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Are Solar Panels Worth It? (2023 Guide). Off roof solar panels

Are Solar Panels Worth It? (2023 Guide). Off roof solar panels

    Are Solar Panels Worth It? (2023 Guide)

    In most cases, installing solar panels on your home is worth it. Get connected with a trusted solar professional today to determine if solar is right for you.

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    Faith Wakefield is a writer based in North Carolina. She holds economics and English degrees from UNC Chapel Hill, and her work has been featured on EcoWatch, The World Economic Forum and Today’s Homeowner. In her free time, she loves to binge-watch personal finance videos on YouTube, collect books and spend time in nature.

    Tori Addison is an editor who has worked in the digital marketing industry for over five years. Her experience includes communications and marketing work in the nonprofit, governmental and academic sectors. A journalist by trade, she started her career covering politics and news in New York’s Hudson Valley. Her work included coverage of local and state budgets, federal financial regulations and health care legislation.

    Karsten Neumeister is an experienced energy professional with subject-matter expertise in energy policy and the solar and retail energy industries. He is currently the Communications Manager for the Retail Energy Advancement League and has prior experience writing and editing content for EcoWatch. Before EcoWatch, Karsten worked for Solar Alternatives, curating content, advocating for local renewable energy policy and assisting the solar engineering and installation teams. Throughout his career, his work has been featured on various outlets including NPR, SEIA, Bankrate, PV Mag and the World Economic Forum.

    In most cases, installing residential solar panels is worth it. Solar panels typically last 25 years or more and can dramatically reduce or even eliminate your electricity bills — you can save an average of 1,346 annually on energy bills by going solar.

    Solar is a large upfront investment. But the cost of installing a system has decreased by more than 50% over the last 10 years, and incentives like the 30% federal solar tax credit can lower your cost even further.

    However, certain conditions and roof features can mean solar isn’t worth it for you. For instance, if your roof is shaded, does not have enough space or is oriented north, your panels may underperform. Additionally, if you live in an area that experiences many cloudy days and has few solar incentives, you may see fewer savings over the lifetime of your panels.

    Every roof and solar project is different. Before completing your solar project, your solar installer will survey your home and determine if your property is suitable for solar panels. Get connected with a trusted professional today to see if solar is worth the investment.

    • When Are Solar Panels Worth It?
    • How Much Do Solar Panels Cost?
    • Pros of Switching to Solar
    • Cons of Switching to Solar
    • The Bottom Line: Are Solar Panels Really Worth It?

    Offers a range of financing options 24/7 customer service line Panel insurance protects against theft and damage

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    When Are Solar Panels Worth It?

    For instance, if you live in a state that receives a lot of sunlight and has ample solar incentives, in addition to having a large, south-facing roof, the savings you’ll see from solar will be very high. On the other hand, if you live somewhere with less sunlight, fewer solar incentives and a steep roof, solar may still be worth it for you, but your overall energy savings will likely be lower.

    Location

    The location of your home plays a vital role in the value of a solar power system. If you live in a part of the country that gets lots of sunlight exposure throughout the year, you will get more out of using solar panels than others.

    The data analysis site Stacker determined the following 10 states receive the most exposure to sunlight in the U.S.:

    Though sunny states like Florida, Texas, California and Arizona are excellent regions to install a solar system, your panels may not generate enough energy to offset the upfront cost if your home experiences a lot of shade from trees or buildings. But if your roof is unshaded or faces south, southwest or west, your panels will receive more direct radiation from the sun and generate more solar energy.

    As mentioned, locations that see more extreme weather events and power outages are also better suited for solar systems with independent power storage. You can use a solar battery to store excess energy during the day to use during blackouts, at night or on cloudy days.

    Your Home’s Roof

    The size, shape and slope of your roof are also important factors to consider. According to Garrett Nilsen, the deputy director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office, roof structures can be one of the biggest roadblocks to going solar.

    “If there are trees near your home that create excessive shade on your roof, rooftop panels may not be the most ideal option,” he said. “Solar panels perform best on south-facing roofs with a slope between 15 and 40 degrees, though other roofs can be suitable too. Installers can model roofs to determine if the orientation and slope are suitable for energy generation.”

    Steep roofs make installation challenging and can increase labor costs or require additional mounting equipment. Roofs with plenty of surface area and few obstructions — such as skylights and chimneys — are ideal. You can still add solar panels to smaller roofs but should choose more efficient panels, such as monocrystalline panels, that generate more power using less space.

