Take some time to consider what your renovation goals are. Knowing your priorities helps you make better decisions with your time and budget.

Factors to Consider When Going Solar

Investing in a Brighter Tomorrow: Going solar is smart for your wallet and the planet. This page equips you with the knowledge to make an informed choice about installing a solar energy system for your home or business.

Harnessing the Power of the Sun: Solar energy has become a popular and reliable way to generate clean electricity. If you’re considering solar power, you’ve come to the right place. 

Beyond the Initial Cost: While the initial investment in solar panels might seem significant, it is crucial to view it as a long-term financial gain. By switching to solar, you’ll enjoy significant savings on your monthly electricity bills for years. Plus, you’ll be positively impacting the environment by reducing your reliance on fossil fuels. As an added benefit, solar panels can also enhance the value of your property.


Peace of Mind with Long-Term Warranties: Solar panels are built to last for decades, and most manufacturers back their products with comprehensive warranties. Here’s a breakdown of the typical warranties you can expect:

  • Performance Warranty: This warranty guarantees a minimum power output for your solar panels over a specified period, typically 25 years. Look for a low degradation rate to ensure your panels maintain optimal efficiency throughout their lifespan.
  • Product Warranty: This warranty covers defects in materials or workmanship of the solar panels themselves. The industry standard is 10 years, but some manufacturers offer even longer periods.

Investing in Quality: Choosing high-quality solar panels with strong warranties provides peace of mind and ensures you’ll get the maximum value from your solar energy system. Warranty terms may vary depending on the manufacturer or installer, so it’s important to carefully review them before purchasing.

Panel Technology

Choosing the right solar panel technology can seem complex, but it doesn’t have to be! This guide will briefly break down the two most common types of solar panels, helping you select the best option for your needs.

Think of solar panels as little power plants for your roof. They capture sunlight and convert it into electricity for your home or business. There are different ways to build these mini power plants, and that’s where the technology comes in.

We’ll focus on the two main types of solar panels: monocrystalline and polycrystalline.

Monocrystalline Panels: The High-Performer

Imagine a single, pure crystal capturing the sun’s rays. That’s the basic idea behind monocrystalline panels. They’re known for their superior efficiency, converting more sunlight into electricity than other types. This translates to more power generated per square foot of roof space, which might be ideal if you have limited roof space or want to maximize your energy production. However, due to their efficiency, they tend to be a bit more expensive.

Think of monocrystalline panels as the:

  • High-performance athletes of the solar world
  • Ideal choice for maximizing energy output in limited space

Polycrystalline Panels: The Budget-Friendly Option

Polycrystalline panels are made by melting multiple silicon crystals, creating a more speckled appearance. While not quite as efficient as monocrystalline panels, they are still a reliable option for most residential and commercial applications. They are also considered the “greenest” option because they utilize more silicon during manufacturing. The best part? They are typically the more affordable choice.

Think of polycrystalline panels as the:

  • Value champions of the solar world
  • A great choice for a cost-effective solar solution

The Right Choice for You

The best panel type for you depends on your specific needs and priorities. When deciding, consider your budget, available roof space, and desired energy output.

Panel Size

Optimizing Your Roof Space: Solar Panel Sizes | Just like clothes come in different sizes, solar panels do too! Understanding these sizes will help you determine the best fit for your roof.

The Two Main Panel Sizes:

  1. Residential Size (60-66 Cells): These are the most common panels for homes. They are a good choice if you have a typical roof size and want a balance of efficiency and ease of installation.
  2. Commercial Size (72 Cells): These larger panels generate more power per panel, which can appeal if you have limited roof space or high energy needs. However, they are heavier and bulkier, making installation more complex.

Choosing the Right Size:

The best size for you depends on your specific needs:

  • Roof Space: If you have a limited roof area, larger commercial panels might be a good option to maximize power generation.
  • Energy Needs: If you consume a lot of energy, commercial-size panels could help you meet your demands with fewer panels.
  • Installation Considerations: Remember that larger panels are heavier and require more expertise to install.

We Recommend Consulting a Solar Expert

A qualified solar professional can assess your roof space, energy needs, and budget to recommend the optimal panel size. They can also ensure a smooth and safe installation process.

Panel Efficiency

Unlocking Solar Power: Panel Efficiency Explained. Imagine sunlight hitting your solar panels and transforming into electricity for your home. A solar panel’s efficiency determines how well it captures sunlight and converts it into usable energy. In simpler terms, a more efficient panel gets more “power out of the sunshine.”

Efficiency Matters, But So Does Cost

While high-efficiency panels are great at converting sunlight, they also tend to be more expensive. Just like you wouldn’t buy a super powerful car if you only drive short distances, it’s important to find the right balance between efficiency and cost for your needs.

