1. How To

Save Big by Adding Solar Panels to Your Existing System

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Do you currently have solar panels that are not producing enough electricity for your home? Save big by adding solar panels to your existing system. Solar SME often gets asked about adding solar panels to existing systems. Only diamonds are forever, so although panels degrade rather slowly, it's not uncommon for people to want to add to their existing system. This article will discuss some reasons why people decide to add panels and also cover some things to keep in mind as you go about doing it.

Reasons to Install Additional Solar Panels

Homeowners typically decide to install additional solar panels due to the cost of electricity and how much additional power they're buying from the utility. This comes from either having outgrown their existing system or anticipating an increase in usage, such as from an electric vehicle or a new hot tub. In places like California, where peak rates are as high as 60 cents per kilowatt hour, it makes a lot of sense to add to existing systems.

For example, one customer installed solar on their house and used a lot of electricity without concern because they had just installed solar and had as much electricity as they needed. Fast forward only five years, and they were paying the utility a thousand dollars a year because they had outgrown the capacity of their system.

Costs of Adding Solar Panels

One of the first questions asked is how much it costs to add to an existing solar panel system. The cost will depend on how many panels are installed. Unless more than 15 panels are installed, there are usually premiums to pay when installing anywhere from the minimum up to about 14 or 15 panels. That's why it's important to be aware of any potential changes in usage in the future before installing solar panels in the first place.

To start the process, consider whether your previous installer is still in business. If they are, start by calling them because it will help keep your warranties all in one place. Solar SME still recommends getting additional quotes, but starting with the company that initially installed the system is always the best place to start. If the installer hired initially is no longer in business, this is known as a “Norfin” solar panel system. Luckily, this won't stop you from adding additional panels, but the new panels will be an independent system of your existing panels because no installer wants to take on the liability of another contractor's work.

Considerations When Adding Solar Panels

While adding additional solar panels is not difficult, there can be challenges in getting quotes from installers if you only want to add a small number of panels. Some installers have a minimum panel requirement, usually between 8 and 10 panels, to take on the job. Unless you want to install solar a third time, going bigger is recommended if you have the space.

As you add more solar panels, ask the solar  installer if you need to upgrade the capacity of your main service panel, also known as the breaker box. If an upgrade is needed, the upside is that you'll get a tax credit for the electrical work as part of the entire solar panel system installation.

Next, consider the inverters. Depending on who installed the system before, it may be possible to tie into the existing inverter. If you have a microinverter system, it makes sense to stick with an additional microinverter system.

Adding a Home Battery

When people add solar panels to existing systems, they often take advantage of the effort to include a home battery. While this affects the overall cost of adding panels, adding a battery now is likely more cost-effective than adding it later.

Net Metering Agreements

Finally, some utilities reserve the right to change the net metering agreement if you add solar panels. Don't be surprised by any changes; call your utility to find out what changes may occur.

Conclusion

When Solar SME fields questions from homeowners about adding additional solar panels, the responsibility is to let them know if it's in their benefit or if there are better alternatives. This is why being a solar fiduciary sets Solar SME apart. For more information about installing additional solar panels on your roof or existing ground system, visit Solar SME. To those who have installed additional panels, let us know in the comments how it worked out for you. Others considering this step would love to hear from you.

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