    Solar tax incentives and rebates are available at the federal and state levels. The federal tax credit. formally called the solar investment tax credit (ITC), allows you to claim 30% of your total system cost as a credit toward your federal tax burden.

    It’s worth mentioning that if you don’t owe thousands of dollars in taxes each year, you won’t be able to make as much use of the ITC. You may need to work with a tax adviser and re-evaluate your withholdings to fully capitalize on the credit.

    Other solar incentives vary from state to state. Many state governments and local utility companies offer solar rebates, credits, sales and property tax breaks, net metering and more that can make solar more affordable. We encourage you to use the Database of State Incentives for Renewables Efficiency to learn what other rebates and solar tax credits are available in your state.

    Before installing solar, you should take stock of your monthly energy consumption. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average household uses around 893 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity per month. On average, a residential solar setup can produce between 350 to 850 kWh per month. Therefore, going solar can help you save as much as 95% off your utility bill.

    If you live in a state with high electricity rates, switching to solar will likely be a good investment. However, if your home does not require a lot of energy consumption to operate day-to-day, you may not save enough to offset the installation cost. Residential solar systems can cost anywhere from 15,000 to 25,000 or more.

    You should also contact your local utility company to see if it offers an established net metering program. Many states mandate net metering, which can help maximize your energy savings. Net metering allows you to send the excess energy your solar system produces back to the grid in exchange for billing credits. Your utility company will deduct any credits from your monthly electricity bill, saving you money by providing clean energy for your home.

    How Much Do Solar Panels Cost?

    According to our 2023 survey of 1,500 homeowners with solar, respondents reported paying an average of 15,000 to 20,000 for their solar panel systems. However, every solar installation is different, and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) reports that a solar installation can cost upwards of 25,000.

    The total cost of your solar panel system can vary depending on where you live and the solar provider you choose. You can compare average price points for some of the top solar providers in the U.S. below. Cost figures represent the total cost of a solar panel system with installation.

    ProviderAverage Cost of a 10 kWh Solar Panel System

    Cost figures are based on results from our 2023 survey of 1,500 homeowners with solar. Your costs may vary depending on individual factors.

    The state you live in can also factor into how much your solar panel installation will cost:

    In addition to your location and the provider you choose, other factors can influence the cost of your solar system, including:

    • Your home energy needs
    • Your solar system size
    • The type of panels you install
    • Additional equipment like solar batteries or inverters
    • Other related services, such as tree removal, energy efficiency audits, electric vehicle (EV) chargers, etc.

    The only way to know exactly how much your solar panel system will cost is to get a quote from a trusted solar installer in your area. To get matched with a top provider, click here for a solar estimate today.

    How Much Can You Save With Solar?

    The average payoff period for a solar panel system in the U.S. is around 8.5 years. After paying off your solar system, you’ll enjoy significant savings by drastically reducing or eliminating your energy bill. Considering the average solar system lasts 25 years or longer, that’s over 16 years of net savings. Most people who install solar on their homes will save thousands of dollars in energy costs over the lifespan of their solar energy system.

    There are, however, some instances when solar panels may not yield as high of returns as you want. According to Nilsen, local electricity rates, your total system cost and whether you pay up-front, take out a loan, or lease your system can all affect your return on investment (ROI). Changing compensation patterns with your local utility or an unexpected lapse in your system’s performance may cause your payback period to take longer.

    In these rare instances, Nilsen advises contacting your solar installer about your system’s expected production and any discrepancies with the current output.

    In addition to offering protection against rising electricity prices, a solar installation with a storage system provides a valuable backup during power outages. If you live in an area prone to severe weather or blackouts, installing solar panels with a backup battery can be more worthwhile.

    Ground-Mounted Solar Panels: What You Need to Know

    Jan 5th 2022

    Chances are that most people imagine solar panels as devices that go on the roof. The familiar sight of solar panels arranged on a rooftop is accurate in many cases, but that’s certainly not the only way people can choose to integrate their solar arrays.

    While there are certainly clear benefits to having solar panels installed on your roof, it’s not as one-sided as some people might think. Having your panels up and out of harm’s reach also puts them out of reach of easy maintenance and cleaning. Ground mount solar panels could be a better choice than roof-mount, depending on the situation.

    If you’re considering solar panel installations for your home, cabin, or other structure, there’s a lot to look into before you make your choice. Of course, every individual situation is going to be different. Budget, open space, weather, climate—these all play a role in choosing between roof-mounted, ground-mounted, and other solar panel configurations.