Don’t Get Caught Up in the Numbers Game

You might see numbers like “20% efficiency” thrown around when comparing panels. While this is a factor to consider, it’s not the only one. The best way to ensure you’re getting the most out of your solar investment is to:

  • Talk to a Solar Expert: They can assess your energy needs, roof space, and budget to recommend panels with the optimal efficiency for your situation.
  • Focus on Getting Enough Power: The goal is to generate enough electricity to meet your needs, not necessarily to have the most efficient panels on the block.

Temperature Coefficient

Keeping Your Cool: Understanding Temperature Coefficient. Solar panels work best when it’s nice and sunny outside, but what happens when things get hot? The Temperature Coefficient is a fancy way of saying how much heat impacts a solar panel’s performance.

The Heat is On (But Not in a Good Way)

Solar panels become less efficient at converting sunlight into electricity as temperatures rise. Think of it like an athlete performing worse on a hot day. The lower the temperature coefficient (usually expressed as a negative percentage per degree Celsius), the better a panel handles heat. So, a -0.3%/°C coefficient is preferable to a -0.5%/°C coefficient.

Why Does This Matter?

Here in southwest British Columbia, we might not experience scorching heat waves all year round, but even moderate temperature increases can affect your solar panel’s output. Choosing panels with a low-temperature coefficient ensures you get the most power generation possible, even on warmer days.

When you consult with our solar experts, they’ll consider your local climate and recommend panels with a temperature coefficient that optimizes your system’s performance year-round.

Solar Power Inverters

Inverters are the brains of a solar power system. They convert DC power (from your panels) into AC power (the format usable by your household appliances). They also route the flow of electricity between system components, and most provide a monitoring solution to track your system’s performance.

There are four main types of inverters to choose from:

  1. String inverters
  2. String inverters with PV optimizers
  3. Microinverters
  4. Storage-ready inverters

String Inverters

A string inverter is a central unit with inputs for strings (groups) of solar panels. In string inverter systems, solar panels are chained together in series, with the final panel in the chain plugging into an input on the inverter. For example, this sample 8 kw kit is designed with two strings of 10 panels apiece for 20 panels.

String inverters are the most cost-effective option when your system is built in full sunlight. However, shading presents problems for string inverters. When one panel in a string is shaded, its output drops and the rest of the string drops to match the reduced output of the shaded panel.

If your build site is blocked by trees, chimneys, or other obstructions, a string inverter alone won’t be enough to get the most out of your solar array. In those scenarios, you’ll want to add PV optimizers to mitigate the impact of shading.

String Inverters + PV Optimizers

A PV optimizer is a small device attached to each panel’s back. It isolates each panel’s output, allowing it to produce power (and report back to your monitoring system) independently from the rest of the panels in your array.

That means only one panel will be affected if it is covered in shade. The rest of the array will continue to perform at its full capabilities.

PV optimizers also allow for individual panel-level monitoring. In your monitoring portal, you’ll see how each panel is performing. If a panel is underperforming, it may be a sign that it needs cleaning or replacing. (In pure string inverter systems, monitoring only reports the system’s performance as a whole, and you’d have to test each panel individually to identify the issue.)


Like PV optimizers, microinverters attach to the back of each panel to optimize the system’s output and allow for individual panel-level monitoring.

Unlike optimizers, microinverters do not need a centralized string inverter unit to tie the system together. Instead, the inverting capabilities are handled by the microinverter unit itself.

Each microinverter + panel pairing is like a mini self-contained solar power system. You no longer have to worry about sizing panel strings to match a string inverter’s power limitations.

The result is that microinverter system design is much more flexible, modular, and expandable than string inverter systems:

Start small and expand your system later; no retrofitting or re-installation is needed. For oddly shaped roofs, place panels on different roof facings without needing to string panels together. Repair or replace individual panels or microinverter units without taking the whole system out of commission
While microinverters are more costly upfront, their longer warranty period gives them better value over the system’s lifetime. String inverters are typically warranted for 5-15 years and often require replacement in the middle of the system’s lifespan. 

Storage-Ready Inverters

Grid-tie inverters are not equipped with battery charging capabilities by default. If you add energy storage to your system, look for an inverter that facilitates battery charging. These are often called “storage-ready” or “hybrid” inverters.

If you want to add storage to a microinverter system, look for a package that combines functions like inverting, charging, and monitoring into a single streamlined system. This reduces the number of components and makes installation easier, but the tradeoff is that it is less flexible and expandable than a modular system.

Solar Power Batteries

A local battery bank must store usable energy on-site in off-grid and battery backup systems. This is helpful in grid failure, extreme weather, or other interruptions.

There are three types of batteries that you can use with your solar power system:

  1. Flooded lead-acid batteries
  2. Sealed lead-acid batteries
  3. Lithium batteries

Flooded Lead-Acid Batteries

Flooded lead-acid (FLA) batteries are sometimes called “wet cell” batteries because the electrolyte is liquid and can be accessed by removing the battery caps.

