Until quite recently the vast majority of residential and commercial solar panel installations were situated placed on spare rooftops. As the solar market has increased in both variety and quality, there has been a considerable spike in interest from individuals who have the physical space for ground-mounted panels considering what advantages these may offer.
While there are broad advantages/disadvantages for both kinds of solar panels, remember that making the key factor when making the decision is going to be unique to your particular property. There is no ‘one size fits all’ rules when it comes to installing the correct solar panels in the best places to meet individual requirements. A high-quality solar power contractor will conduct a survey of your property before advising on the best solutions which will generate the most utility over the coming decades.
Here is a rundown on the basic advantages and disadvantages of both systems.
Rooftop Solar Panel Advantages
Still by far the most popular system for residential and commercial buildings, these solar panels are space-efficient and can almost always be adapted to any suitable roof using either rails or flashings. The key factor here is that these panels are usually quicker to install and are available at a lower cost per panel – although there is one caveat to consider here. Your roof needs to be able to safely mount the panels, and you may want to reconsider this choice if you plan on replacing the rooftop within the life of the solar panel system – typically 25 years+.
Assuming the roof is fit for purpose, roof-mounted solar panels are a fantastic way of making use of free space. Fewer components are needed to fit these panels and most modern systems can be simply adjusted as required. Requiring next to no maintenance besides a wash every few months, they provide no additional shading to the property and thanks to being located on the roof are much more secure from theft or ancillary damage.
When it comes to efficiency, your installation contractor will look at the specific angles available and recommend where to place the panels for maximum energy generation. Most roofs allow at least two angles, meaning that you can expect solar power generation throughout daylight hours. As for the aesthetics – this is a matter of personal choice but most panels nowadays are far more streamlined and less auspicious than earlier generations
Rooftop Solar Panel Disadvantages
You need a good roof! Any reliable contractor will conduct a survey to ensure not only that it can handle the weight of the brackets and panels, but also look for any signs of structural compromise. The installation will require plenty of holes being drilled through the roof – so make sure they use very good quality sealant.
Providing the roof is suitable for solar the key limitation with mounting is space. Most residential users are looking to save on their long term energy use/costs, and that is obviously going to be reduced if you happen to have only a small roof. It is generally recommended that people with smaller roofs look towards installing batteries which will store excess energy produced during the day for use during less productive phases. The key is to maximize efficiency – and again that is something a quality installation expert will advise upon.
While solar panels are sturdy and require little maintenance they do require occasional washing to clear atmospheric dust and debris. For some people that may present a physical problem although most of the time a powerful hose should do the trick. Be careful not to apply cold water in extreme heat as there is a risk of cracking the panels.
Lastly, check local ordinances for solar panel restrictions. In a small proportion of localities (and very rare in Idaho) the building may be prevented from making such changes in appearance – usually when seen from street level.
Ground Mounted Solar Panel Advantages
Should you be fortunate enough to have enough free land/yard space then ground-mounted solar panels may offer a reasonable alternative. These are the residential equivalent on what are widely used in agriculture and solar energy farms and share many of the common features.
The key advantage is that they can be positioned precisely in order to maximize solar efficiency. Panels can be placed not just in the perfect direction but also at the ideal angle to maximize solar irradiation. You can even program more advanced models to automatically track the sun’s movement throughout the day – and remember that tilting can also help reduce snow buildup during winter months.
Despite being larger than rooftop panels they are easier to clean thanks to being on the ground level, and that added size will usually deliver superior overall performance. This is partially thanks to better airflow (solar panels work best when kept at more ambient temperature). Installation is not much more difficult than rooftop systems and the flow of electricity is generally considered a little safer and more efficient (although a good contractor will handle this regardless).
Last but not least, ground mounted solar panels can be increased just as easily as rooftop systems provided that you have the space to do so. Plenty of people who opt for this system consider it as a gradually increasing property enhancement – meaning that new and even more efficient panels can be added when cost allows.
Ground Mounted Solar Panel Disadvantages
Larger panels (often designed for commercial use) are more expensive and remember that you will likely need to conduct a thorough land survey as an additional cost. Cabling will need to be placed and maintained, and this can be a disruptive process. While solar panels are generally speaking sturdy and safe you will be well advised to fence them off from other yard/garden areas – and that includes keeping them secure from animals as well as humans.
Shading is another factor to consider. In Idaho, there is a good chance that your property may not have many trees or tall surrounding buildings, but remember that shade can cast a long distance over the course of the day. You may need to make alterations to your landscape in order to maximize efficiency.
Those considering selling excess power back to the grid ought to check their local and state regulations. Many power companies in Idaho are quite reasonable when it comes to offering dollar/dollar discounts on grid bills in exchange for excess generation, but there are size limitations that are quite ferociously enforced. Your local solar installation team will be well able to advise you on this.
The key factor to remember when considering any solar power installation is to approach the matter with an open mind – providing that is supported with quality research and industry expertise! Efficiency is always the #1 target and even just a few percent difference will enormously stack up over the three or four decades you can expect your solar panels to work. It is a careful process to get right and one that is always helped by making use of a professional solar power company who have already successfully performed hundreds of similar projects.