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Solar Panels for Homeowners - Entry 1

The first few literal steps you must take if you are thinking of putting solar panels on your roof

By Richard SoullierePublished about a month ago 3 min read
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Photo by Vivint Solar on Unsplash

On the eve of Earth Day 2024, I have been inspired to share my journey of putting solar panels on the roof of my house a couple years ago. Although I live in southern Canada, what I write about in this short seriesapplies throughout the northern hemisphere, so I hope this helps to demystify things and clarify expectations. The first couple articles are also useful if you are looking to buy a house and put solar panels on it later - in other words, things you can look for before making an offer.

The very first thing you have to do before anything else whatsoever is go for a five-minute walk, three times.

Photo by Pablo Arroyo on Unsplash

The walk route will be all around the outside of your house on a (mostly) sunny day. One walk needs to be in the morning after sunrise (7am - 9am), another around midday, and one in the early evening (4pm-6pm). If it's cloudy during any of those times, postpone whichever one walk it is for another day, but still do the other two walks. If you live in an area with trees nearby, do the walks then there are leaves on the trees (it doesn't matter what colour).

During any one walk, take note of all of the following:

  • where are the trees or buildings nearby that are taller than your house?
  • where are the younger trees nearby that will eventually be taller than your house?
  • what condition are the roof tiles?
  • which direction is south?
  • which side of the roof (e.g. north, south, east, west) is the chimney on as well as any windows and other protrusions?
  • how much of your roof on the south side is flat (suitable for panels)? *

* If your house is angled slightly from south, then pay particular attention to both the southwest and southeast sides.

During each of the three walks, take note of how much of your roof is shaded and which areas (e.g. south, southeast, southwest). Also take note of which time of day the shade is there.

After these three walks, take a look at your notes or reflect back to see if any of the following apply to you:

  • houses/buildings almost one floor taller than your house within 50m of your house
  • tall trees within 50m to the south of your property, especially if they are not on your property
  • lots of shade on the south, southeast, and southwest areas of your roof throughout the day
  • very little flat area on the south, southeast, and southwest areas of your roof (due to the being angled east/west or windows sticking out of it like in the image below)
Photo by Jack Price-Burns on Unsplash

If any of those apply, then solar panel performance will be negatively impacted and may not be worth it for that/your house. If none of the above points apply, then it looks like your house is a good candidate - and all you had to do was go out for a walk!!

At this point many will correctly point out that the sun and shade vary a little over the course of a year. That's true, but due to technology, you don't need decades of sun/shade data on your property to factor in all those slight variations. You only need to go on those three walks.

Recap. So you have:

  • flat areas on the south, southeast, or southwest sides of your roof
  • few/no tall buildings, tall trees, or soon-to-be tall trees within 50m of the south, southeast, and southwest sides of your house
  • a roof that gets sun for more than five hours during any given day (assuming continual sunlight)

The next thing you need to do is inside your house. Spoiler alert, it's another walk.

To read other articles in this series, click here.

If you are a gardener or if you know others who have a green thumb, check out Garden University on Etsy for eco-friendly items to express that planet-caring element.

Garden University on Etsy

ScienceSustainabilityshort storyAdvocacy
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About the Creator

Richard Soulliere

Bursting with ideas, honing them to peek your interest.

Enjoyes blending non-fiction into whatever I am writing.

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