    You should consider everything here when making your choice, but consulting with professionals and really taking your time to make a decision is the way to go. You don’t want to find yourself rushed into ground or rooftop installations for your solar panel system and regret it later.

    What Is a Ground-Mounted Solar Panel?

    At the most basic level, ground mounted solar panels are just what they sound like. They’re solar panels that aren’t mounted to a rooftop, pole, or other existing structure. Instead, they’re installed on the ground with a racking system custom-designed for that specific purpose.

    Ground-mounted solar panels can actually vary significantly in height. The supports themselves could be tall enough to let you walk comfortably underneath, or they could be just enough to give a few inches of clearance. As long as the support structure is directly on the ground, they’re still considered ground-mounted.

    Solar farms are among the most common everyday examples of ground-mounted solar panels that you might think of. These are the dedicated solar generation stations where acres of panels are installed in open spaces to provide power for the grid, just like other power plants do.

    This is one of the most popular configurations for solar farms for a few clear reasons. First, they’re most commonly built in areas that wouldn’t have other uses. This means that there aren’t any roofs available in the barren desert flats where they’re found. Similarly, there’s no reason to install them on high poles to avoid shadows without much going on, as there aren’t any tall objects to interfere with their sunlight.

    The primary reason that homeowners put panels on rooftops is to save space. When it comes to installing ground-mounted solar systems for your home, the primary consideration is going to be open space. How much of your yard are you willing to give up for installing ground-mount solar panels? You can use our Solar Panel Calculator to determine what kind of space commitment you’re looking at.

    You’ll also need to make sure that you have somewhere that you can install the panels for good south-facing sun exposure. If the only area in your yard that can fit solar panels has its sun exposure even partially blocked, you’re not going to be getting the most out of your solar panels.

    One unique ground-mount racking system that can give homeowners the best of both worlds is to go with a solar carport. If you don’t have a garage, you can install ground-mount solar panels beside your home with enough clearance to park a car under. Just like conventional carports that were the standard before full garages, you’ll keep your car out of the weather and direct sunlight. However, you’ll also be powering your home as well!

    Standard Ground-Mounted Versus Pole-Mounted Solar Systems

    Pole-mounted solar systems are another option to consider when choosing the racking system for your solar panels. Solar panels can be installed on a pole, providing height and sun exposure while taking up minimal space on the ground.

    You’ve probably already seen pole mount solar panels in specific applications like powering remote street lights or in other uses where isolated power is needed. However, they’re often used for many of the same applications that you would use standard ground mounts with just a few alterations.

    You’ll often see pole mount systems installed as either top-of-the-pole or side-of-the-pole panels. These devices are just what they sound like, with the solar panels either sitting at the very top of the pole or attached to an angled bracket on the side.

    Top-of-the-pole systems are more effective for typical household or commercial use. The number of panels that an individual pole can support will vary widely depending on the specific situation. For a larger number of panels, larger and more robust poles and racking systems need to be installed.

    Some pole-mounted arrays can be rotated to absolutely maximize sun exposure throughout the year. While this is certainly a benefit, it’s a real concern for large commercial operations where even small percentages add up to substantial dollar values.

    Pole-mounted systems can also be explicitly designed for high-wind and harsh weather applications. Pole-mounted panels can stand up to just about anything that ground-mounted solar panels can with a good enough system.

    Anyone looking into some simple DIY solar solutions should consider side-of-the-pole mounting. Side-of-the-pole mounting systems are more of a niche application and wouldn’t be what you use to power your home. However, they can provide limited but consistent power in remote applications quickly and inexpensively.

    Of course, pole-mounted systems do come with a downside. Because they’re high-up, they can be hard to reach for maintenance and cleaning, essentially bringing up the same issues as roof-mount. It’s also much easier to expand ground-mount systems in the future. With pole-mount, you’ll likely need to install another pole.

    Some problems come up when installing pole-mounted systems that installing a ground-mounted system can avoid. Basically, certain types of ground simply aren’t suitable for poles that require significant penetration into the ground to stay steady.

    If the ground is too hard, you won’t be able to install a pole-mounted system for a reasonable cost. Ground-mounted solar panels could be the only option that works, regardless of how cost-effective either option is.

    You’re also going to save a lot of trouble in maintenance. Ground-mounted systems are easy to access for inspection, maintenance, and cleaning. Pole-mounted systems can be 20 or more feet up in the air, making even the most minor maintenance possible a major undertaking.

