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When going the solar power way, one important decision to make is choosing between ground-mounted and roof-mounted panels.
More and more Australians are opting to hop on the solar power bandwagon, and not without reason. Solar power not only gives you access to a cleaner source of energy; it can also lead to noticeable savings in the long run. Getting started requires that you invest in a solar power system, and you have to choose between ground-mounted and roof-mounted solar panels. Just which ones you should go with depends on a number of factors.
Note: Solar service not available in the Northern Territory, Tasmania and Western Australia.
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Ground-mounted solar panels, as their name suggests, are ones that you install on the ground, as opposed to the roof. The placement of these panels is not flat; instead they rest at an angle of 30 degrees, facing north. This is in order to maximise absorption as well as output.
The actual panels in use are pretty much the same as ones you would find on roof-mounted solar panels. Each panel constitutes of multiple photovoltaic cells that work in generating and supplying solar power to your home. The use of aluminium and steel in the making of racks for the mounts is quite common, which is ideal given the durability factor. Some designs allow for manual tilting of the frame, and this gives users the ability to increase the panels’ exposure to available sunlight.
Ground-mounted solar panels score better than their roof-mounted counterpart in various ways, and here’s what you can expect.
- No infrastructural changes. If you opt for roof-mounted panels, the least you’ll have to do to install them is drill holes in your roof. If your roof is not strong enough, you might have to reinforce it before you can install the panels. With ground-mounted panels, you don’t have to worry about making any structural changes to your home.
- Ideal angle. Your roof’s orientation might not offer the ideal 30 degree angle that the panels require. With ground-mounted panels, you get considerably greater freedom in terms of where you can place them to get the ideal angle.
- Expansion. A roof-mounted system might not leave too much room for expansion, especially if you don’t have the luxury of a very large roof. On the ground, availability of extra space is more common; ground mounts tend to accommodate larger panels; and the expansion process is simpler as well.
- Easy maintenance. You get the most out of your solar panels if you keep them clean and free of dust, which is typically easier to do when your solar panels are on the ground, as opposed to on the roof. If at any point your roof requires repairs, you may have to disassemble and reassemble the solar panels to address the problem.
- Increased efficiency. Ground-mounted panels have space below and this increases the airflow around them. Since panels perform at optimum levels when kept cool, increased airflow leads to better performance.
If you’re not sure about whether you can benefit by ground-mounted panels, consider the following.
- If your property has a reasonably large open space where you can install a large setup, you can benefit by significant long-term savings.
- If your roof does not have a suitable north-facing surface where you can install solar panels, you’ll have to look for options on the ground.
- If you don’t want to limit access to the roof, or if you don’t have a large enough roof, ground-panels would be the ones to choose.
- If you don't want to lose out on recreational space in your yard, you may want to consider getting roof-mounted panels instead.
Pay due attention to the following before investing in a ground-mounted solar energy system.
- Uniqueness of site. Bear in mind that sites can have unique requirements. For instance, if you live in a region where it snows heavily, the panels should have enough clearance from the ground for the snow to slide off easily.
- Building your own rack. While you can build a ground-mount rack on your own, know that it requires expertise as well as access to the right tools. If you’re not sure of what the process entails, your best bet is to get racks made by professionals.
- Making adjustments. Ground-mounted racks use multiple bolts, with the weight of the panels resting on the legs that you need to adjust, either one at a time or simultaneously. This can be difficult to carry out alone, and you might need another hand.
If you’re looking at making the most of the sun and the extra outdoor space you have, investing in ground-mounted solar panels can definitely work in your favour.
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