Preparing your Home for a Renewable Energy System

Preparing your Home for a Renewable Energy System (Solar, Wind, Hydro, and Hybrid)

Planning for a solar energy system is a process that includes analyzing your existing electricity use, looking at local codes and requirements, and understanding technology options that you have for your site. Your solar system may be required to operate on the grid, which comes with its own challenges. Maybe you are considering purchasing a solar energy system to generate electricity at your home. It takes time and money to research, buy, and maintain a system – but many people enjoy the independence and knowledge they gain knowing that their actions are helping the environment. A renewable energy system can be used to supply some or all of your electricity needs depending on the size and type. Types of energy systems include:

  • Solar Panel Systems
  • Wind Electric Systems
  • Micro-Hydropower Systems
  • Small Hybrid Electric Systems

If you’re designing a new home, work with the builder or your contractor to incorporate your renewable energy system into your whole-house design. We consider this the best approach for building an energy efficient home.

Analyzing Your Electricity Loads

Calculating your electricity needs is the first step in the process of investigating renewable energy systems for your home or small business. A very thorough examination of your electricity needs helps you determine the size (and cost) of the system you will need, how your energy needs fluctuate throughout the day and over the course of a year, and the measures you can take to reduce your electricity use. Fortunately, as a solar energy installer – Solar Titan USA is able to gather this data and review it with you before making the decision to purchase a customized solar energy system for your home or business.

Conducting a load analysis involves recording the wattage and average daily use of all of the electrical devices that are plugged into your central power source such as refrigerators, lights, televisions, and power tools. Some loads, like your refrigerator, use electricity all the time, while others, like power tools – use electricity intermittently. Loads that use electricity intermittently are often referred to as selectable loads. If you are willing to use your selectable loads only when you have extra power available, you may be able to install a smaller renewable energy system.

To Calculate your Total Electricity Consumption:

Multiply the wattage of each appliance by the number of hours it is used each day ( be sure to take seasonal variations into account). Some appliances do not give the wattage, so you may have to calculate the wattage by multiplying the amperes times the volts. Generally, power use data can be found on a sticker, metal plate, or cord attached to the appliance. Record the time(s) of day the load runs for all selectable loads.

Considering energy efficient measures in your home before you buy your renewable energy system will reduce your electricity use and allow you to purchase a smaller and less expensive system. You can also request an overall energy efficiency assessment of your home.

Local Codes and Requirements for Small Renewable Energy Systems

Each state and community has its own set of codes and regulations that you need to follow to add a small renewable energy system to your home or small business. These regulations can affect the type of renewable energy system you are allowed to install and who installs it. They can also affect whether you have to connect your system to the electricity grid. A local renewable energy company like Solar Titan USA, your state energy office, or your local officials will be able to tell you the requirements that apply in your community. At Solar Titan USA, we help you navigate your power provider’s grid-connection requirements. Some of the state and community requirements you may encounter include but aren’t limited to; Building codes, Easements, Local Covenants and Ordinances, Technology-specific requirements, Building codes, and Permits.

Electrical and building inspectors ensure that your system complies with standards. Building inspectors are interested in making sure the structure you are adding is safe. Your system may be required to pass electrical and/or plumbing inspections to comply with local building codes. Many building code offices also require their zoning board to grant you a conditional-use permit or a variance from the existing code before they will issue you a building permit. Check with your building code office before you buy a renewable energy system to learn about their specific inspection requirements.

You are most likely to gain the inspector’s approval if you or your installer follow the National Code (NEC); install pre-engineered, packaged systems; properly brief the inspector on your installation; and include a complete set of plans as well as the diagrams that come with the system. In addition, you should be sure your system is composed of certified equipment, and that it complies with local requirements and appropriate technical standards. Some states permit easements, which are a voluntary, legally binding agreement between owners of adjacent land regarding use of the land. For example, you might seek an easement specifying that no structure which blocks the renewable resource necessary to run a energy system will be built. These agreements are binding regardless of changing land ownership. In addition, you may want to do a title research of your deed to determine if any prior easements or other agreements exist that could prevent you from adding a renewable energy system to your own property.

Some communities have covenants or other regulations specifying what homeowners can and can’t do with their property. Sometimes these regulations prohibit the use of renewable energy systems for aesthetic or noise-control reasons. However, sometimes these regulations have provisions supporting renewable energy systems. Check with your homeowners association or local government for details. In addition, you may want to discuss your intentions with your neighbors to avoid any future public objections.

Grid-Connected or Stand-Alone System

Some people are required to connect their systems to the grid and use them to reduce the amount of conventional power supplied to them through the grid. A grid-connected system allows you to sell any excess power you produce back to your power provider. Other people, specifically in remote areas, use the electricity from their systems in place of the electricity supplied to them by power providers. These are called stand-alone (off-grid) systems. For stand-alone systems, balance-of-system components include batteries and a charge controller in addition to power conditioning equipment, safety equipment, and meters.

While all of this information can be daunting, it is important to remember that a good solar energy or renewable system installation company, like Solar Titan USA, will do most if not all of this work for you. This way, you can properly determine if a renewable energy system will benefit you.