    While pole-mounted systems might be less likely to become damaged thanks to their safe location high above the ground, any damage that does happen will be challenging to repair.

    Is Ground Mount Solar Panels Cheaper Than a Roof-Mounted System?

    While it might seem counterintuitive, ground mounted solar panels systems are, in fact, usually more expensive than roof-mounted systems. You might think that lugging panels onto a roof and installing them in an out-of-the-way location would come at a premium, but having a roof as a starting point to build on can actually reduce costs.

    When installing roof-mounted solar panels, the racking needs a foundation on which to be installed. This can mean laying a cement foundation or a variety of other options, but in any case, you aren’t simply setting the solar panel mounts on the ground and calling it a day.

    This additional solar panel installation cost leads to ground-mount panels costing more than roof-mount panels for the same capacity, although it’s not by much. Depending on the size of the foundation and solar array being installed, you might also need to get additional permits to carry out the installation, costing both time and money.

    Some types of ground-mounts have manual adjustments that can be made throughout the year to make the best use of available sunlight throughout the sun. While they don’t offer the same versatility that a pole-mount system does, they provide more adjustment capabilities than roof-mount systems, producing a bit more electricity and narrowing the price gap in the long run.

    You should also consider that while the installation is more expensive, you’re more likely to get optimal performance from your ground-mount solar panels. Because they don’t have to make any concessions based on the angle or direction of your roof, they can be installed to have the absolute perfect sun exposure. That means more electricity production, potentially saving you a lot throughout your solar system’s life.

    Pros and Cons of Ground-Mounted Solar Panels?

    The biggest pro when you’re considering ground-mounted systems is that they still allow homeowners to go green when roof-mounting just isn’t possible. Why wouldn’t someone be able to use roof-mounted panels? Perhaps the rooftop is not at the right angle or faces the wrong direction necessary to generate renewable energy.

    You could also find that your roof (at least the part facing south) isn’t large enough to hold all of the panels you need to power your home. In that case, ground-mounted solar panels are a clear choice. They can be placed essentially anywhere, letting you choose the optimal location to generate the most electricity.

    There’s also the fact that ground-mounted panels don’t require any work on your roof. Whenever you make new installations on your roof, you risk accidentally incurring damage. If not properly mounted, your roof-mount solar panel could provide entry points for moisture and pets to get into your roof. Over time, these can cause damage to your roof that could need costly repairs to correct.

    Solar panels actually work better when cool, so having air circulation around your panels is in your favor. Ground-mounted panels have significant clearance for airflow, while most roof-mounted panels are practically directly against the roof. While this is a minor point, it’s another point in favor of ground mounted solar panels systems.

    Solar panel maintenance is also much easier for ground mount solar panels. To reach your roof-mount panels, you’ll have to go up onto your roof. There’s no other way around it. Whenever something seems off with your ground-mount panels, you can simply walk over to them. This is a huge bonus in the winter, where you can use a household broom to remove snow instead of some specialized snow clearing tool.

    While being closer to the ground makes them easier to maintain, it also makes them easier to damage. Ground-mount panels are significantly more likely to be damaged by simple accidents like a runaway baseball or even damage from wildlife. And that’s not to mention easier access for any intentional vandals.

    Being closer to the ground will also mean that your panels build up more dust and dirt, which blows around but stays relatively close to the ground. While rooftop and pole-mount systems are almost always kept clean enough by typical rainfalls, you can often find yourself having to hose down ground-mount panels.

    However, the biggest con for most homeowners is going to be the space that ground-mount systems take up. How important this is will vary from person to person, so you really need to take the time to consider which solar panel system is right for you.

    Grounds for Ground Mount Solar Panels

    From what we’ve looked at today, it’s clear that choosing between ground-mount, pole-mount, and roof-mount isn’t a simple matter of figuring out which one is the best. Instead, the only way to make the right choice is to consider your own needs carefully and what it is you’re looking to get from your solar panel system.

    No matter what type of solar power system you’re looking to install, Renogy has the high-quality components and solar panel kits you need. From the panels themselves to all of the supporting equipment like batteries and inverters, Renogy is the premier source for everything solar.

    See other related articles at Renogy:

    How To Remove Snow From Solar Panels on a Roof

    Winter is coming, and that means snow will soon be on the ground.

    If you live in an area where there is a lot of snow, this can be quite a big problem, as solar panels and snow don’t get along too well.

    But how do you remove snow from solar panels on a roof?

