How do you choose a solar system for your home?

Posted January 2024

So you’ve decided you want to go ahead with a residential solar solution for your home. There are many different configurations of PV systems you could get, and many installers you could use. With so much choice out there, it can be overwhelming to decide which provider and system to go with. So how do you choose the ideal solar system for your home? In order to help you maximise your solar investment, here are 10 questions you should ask as you start your solar journey.

Your home

1. What kind of solar system do I need?

The type of Solar PV system you’ll need will depend on what you want to achieve with your system and the power needs you have. For example, perhaps you work from home and need power throughout the day. Or, perhaps you work at an office but have a busy young family, which means you’ll have most of your power needs in the early evening. The solar provider you use should be able to design an optimised system that best meets your specific circumstances.

2. Is my home suitable to install solar?

Most freestanding homes and roof types can support a solar installation, with the exception of thatch. That’s because there is no mounting system designed for thatch, and it’s an increased fire risk too. If you do have a thatch house, you could still get a ground-mounted installation on your property provided there is enough space to do so.

The equipment

3. What types of batteries and inverters will they use?

The better quality your equipment, the longer your solar system should last. There are a wide range of lithium-ion batteries on the market today, with new brands entering the industry on a regular basis. Make sure your installer uses reputable, approved brands with all their equipment: as a general rule of thumb, batteries should offer at least a 10 year warranty and inverters five years.

4. What kind of solar panels will they use?

As with batteries and inverters, there are many brands of solar panels on the market. Make sure that the panels your provider uses are from a reputable brand and come with a guarantee. In general, you should consider three criteria when it comes to solar panels: what the cell type is (they should be monocrystalline), what the performance warranty is (this should be a minimum of 25 years), and what the manufacturer’s warranty is that the panel won’t physically break (this should be a minimum of 12 years).

As long as the panels fit these criteria, the wattage doesn’t matter. For example, with a space-constrained roof it can be beneficial to install slightly smaller-sized panels in order to be able to fit more on. A preliminary design is commonly used by your installer to see what panel configuration will be best.

5. Is my solar installer able to install a battery backup system first and solar later?

Some solar installers will work to your budget and help you install a battery backup system first and then add solar PV panels later when your budget allows (read this post for more information on converting to a solar system). Make sure you confirm this before the installation, as some installers aren’t qualified to do solar – only battery backup systems.

Compliance & quality

6. Is my solar provider PV Green Certified?

This is important because it’s the only accreditation you can get in South Africa to ensure you’re using a quality installer and that your solar system will last. Plus, if you’re applying to finance your solar installation through your home loan, your bank will ask for this certification.

7. What paperwork do I need to fill out?

When you get a solar system for your home, you’ll need to apply to be a small-scale embedded generator (SSEG) with your local municipality. Some installers, such as SSESA, will be able to do this on your behalf, which means you won’t need to do any of the paperwork.

8. Are the inverters in my proposed system municipal approved?

When it comes to solar power for homes, many consumers aren’t aware that solar equipment needs to be approved by the relevant municipality. If your system is not compliant, you can be liable for fines and even have your power cut from the municipality (this is currently the case with the City of Cape Town).

After-sales service

9. How long will my solar system last? 

What if something goes wrong with your system a week, a month or a year after it’s installed? Will your provider be on hand to help – and will they charge extra for this? Read your terms and conditions carefully to see what guarantees your installer offers in terms of the post-installation work that is included in the cost. In general, you should look for a minimum of a one year workmanship guarantee which means that if anything goes wrong within the first year, you won’t have to pay extra.

10. What after-sales service am I given?

What if something goes wrong with your system after the workmanship guarantee expires? Some solar installations offer a service level agreement (SLA) where they’ll offer long term support should you need any help in exchange for a nominal monthly fee.

Want to upgrade to solar power for your home? Talk to us today about installing a solar system in your home.