Your Step-by-Step Guide to Installing Solar Panels

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Around the world, government and nongovernmental organisations are joining hands to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. Financial incentives have already been implemented to encourage homeowners and businesses to be a part of these programs. Alternative sources of energy include wind, solar, hydrogen, biofuel and geothermal, among others. Singapore’s geographical location prevents the development of viable projects for yielding wind energy, hydroelectricity and tidal power. The densely populated city does not have its own geothermal energy sources. But it can harvest the generous blessings of sunlight showered yearlong on its urban landscape! 

Singapore is planning to do so by increasing its production of solar energy. Residents of Singapore hardly require any further encouragement. The wait is over! You can now begin working on being self-reliant on this front, and produce energy to meet your own requirements. How? To know that, read our step-by -step guide to installing photovoltaic (PV) solar panels at home.

Perform thorough research

Like any other purchase decision for your household, you need to perform research of your own. Prices for solar photovoltaic panels have fallen in the last few years. A number of organisations are now making these available to homeowners. But you should search for an accredited body before making your purchase decisions. Survey the area where you are intending to install the panels. This house planned by Thoma Holz Gmbh has used its sloping roofs to install solar modules. If need be, seek expert help to assess if the site is right for installation. Check the manufacturer's warranty period. Take into consideration the annual maintenance fees. Collect a few quotes and compare them.

Types of photovoltaic systems

A solar photovoltaic system includes framed PV modules and inverter for converting DC (direct current) to AC (alternating current). Solar PV systems can be broadly categorised into three groups: 

- Stand alone systems are generally installed in remote areas where access to traditional modes of electricity are sparse to nonexistent. They must have battery back ups to provide supply at night and generator to supplement during shortages. 

- Hybrid solar PV systems have provisions of battery back up too, but they are connected to the grid as well. So you can sell excess productions back to the grid and receive monetary incentives for that. 

- Grid-connected solar PV systems use solar energy first before sourcing electricity from the grid. There is no back-up provision here.

Thin film or crystalline panels?

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Thin films are a more recent invention. Amorphous thin films are relatively affordable. Flexible thin panels can be installed on curved surfaces. Thin panels are lightweight too, but require a more robust frame for mounting. Mono or polycrystalline panels have some significant advantages as well. They require less roof space and are easier to install. Mono or polycrystalline panels are more durable, especially when compared with thin panels covered with plate glass instead of tempered glass. Before making any choices, you need to weigh up your requirements against their individual characteristics.

Size of your solar PV panels

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Assess your energy requirements. Determine what portion of this you want to offset by using solar energy. You can sell the excess electricity back to the grid, but financial incentives for doing the so are not the same in every part of the world. In some places they are also nonexistent, at least for the time being. Solar PV panels can be mounted on the ground, poles, the top of your garage or house. Apartment dwellers can mount solar panels on the roof of their building. However, clearance from the building authorities and local council may be needed for that. 

Measure the size of your roof or the site on which you are planning to install the modules. Now determine if you can comfortably fit in the sufficient number of grids required to meet your electricity consumption. With mono or polycrystalline solar PV, you can begin at a lower scale and then expand on a later date.

Panel installation

Solar PV installations may take up to three days or more, particularly if your roof requires structural reinforcing. Except for the system itself, this process requires mounting frame, clamps and roof anchors. The mounting system must be cyclone rated to avoid any future mishap. The entire process includes; erecting a scaffold to work on, marking and then fitting the roof anchors, attaching the frame and installing the panels. Next there's wiring the panels and connecting them with the inverter, connecting the inverter to a generation meter and electrical safety equipment and powering up the system to check the performance.

Applying for MCS (Microgeneration Certification Scheme) certification or similar authorisation from the relevant government body is also necessary. Generally, this step is taken care of by the agency working with you from the beginning. First-time installers should seek professional assistance to carry out the entire process.

Safety and maintenance

During installation, observe application rules and regulations. Doing so will automatically mitigate some of the major safety concerns. Besides, keep in mind the following pointers; do not apply paint or adhesives in any part of the module, or use any other device or mirror like items to focus sunlight on the panels. Don't wear jewellery or clothes with metal studs while troubleshooting. Always cut the power off before beginning any task. Use appropriate safety equipment while working with any part of the system.

Solar panels are self-cleaning, so they hardly require painstaking maintenance. If you must clean to remove sticky stains, use very soft non-abrasive brushes. Isopropyl alcohol, formulated for this purpose, can be used to remove oil deposits. Most importantly, don’t endanger your life by climbing the sloping roofs.

For some more tips on building an eco-friendly home, don't miss this ideabook!

Are you considering solar panels for your home? Do you already use renewable energy sources? Inspire us in the comments below!
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