customer. In general, off-grid systems require more planning, consultation, and industry knowledge; they are also more expensive (mainly due to the cost of the batteries) and often require more existing infrastructure, such as non-electric heat sources or hot water sources.

The design process for a grid-tied system is relatively simple, as the installer does not need to know what the electricity is used for. A grid-tied system also does not need to meet the entire electrical demand of the property.

Most installers use satellite imagery and your historical annual kWh usage (commonly found at the bottom right-hand side of your NSP bill) to determine how many panels can fit on the roof or ground and what the production will be for that system size.

Some parts of a solar installation can be done by anyone, but anything involving electricity should be handled by an electrician. On- and off-grid solar PV systems must be installed by a Red Seal electrician and inspected by Nova Scotia Power or local electrical inspectors.

In general, racking and mounting panels, building a ground mount frame (depending on local building code), and trench digging (if required) can all be done by someone with the skills and safety equipment/certifications to do so.

Shingles are damaged mainly by the sun, so anywhere covered with solar panels should extend the lifespan of the shingles underneath indefinitely, however, if your roof needs to be replaced in the next few years, doing it before installing solar panels is an excellent idea. If installing a metal roof, it’s advisable to use a gauge of steel to withstand the work being performed on it. If you’re using “penetration free” racking such as S-5! clamps on a standing seam roof, use 26 gauge steel or better as you’re relying on the structural integrity of the steel itself rather than the roof trusses to hold the system down.
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