    If you don’t know how to get rid of the snow, your solar panels may not work properly or at all.

    Don’t worry! We are here to help you.

    In this article, we will provide you with five tips that will help you to clear away the pesky white stuff from your solar panels, so you can power up your home with clean energy again!

    Use Foam Headed Snow Broom

    One great way to remove the snow from your solar panels is by using a foam headed broom.

    This type of brush has long fibers that are shaped into balls, making them perfect for getting rid of slippery ice or heavy accumulations.

    While it may take some elbow grease on your part, this tool will do the trick!

    Spray Some Water

    Another tip on how to remove snow from solar panels on a roof is by using water.

    You may have heard of the method where you pour hot or boiling water over your rooftop, but this technique requires special attention and shouldn’t be attempted when it’s freezing out.

    However, there are other ways to melt away stubborn ice without any heat, which is by using a water spray or a garden hose.

    Simply spray or hose down your roof until the ice is gone!

    An added bonus of this method is that you won’t need any special equipment.

    Just make sure to be careful not to damage your panels with the water, and also avoid spraying any gutter guards or screens that are present on your roof.

    Shovel It

    The third tip to remove snow from solar panels is by using a plastic shovel.

    Plastic shovels are ideal for removing snow from solar panels and can be easily found at your local hardware store.

    Most plastic shovels have a malleable blade that can be bent into different angles depending on how you want to use it, which makes them great for getting snow from between solar panels.

    Just keep in mind that many plastic shovels aren’t built for heavy duty work, so it’s important to get rid of ice and protect your roof by using an appropriate tool that can do the job.

    It’s important to mention that you should never use a metal shovel or use any metal poles to clean the solar panels or you might get electrocuted.

    Blow The Snow Off

    Another way to remove snow from solar panels on a roof technique you can try is by using a leaf blower.

    If you have to clear away the white stuff from your rooftop and don’t want to clean it with any equipment, just grab your trusty electric or gas-powered leaf blower.

    The blowing action will cause some of the snow to blow away, leaving you with snowless panels.

    Just keep in mind that this method is not 100% effective because some of it can stay stuck onto the panels if there’s too much buildup.

    Install A Roof Heating Device

    If removing snow from solar panels is a problem you face every winter, then it’s recommended to purchase a roof heating device.

    Not only will this technology protect your investment in solar energy by minimizing ice with each storm that rolls through town, but most models are simple and easy to install under your shingles.

    Just make sure installing a heating device is covered by your warranty before you go through with this installation since not all companies support roof heating products.

    The best part about these devices?

    They can easily be disconnected when there’s no more snow on the panels, which means removing snow from solar panels is never an issue you’ll have to deal with again.

    Can Solar Panels Fall or Be Blown Off a Roof?

    Your roof and the four walls of your home are your first line of defense. They protect you, your family, and your property against intruders and the elements. Naturally, you want to do everything you can to ensure their safety. Solar panels present building owners with the opportunity to earn money with their property by selling the excess electricity they generate. They also allow property owners to reduce the cost of heating and cooling their property by providing a free source of energy for those purposes. Many homeowners worry about whether installing solar on their roofs compromises the structural integrity of their building. Can the solar panels be blown off a roof? Will they tear the whole roof off along with them?

    Can Solar Panels Fall Off the Roof?

    When installed correctly by a professional using the right material and equipment, a solar panel will not fall off a roof. This is because solar panels are securely attached to the roof using a mounting system.

    On a side note! If you’re in need of a reliable and high-performance portable solar panel, We strongly recommend the Jackery SolarSaga 100W Portable Solar Panel (Amazon Link).

    With a high conversion efficiency and foldable design, this solar panel is easy to transport and set up, making it perfect for outdoor activities like camping, hiking, and RV trips.

    The US solar cell technology used in this panel ensures that you get the most efficient and reliable solar charging possible.

    What Is a Solar Panel Mounting System?

    Mounting systems are important to how a solar system works. Firstly, they secure the solar panels to protect them from theft and of course from potential damage caused by movement. Secondly, they influence how efficiently a solar panel system will produce energy.

    There are different types of mounting systems to choose from. The main options for residential, commercial, and industrial applications are roof-mounted, ground-mounted, and tracking system mounted.

    Three Types of Solar Panels Mounting Systems

    1- Roof-mounted solar

    This is the most popular because it converts what would otherwise be wasted space, your roof, into optimized space. It’s also the only feasible option for buildings in urban areas where there is no space on the ground.

