Using Solar PV for home electricity – where do you start?

Solar PV InstallationThere are little things we can all do to reduce our own carbon footprint. Generating your own electricity from sunlight using solar panels is one of the most effective, as it reduces your need for traditional electricity generated by fossil fuels.

And because electricity generated by the sun is free, you’ll cut your energy bills too.

So, if you are interested in installing solar panels at your home, where do you start?

Solar PV and Your Home

Firstly, make sure you get the right the type of solar panels. While you can get Solar Thermal panels that are designed to heat water only, if you’re looking to generate your own electricity you will need to get Solar Photovoltaic (PV) panels.

Once you have the right panels, you need to figure out where to put them. While it is possible to install Solar PV panels on the ground, this is relatively rare for home installs. Instead, you are most likely to have your panels installed on your roof. The exact location on your roof will be defined by your installer, who will position the panels in the spot that will generate the most electricity for your home.

As anyone who has ever bought a house will know, south-facing is where the sun is, so a southerly aspect on a roof of 35° is considered ideal in this country.

How much electricity do Solar PV panels generate?

How much electricity you can produce will depend on the available surface area on your roof. Typical PV panels currently being installed around Ireland will produce 1kWP for every 6m² of generating surface area. In other words, at peak performance, 6will generate 1 unit of electricity per hour. To put that in real terms, 1 unit of electricity would power about 6 hours of TV use or one washing machine cycle. As discussed below, how much surface area you can cover will be influenced by planning rules as well as the size of your roof.

The weather will also be a factor. In blasting sunshine your Solar PV panels will operate at optimum capacity but cloud cover, for example, will reduce your output. It is important to remember that your Solar PV panels should still produce electricity on cloudy days, and the most important factor is light, not heat. So, while the longer days in summer will give you the best performance, winter days can still give you good output while the sun shines.

If you’re wondering how solar might work in your home, our calculator is a good place to start.

Installing Solar Power

Installing Solar PV panels is not an invasive construction project. The maturity of the installation technology mean that home installations can be completed in one day. The vast majority of home installations will be made up of rectangular panels of around 1.6m². When roof mounted, these panels are fixed to the roof on a specially designed mounting kit.

Depending on how many panels you want to install, there is a possibility that the work will be subject to planning permission. Installation of up to 12m² of solar PV or 50% of the total roof area is allowed in Ireland without planning permission - please check this PDF from the SEAI for a full list of conditional planning exemptions. As always with conditional planning exemptions, it is recommended to confirm your compliance with your local planning office.

Installing Battery Storage

While Solar PV panels can both save you money and reduce your impact on the environment, adding a battery storage unit will give you even more benefit. With a battery storage unit, any excess electricity generated during the day by your solar panels can be stored for use later. Take a typical summer day, while your panels can generate the most electricity, the house is usually empty. With a battery storage unit that energy can be stored and used after the sun goes down.

The battery storage unit needs to be installed inside your home. The installation would need to be performed by a registered technician and they will help you to decide the best place to install the unit. We’re currently testing these units as part of the StoreNet project in Ballyferriter, Co. Kerry and you can see what some of our participants think so far in our latest video.

Financial Support

If you are interested in installing one of these systems there are rebates and grants available from the SEAI to offset the cost of Solar PV installation and/or battery storage units. The max grant for Solar/battery combines is €3000.

The home solar power rebate gives homeowners €900 per kWP. Kilowatt Peak is the maximum output of the installed modules. An additional €600 is available to help with installing battery storage. See SEAI website more extensive information about PV and battery storage grants here.

Get started with Solar PV

Find out more or request a site visit from an Electric Ireland technician