Flooded batteries cause water in the electrolyte solution to evaporate when charged, so they must be regularly refilled with distilled water to stay topped off. This need for routine maintenance means flooded batteries are only suitable for those with the time (and the desire) to perform monthly maintenance checks on their battery bank.

FLA batteries are especially prone to failure if not properly maintained, and we find that most people can’t (or won’t) commit to the monthly maintenance schedule needed to care for FLA batteries properly.

Their strict maintenance requirements mean they are not suitable for vacation homes, nor would we recommend them for full-time off-grid residences unless you love the idea of getting hands-on with your system. However, committed homesteaders and DIYers may find FLA batteries a cost-effective option if they take excellent care of the battery bank.

Sealed Lead-Acid Batteries

Sealed lead-acid (SLA) batteries are named so because the compartment containing the electrolyte is sealed, which prevents leaks and noxious fumes from entering the battery.

Unlike flooded lead-acid (FLA) batteries, sealed batteries have minimal maintenance requirements and must not be installed in a ventilated battery enclosure. Because the battery’s contents are sealed shut, SLA batteries can also be mounted in any orientation.

Two sealed lead acid battery types are absorbent glass mats (AGM) and gel batteries.

AGM batteries are less expensive and perform better than gel batteries in cold temperatures. They are also capable of higher charge and discharge rates. They are the more cost-effective sealed battery option, recommended in most off-grid solar applications.

Gel batteries are an older technology that costs more than AGM batteries. They take longer to charge and are not as widely available as AGM. Gel batteries perform better in high ambient temperatures so that they may make sense in hot climates, but AGM is usually the more cost-effective option.

Lithium Batteries

Lithium batteries tend to be about three times more expensive than SLA batteries. Still, they also last about three times longer, so the higher initial cost balances out over the system’s life.

Lithium batteries are the most convenient option if you want a high-performance battery that you don’t have to replace for a decade. They have faster discharge and recharge rates, weigh less, and are maintenance-free. In addition, lithium batteries are modular, meaning you can start small and expand your battery bank as needed.

While lithium batteries cost more upfront, they are comparable to lead-acid batteries in terms of life of ownership.

Racking Systems

A solar panel mount provides a strong foundation for your panels. Racking is the foundational structure that secures your solar panels in place. Racking systems include mounting rails and flashings to secure the rails to your rooftop or ground mount.

The majority of home solar systems fall into one of two categories:
• Roof mount racking
• Ground mount racking
We’ll also cover a few unique racking solutions with more niche applications, like pole and ballasted mounts.

Roof Mount Racking

Roof mounts use your home’s rafters to support the weight of the solar array.
For roof-mounted systems, you’ll need a way to locate and mark your roof rafters so you can drill holes into the rafters and bolt the flashings in place. If your rafters aren’t visible under the edge of your roof, you can use a stud finder to locate them or measure their position inside your attic.
Roof mount systems are the standard choice for most home solar installations, as they are the most convenient and cost-effective option. Putting panels on your roof saves valuable space, which is crucial if you have limited yard space and can’t fit a ground mount on your property.
A roof mount is usually the most cost-effective option if you have a viable South, West, or east-facing roof with enough space to build your array.

Ground Mount Racking

A ground mount is a standalone support structure made of metal pipes securely set into concrete footings in the ground. Because you will build a new structure to support the solar array, ground mounts take more time and money to install.
Ground mounts offer greater flexibility with the orientation of your array. You can point the panels directly toward the Equator and tilt them at the perfect angle to maximize the system’s output. With roof mounts, you’re locked into your rooftop’s tilt angle and facing.
Ground mounts are also easier to access for routine cleaning and maintenance. With a ground mount, you won’t need to climb on your roof to clean the dust off the face of your panels.
Commercial and rural properties are especially suited to ground-mount systems, as they often have plenty of space to build an array that utilizes the full capacity of their solar panels.

Pole Mounts

A pole mount is a ground mount that elevates solar panels high off the ground on a tall pole. They are helpful in a few scenarios:
For snowy climates
Pole mounts can tilt panels at a steeper angle, using the force of gravity to shed snow off the panels’ faces. They can also be adjusted to lift the array higher in the air, providing clearance over snowbanks that accumulate in winter.
Hillside installations
Steep hillsides prevent challenges for standard ground mount systems, which use several distributed concrete footings to anchor the mount. Digging deep enough trenches to pour the concrete and level off the mount on a steep slope can be challenging. Pole mounts only require one anchor point, making installing them on a steep hillside much simpler.

Ballasted Racking

A ballasted racking solution is a container with a frame that allows you to mount your solar panels. The container is filled with ballast, a heavy material such as dirt or gravel, which provides enough weight to hold the system in place.
Because ballasted mounting systems rely on counterweights to hold them in place, digging holes and pouring concrete to anchor them into the ground is unnecessary. As a result, ballasted systems are cheaper, more accessible, and quicker to install.

Additional Resources: NRCan’s Solar Ready Guidelines for Solar Domestic Hot Water and Photovoltaic Systems

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