Alternative Home Energy

How to Install Your Own Home Solar PV Panels

Okay so you've done your homework... you've researched, selected, and purchased a home solar panel system, and now you're ready to begin reaping the benefits of unlimited free energy and reduced electric bills. What's next? Installing your photovoltaic panels, of course!

Install Solar Panel Roof Systems
 
 

The installation of home solar panels is not really as complicated as it might initally seem. Proper location and angle of incidence to the sun is extremely important, but arguably more vital might be installing the panels without damage to the integrity of your roof. In the northern hemisphere, choose the most south-facing side of your home whenever possible, and make sure your panels will have an unobstructed view of the sun. Consider the shadows of trees and adjacent buildings, and make sure you take seasonal variables (the trees will have leaves in the summer, the path of the sun will vary slightly, etc...) into consideration before you begin. You'll also need to first decide if you're going to mount your solar array flush to the roof, or if you'll be angling it to take better advantage of the sun's rays. This depends entirely upon how your roof faces toward direct sunlight. A good solar electric array system will maximize the peak hours of sunlight, angling so that the hottest, brightest part of the day will fall as fully upon the solar panels as possible.

Methods and Tips for Installing Home Photovoltaic Solar Panels

Ideally, the best time to install a solar roof panel system is during the roof's construction. As home solar energy becomes more economical, and as states and counties push for (sometimes required) green building practices, building a photovoltaic array directly into new construction has become more commonplace. Attaching solar panels to a roof during the building process is easy and clean: the rafters are exposed so you don't have to go looking for them, and the struts supporting the solar array can be covered by the roof flashing from the very beginning. This ensures perfect waterproofing and no possible leaks due to improper installation.

Of course, not everyone will have the luxury of implementing solar power during the building of their home. To facilitate attaching panels to existing roof materials, a variety of panel mounts and rail systems are available for home use. Although they may vary in design, these systems all have one thing in common: they're made to be lag bolted directly into the rafters supporting your roof. You need to be careful when doing this - finding the rafters is difficult enough, but if you're not drilling into the center of these joists you can easily split them. This can cause big problems that you just don't need, so remember to be careful and pre-drill your holes first.

Chalk or laser level beams can be used to keep your lines straight when installing your PV roof mountings. Measure from the roofline or base to the proposed location of the array, pre-drilling the studs before securing the mounts. Depending upon the type of roof used, steps must be taken to protect against leaks. Metal flashing or tar paper should be used to cover the base of the mounting brackets. Hot-mopping them with tar is an even better option. For asphalt type roofing products this is a lot easier, but when dealing with ceramic shingles it can be tricky. Consult the manufacturer of your solar panel mounting system, and possibly even the manufacturer of your roofing product for waterproofing ideas before you get started.

Once the solar mounts are bolted into the rafters, pre-designed rail systems are attached to the backs of the photovoltaic panels. Designed to hold the panels firmly in place through wind and elements, these railings will have openings in the back to snap the posts into place. The posts are usually threaded, and spinning them tightly into the mounting brackets ensures that they won't ever tear outward. If you've purchased an angled mount system, there will be an adjustment so that you can better face the panels into the sun. Keep the weather in mind and try to keep the profile of your solar panels low, especially if you live in a windy climate.

Once the railings on the back of the panels are snapped into the posts, the installation of the solar array is almost complete: all that needs to be done is to run the conduit that will connect the PV cell arrays to the solar inverter. Different models of solar panel will have different methods of connecting in series. Once all the panels are connected together, you can begin reaping the full benefits of clean, renewable solar energy... all that's left to do is wait for the sun.



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