What is involved in a site evaluation prior to installation?

What is involved in a site evaluation prior to installation?

Every residence is different when it comes to developing the perfect design for a solar power system. Even within a housing development, homes with similar architecture will have differing requirements and results based on the direction their home faces, the roof design, the family’s electricity needs, vegetation or other things that may create shade, and more. So, the site evaluation is a critical component of a professional solar energy system installation.

Things to be analyzed

Things the RGS Energy team will review in developing a complete structural analysis of your home and a blueprint for the job include:
Your climate – Are you in a sunny location that can reap the benefits of solar panels year-round, or are you in an area that gets a lot of snow or rain? Homes in nearly every area can derive a benefit from installing solar energy in reducing their summer electricity bills. Homes in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and other desert-type regions may be able to power their house and even sell power back to the grid all year long. However, in areas that do not get a lot of sunshine for a considerable part of the year, you will need to understand the expectations and limitations.
Your roof layout – First, is there enough roof space facing south (the preferred direction). East and West configurations are not ideal, but can work too, particularly if the roof pitch is not steep (this makes the orientation to true south less important to results). Second, is the roof structurally sound enough to withstand the additional weight from adding the solar PV panels, mounts and such? Then, are there large flat expanses? Some roofs have varying levels, dormer windows, air conditioners, chimneys, skylights and other obstructions. Even vent pipes need to be factored in.

Your electrical system – An expert will make sure your breaker box and other equipment are not out of date or need upgrading.
Your electrical needs now and in the foreseeable future – The future is important if the teenagers are likely to move out in a few years (and stop leaving every light on), you plan to buy an electric car and want to power that, you will be replacing appliances with more energy efficient ones (or you just did so previous electric bill usage figures do not reflect the current situation), and other considerations. The more energy you use, the more solar panels required to adequately bring a return on your investment.
Your budget and ultimate goal for the system – Some people want their solar energy system to become their primary source of energy. Either they want off the utility grid completely or they want to be reliant on the grid only in inclement weather. Others just want to significantly reduce their summer electricity bills and others are not sure what to expect. This is where budget comes into play. Whether a major investment or a small system, the solar energy panel installation should offer a return on investment in reduced energy consumption and costs. The level of investment and expectations need to be realistic. For example, someone in New Hampshire putting in the same basic components as someone in Arizona will take far longer to recoup those costs. That does not mean that a solar energy system is inappropriate for them. A discussion with the RGS Energy team will help you set appropriate expectations.

Chasing the sun

To maximize your potential “energy harvest” from the sun, the solar panels need to tilt appropriately for your latitude and your home’s orientation to the sun, not just in the summer at its highest altitude, but in the winter too when the sun is lower in the sky.
There are tools used to track the sun and measure shade from trees or other buildings at particular times of the day. Additionally, the angle of the roof and its pitch are factors. Ideally, you want at least five or six hours of unblocked sun most days. In areas with snow and rain, you want to achieve that whenever possible for effective results.
Accordingly, the inspectors do calculations using elevation and azimuth gauges. They determine the magnetic declination and potential energy production with different system configurations, based on the house and the homeowner’s budget.

New tools and technologies are available for evaluating a site’s solar potential. But while these tools can provide powerful information at the touch of a button, nothing can take the place of conducting a thorough assessment of the proposed array location.

The end result

Performing a comprehensive solar site analysis is a major step toward delivering you with a well-performing solar energy system. RGS Energy engineers will use the information gathered during the site evaluation to develop a set of structural designs and electrical blueprints. Those design plans will contain the specifications for the solar energy system and its components, such as the numbers of solar panels and inverters. If required in your area, RGS will then help you get the plans approved and any necessary permits secured.
To learn more about installing a solar energy system, visit www.RGSEnergy.com for information and a free quote.

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