1. How do I assess my home energy needs?
It is important for the vendor you choose to guide you on assessing the load of how many appliances/ devices you want turned on simultaneously, which would inform your choice of inverter, as well as on assessing and determining your home’s critical load and how long loads could be used for (hours of operation). This would inform your choice of the battery bank size and type (Lithium or Lead-acid). A good way to assess your energy needs is if you have a meter installed to track your current generator’s input. This would be a good starting point, as well as a personal audit on what your home considers a critical load. Critical loads are a selection of appliances or devices that you believe would require continuous energy supply or in other words require back up when the power grid fails. These need to be separated from other loads and connected to a different sub-panel. Non-critical loads are electrical devices connected to the main panel that will not be backed up during grid failure.
2. Can I install Photovoltaic (PV) panels without batteries?
If you have no other choice, you can install PV panels with no batteries, but you will only be able to convert energy directly to your home’s network when the sun is shining and there is now way to store energy.
3. Can I get rid of my diesel generator once I get solar?
While many people would like to install a PV energy system to discard their diesel generator costs, it is unlikely that the solar energy system will secure your home’s continuous and complete energy needs, unless you make a large investment in the battery bank (size and quality).
4. Do you have any installation examples from a home similar to mine?
There are many companies out there now, we advise that the company you choose to install your system can show-case their experience and proven record. Try to make sure that the company you are contacting is specialized in solar PV design and installation.
5. Do you have any references I can call?
If possible, it would be great to ask for references of similar projects installed for other homes that have similar needs to yours.
6. What is the duration of the manufacturer warranties on the different components?
Ask for the duration of the manufacturer warranties of each of the main components. Typically, warranties are up to 25 years for PV panels, 5 years for inverters, 2 years for controllers, 1 year for Lead-acid batteries, and 5 years for Lithium-ion batteries.
7. What type of battery should I go for?
While Lead-acid batteries are widely available and cheaper at first glance, and Lithium-ion batteries are a relatively new technology, there are many factors that distinguish each choice which can help guide your decision. Ask about the space required to store them, the charging time, the ventilation and temperature requirements, the percentage of battery capacity discharged, and compatibility with inverters, all of which directly impact cost.
8. Do you provide after sales services and maintenance?
Make sure the company you select to install your solar system can provide after-sale maintenance and customer support. You will need a yearly checkup after installation.
9. Does the system have local or remote monitoring?
Make sure to ask if the installed system would have a local and/or remote monitoring system. Keeping up with battery use, power-blackouts, critical loads can sound like a lot. However, a good system that is designed around your needs would help you to maintain the system optimally. Remote monitoring systems will help avoid improper care and overuse of batteries which is often a common source for failure in electrical off-grid systems. This is a feature that can help you prolong the lifetime of your system or troubleshooting it when needed.
10. When would the (full) system be up and running in my home?
Last, make sure to ask how long it would take for the entire system to be up and running and get that timeline in writing.
By UNDP Lebanon’s specialist energy team CEDRO, this content is made possible with the support of the European Union.
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