    One of the main attractions of roof-mounted solar is that the solar panels are mounted high off the ground where they can’t be stolen or tampered with.

    2- Ground-mounted solar

    With ground-mounted solar, there is the potential for installing more solar panels if you have more space on the ground and limited roof space. Ground-mounted installations place solar panels within easy reach. This makes it easier for you to maintain them. It also makes them more vulnerable to theft or vandalism.

    One way to counter this is to pole-mount the solar panels. This is a different type of ground-mount where the solar panels are installed on tall poles instead of racks.

    3- Tracking system mounted solar

    With ground-mounted and roof-mounted systems, the solar panels are fixed in one position. Tracking system mounted solar systems allow the solar panels to swivel and tilt to follow the movement of the sun throughout the day. This ensures the maximum efficiency of the solar panels.

    Tracking system mounted solar panels generate the most energy but are also the most expensive system to set up and maintain.

    Can Solar Panels Fly Off?

    Solar panels will not fly off. They are heavy enough to stay in place and they are fixed securely in place using either ground mounting, roof mounting, or tracking mounting systems.

    How Much Wind Can Solar Panels Withstand?

    Solar panels can withstand winds of up 120 mph. Hailstorms and extreme wind forces brought on by hurricanes and tornados present the biggest threat of damage to a solar panel. Fortunately, solar panels are designed with this taken into consideration.

    Solar systems are installed following strict building codes. The chances of your solar panels being ripped off your roof are next to none if they are installed according to the recommended building codes. This is the case, even in areas that see wind speeds of 160 mph like Florida or Texas. Installations are required to be able to withstand those wind speeds.

    Huge bolts are used to secure the solar panels in place to ensure they resist the “uplift” caused by winds. In some cases, these bolts are secured to the roof beams for added stability.

    Different Types of Roof Mounting Systems

    There are several ways in which solar panels can be installed on a roof.

    1- Flush mounts

    This is the simplest mounting system. The solar panels are installed flush with the roof. There is a 2–4-inch gap between the solar panel and the roof to allow for airflow and cooling. Flush mounts are a better option for high wind areas as they reduce the wind load on the solar panels.

    Flush mounts sometimes require roof penetration which increases the risk of leaks. (Source)

    2- Ballasted mounts

    Though similar to flush mounts, ballasted mounts differ in that they use weights to hold the solar panels in place. Ballast mounts are quicker and cheaper to install. They also do not need roof penetration and they allow for more panel tilt which increases sun exposure.

    The added weights increase the load on your roof and they are not suited for high-wind areas.

    3- Hybrid mounts

    Combine flush and ballast mounts. They require minimal roof penetration and allow some flexibility in customizing for load-bearing and wind. They are however more expensive and take up more space on your roof.

    What Type of Roof Do You Need for Solar Panels?

    Any type of roof can have solar panels installed on them as long as the right materials are used and they are installed correctly.

    Each roof might call for a different method of installation but solar panels can be securely installed on asphalt shingle, standing seam or corrugated metal, and EPMD rubber roofs. All these are different roof material surfaces on which solar can and has been installed.

    How Long Do Solar Panels on The Roof Last?

    Solar panels have a lifespan of 25 years. That is the warranty that most manufacturers place on their solar panels. There are, however, solar panels that have been in operation for 40 years.

    While solar panels have a sticker lifespan of 25 years this does not mean that at the 25-year mark they will suddenly die on you and stop producing energy. (Source)

    For more on this topic, we recommend that you check out our post “Do Solar Panels Extend Roof Life (or Weaken It)?“

    The 25 years means the solar panels will not be producing as much energy as they did when they were first installed. The energy output drops but it still produces.

    For as long as they are not critically damaged you can expect a solar panel to continue working for decades. As with any device, however, they will experience a decline in their performance. For solar panels, this is termed the panel degradation rate.

    A study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) puts the degradation of a solar panel at about 0.8 percent per year. This means a solar panel will experience a reduction in output by 0.8 percent. Some premium high-end solar panel manufacturers put their panel degradation at 0.3 percent. (Source)

    What this means is that by year 25, your solar panel will be producing somewhere around 80% of the electricity it used to when you first installed it. All in all, that is still a decent performance.

    I am a very well-experienced techie civil engineer who’s extensively interested in solar panel technology and even more captivated by the potential of solar panels in supporting individual residential units.

