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Home > Feature Articles > Alternative Energy Solutions > Solar Energy

Residential Solar Systems Strategy

Residential solar systems are most valuable when best practices include knowledge, behavior changes, and selection of high-performance solar system contractors.

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Best Practices for Residential Solar Systems

Residential solar systems can add energy savings and long term value to your home with solar PV or solar thermal panels to your home or business. This add-on is a major decision that involves both return on investment and hedging future energy costs ... as well as emotional support for a better way of greening our community power sources.

Some solar installers are aware that educating and taking good care of their customers is a serious responsibility on their part... some not so much!

Solar System Installation Best Practices

To get the best solar system installed, here are some best practices for finding and hiring a solar installer.
  • Company and installer certification by reputable solar training and auditing services are helpful if you do not know the quality of a company's work personally.
  • Knowledge of city, county, state and federal solar incentives, rebates and special programs for expedited building codes, etc. will save you time and hassle.
  • Do your research first. Know the key metrics for YOUR property such as how much shade you have, the exposure to the sun, how much your energy bills have been for the past year (or more).
  • Ask for warranties, contractors license, and referrals from prior jobs (up to a year prior installation will give you a feeling for lasting quality).
  • Check those references! Don't skip this step!
  • Get a detailed system estimate, projected energy generation rates (and learn how they are made).

At this point in the industry of solar PV as an energy generating option, it's like starting your OWN utility company! Yes, that can be complicated.

There ARE innovations in funding, and city purchasing plans, etc. slowly, gradually, eventually... :-) being put together. But if you are technologically capable, if you truly believe that we all need to pitch in where we have the expertise and money -- then you are the best "EARLY ADOPTERS" of solar PV systems.

If you're not so technologically minded, and don't have a handle of energy generation and dealing with complex systems -- maybe you need to stick your toe -- your little toe -- into the water of this brave new world of distributed energy generation first.

Maybe a small system that recharges batteries. Or lights an outdoor security light. Or heats your water... Maybe these are better ways than putting a large solar panel system on your roof in the first stage of your solar adventure.

Be a solar pioneer... but you don't have to be a pioneer or adventurer on the scale of scaling the Himalayas or Mount Shasta. You might feel more capable if you take some of the risk out of your purchase and concentrate of learning what is involved, and what the next best practice will be to make your building more comfortable, more cost effective and more energy sustainable.

There are other factors that can make your solar installation highly effective, such as making sure your building shell is well insulated, and that behaviors such as opening and shutting vents and window shades and turning off lights are in place.

Behavior changes go straight to your bottom line for energy savings!

But solar PV installation is the brave new frontier of distributed energy generation, and solar energy, as well as solar heat are two of the most renewable of energy sources. It's highly recommended that you get started in a smart way so that you can participate in the smart grid of the near future.

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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