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    What are Ground-Mounted Solar Panels? (2023 Guide)

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    Written by Leonardo David

    Leonardo David is an electromechanical engineer, MBA, energy consultant and technical writer. His energy-efficiency and solar consulting experience covers sectors including banking, textile manufacturing, plastics processing, pharmaceutics, education, food processing, fast food, real estate and retail. He has also been writing articles about energy and engineering topics since 2015. Learn About This Person

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    How Ground Mounted Solar Panels Work

    Ground-mounted solar photovoltaic systems use the same types of solar panels as rooftop systems, but with a different installation process:

    • In a rooftop solar installation, the racking system is designed for an existing structure. On the other hand, when using ground-mounted solar panels, the support must also be constructed. The height of this structure can range from just a few inches above the ground to several feet tall.
    • Electrical connections and protection devices are identical in both types of PV systems. The main difference is that ground-mounted systems need more wiring, since they must be located far enough to avoid any shadows cast by your home.
    • Just like in rooftop installations, 60-cell solar panels are normally used in homes, while the larger 72-cell panels are used in solar farms.

    SunPower

    SunPower designs and installs industry-leading residential solar and storage solutions across all 50 states. With a storied history of innovation dating back to 1985, no other company on this list can match SunPower’s experience and expertise.

    SunPower earns its position as the top national installer on our list for a handful of reasons: It installs the most efficient solar technology on the residential market, offers the most expansive service area and backs its installations with a warranty well above the industry standard. All the while, SunPower pioneers sustainability efforts within the industry.

    If that weren’t enough, SunPower systems come packaged with products all manufactured in-house by its sister company, Maxeon. This means that your panels, solar cells, inverters, battery and EV chargers are designed to work together and are all covered under the same warranty.

    SunPower’s biggest downside? Its high-efficiency panels are considerably more expensive than most of its competitors’ products. However, its powerful panels are workhorses that make up for the initial cost with more backend production (think about this like spending more money for a car that gets more miles per gallon).

    Facts and Figures: SunPower

    EcoWatch Rating Better Business Bureau (BBB) Rating Year Founded Average Cost (-) Solar Services Brands of Solar Equipment Offered Warranty Coverage
    5
    A
    1985
    Solar Panels, Solar Batteries, EV Chargers, System Monitoring
    SunPower Panels
    25-year all-inclusive warranty

    Blue Raven Solar

    We like Blue Raven Solar because it understands that, for most homeowners, the cost of solar presents the biggest barrier to entry.

    For that reason, Blue Raven Solar developed an innovative solar financing plan that offers in-house, flexible, zero-money-down options. The results speak for themselves, as Blue Raven Solar is now one of the fastest-growing solar companies in the nation and was recently acquired by SunPower. Its BluePower Plus plan (exclusive to Blue Raven) mimics the flexible structure of a lease while still providing the greatest benefits of owning your system.

    solar, panels, 2023, guide, roof

    Eligible homeowners enjoy 18 months of solar power before having to pay their first bill. When coupled with the federal solar investment tax credit (ITC), the initial energy savings can offset more than a third of the overall cost of a system before requiring a dollar down.

    In contrast, other installers can only offer similar financing through solar leases, PPAs or third-party providers (such as Mosaic or Sunlight). Third-party loan providers can complicate the process, while opting for a loan or PPA will disqualify you from some of solar’s biggest benefits (additional property value, federal solar tax credit and local solar incentives).

    Facts and Figures: Blue Raven Solar

    EcoWatch Rating Better Business Bureau (BBB) Rating Year Founded Average Cost (-) Solar Services Brands of Solar Equipment Offered Warranty Coverage
    4.5
    A
    2014
    Solar Panels, System Monitoring
    Trina Solar, Canadian Solar, SolarEdge, Silfab, SunPower
    25-year manufacturer warranty; 10-year workmanship warranty, 2-year production guarantee

    ADT Solar

    ADT Solar sets the industry standard for warranty coverage by including a multifaceted guarantee, making it one of the top installers for homeowners who want added peace of mind.

    Its warranty coverage includes all of the following for 25 years:

    • Power Production Guarantee: Also known as a performance guarantee, this ensures your solar system will produce the amount of electricity that’s outlined in your proposal, or ADT will write you a check for the difference.
    • Labor Guarantee: This covers any issues with the installation of your system and is also known as a workmanship warranty.
    • Panel Module Performance Guarantee: This is what ADT Solar refers to the manufacturer warranty as, and it ensures that any manufacturing defects are repaired or your ineffective panels replaced.
    • Enphase Microinverters Guarantee: This backs the performance of your inverters.

    Though in recent years other solar companies have started to offer similar guarantees, ADT Solar has been at it since 2008, performing over 30,000 installations across the country.

    Facts and Figures: ADT Solar

    EcoWatch Rating Better Business Bureau (BBB) Rating Year Founded Average Cost (-) Solar Services Brands of Solar Equipment Offered Warranty Coverage
    4
    A-
    2008
    Solar Panels, Solar Batteries, EV Chargers, Energy-Efficiency Upgrades
    Silfab, Panasonic and others depending on location
    25-year all-inclusive warranty

    Assuming the same sunlight conditions and total wattage, roof-mount and ground-mount solar panels will have the same electricity output. However, a ground solar panel installation can be designed with an orientation and tilt angle that will maximize the sunlight it captures, which makes the system productive.

    solar, panels, 2023, guide, roof

    On the other hand, the tilt and orientation of a rooftop solar array is limited by your roof slope. A ground-mounted solar panel system can also increase its energy production with a tracking mechanism, which keeps the PV panels angled toward the sun all day long.

    This way, you can increase your electricity output and electric bill savings without adding more panels. Solar tracking is not an option for most rooftop installations, since tracking devices are not designed for conventional roof structures.

    Setting Up Ground Mounted Solar Panels

    There are two main types of structures for residential ground-mounted solar panels:

    • A standard ground mount is anchored to the ground in several spots, similar to a canopy or pergola. The top of the structure is a tilted frame, typically made of steel, on which solar panels are installed.
    • A pole-mounted system is attached to the ground with a single mast, similar to a small wind turbine or unipole sign. Solar panels are installed on a square or rectangular frame at the top of the mast.

    Residential solar panels have a typical size of 65 by 39 inches (17.6 square feet), and the wind can exert a large force when blowing against them. Without an adequate supporting structure, solar panels can be blown away by a strong enough wind.

    A strong-enough structure (your roof) already exists when you install rooftop solar panels, but you must build one separately if you’re planning a ground installation. This is normally achieved with a reinforced concrete base or driven piles, while the structure itself is typically made of steel beams. Solar panels are more productive when they face the sun directly.

    Of course, the sun’s position in the sky is always changing depending on the time of the day and the season. Sunlight comes from the east during the first hours of the morning, and from the west during the last hours of the afternoon. Also, the sun’s position in the sky is higher during summer and lower during winter. A roof-mounted solar power system has a fixed orientation, which depends on the slope of your roof.

    However, ground-mounted solar panels can be equipped with tracking systems, which increase the direct sunlight received by their photovoltaic cells. Solar trackers can be classified as single-axis or dual-axis systems, depending on how they move:

    • To track the sun, solar panels can be rotated horizontally from east to west, and they can also be tilted up and down.
    • A single-axis solar tracker can only perform one of these movements, while a dual-axis tracker can perform both.
    • Among the two types of single-axis systems, east-west trackers achieve a larger production boost than north-west trackers.
    • Dual-axis tracking systems have a higher cost than single-axis systems, since they use a more complex mechanism. However, they may be more cost-effective in the long run, as they can achieve a higher efficiency due to their increased accuracy.

    Depending on your geographic location, dual-axis solar tracking can increase the electricity output of solar panels by up to 40% compared to a fixed installation. Single-axis tracking normally improves productivity by 25% or more. Solar tracking can be deployed more easily with pole mounts.

    Ground-mounted solar panels are a popular choice for DIY solar panel projects, since their installation process is safer. Each solar panel weighs around 40 pounds, and installing many of them on a roof is a dangerous project without the right tools and training (and a supporting crew).

    However, the challenge of height is eliminated with a ground-mount solar system.

    Is Ground Mounted Solar Cheaper?

    Ground-mounted solar panels are safer to install, since there is no need to work on a rooftop, and their maintenance is also simpler. However, the total project cost is higher. Here are a few reasons why:

    • You must build a structure to support the PV panels. A rooftop solar installation has a lower cost because the roof itself is the supporting structure.
    • The support structure for ground-mounted solar panels also increases the labor requirements for your installation.
    • Ground installations also have a more complex permitting process, since they involve foundations and a structural design and are treated as an independent construction.

    Keep in mind that while they are more expensive, ground-mounted solar panels are much more productive, and with a solar tracking system can achieve even higher power output.

    This means you can recoup your investment faster. If you want to start comparing the cost of a ground-mounted system or rooftop system for your home, you can click below to get a free quote from a top solar compan in your area.

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