An essential phase in the design and sales process is the execution of a solar site evaluation. It entails visiting a location to gather data to provide a precise plan and design for a solar panel system. A site survey, however, might take a lot of time.
Prequalifying leads before seeing the property might therefore help you save time. Only solid leads with a high likelihood of switching to solar are worth an on-site survey. Hence, before you go out, we advise providing potential customers with rough pricing estimates and ensuring they are familiar with the fundamentals of solar power. Some prospective clients, for instance, might not be aware that they require a solar battery to have energy during a blackout.
Before visiting the property, you may also perform a feasibility analysis using satellite pictures or solar design software. It might not be worthwhile to visit if the location receives little sunlight. The feasibility analysis might also help you identify problems in person.
Some solar firms have shifted to only performing remote site surveys and relying entirely on satellite imagery, solar design software, online information, and photographs and information provided by the building or business owner. While some solar contractors believe this streamlines the sales process and saves time, others believe it adds to the difficulty of the installation procedure. It’s crucial to comprehend what goes into a solar site survey, regardless of your preference.
What is a Solar Site Survey?
Before constructing and installing a photovoltaic system, a chance to assess a potential customer’s property is provided via a solar site survey. It is also a chance to create rapport with them. Therefore it’s good to be prompt, professional and prepared.
During the site survey, you can collect all the data required for the design, permitting, and connecting processes for solar PV systems. You will check the roof and electrical panel, search for any trees or structures that might be shady, and examine your client’s previous electricity usage.
Your solar design software could have capabilities that might help, such as conducting a roof shadow analysis or determining the amount of roof space that can accommodate PV modules. During your visit to the site, you may check the correctness of this information. Has the homeowner recently put in a lot of skylights that aren’t visible in the aerial photos? Is the roof past its prime? Did a large pine tree next to the south recently get cut down, increasing the sun exposure? All of these are essential inquiries to make when on location.
You should also obtain any details the installation team will want before they begin the site evaluation. Will operating the conduit, for instance, need a specific strategy or equipment?
What to Look for During a Solar Assessment?
You must do the following tasks during the site inspection.
Evaluate whether the building’s electrical panel needs to be upgraded:
Most homes need a 200-amp service or more. However many older homes lack this. The requirements for companies vary greatly based on their electrical infrastructure and loads.
Examine the condition of the roof:
The ideal solar energy system installation roof is not too old and won’t need to be replaced very soon. Making a strategy for attaching the solar modules also benefits from knowing the kind of roof. Standing seam metal roofs and cement roof tiles might be the simplest to maintain, although wood and slate roofs can be difficult.
Assess whether there is too much shading:
In the past, solar installers relied on devices like the Solar Pathfinder to detect whether there was too much shade, but nowadays, many installers utilize solar design software. Too much shade from the roof will prevent the solar array from producing enough power. To optimize the solar resource, a homeowner or company may occasionally be ready to prune or even remove trees. Choose a different location to attach the panels if the home’s roof is too shadowed, such as a garage roof or a ground mount.
Look for roof obstruction:
You must plan the solar panel arrangement around any chimneys, skylights, vents, HVAC equipment, or mechanical systems the house may have. As a result, less space will be available for module installation, lowering the solar power system’s size and potential output.
Choose the placement of the inverter and conduit run:
Either manually do this task or take advantage of this option in solar design software. The measurements will determine the roof pitch and the area available for solar panels.
Take roof measurements:
The solar inverter has to be placed somewhere dry, away from the sun. Depending on the configuration, the conduit may be placed inside or outside the house or business.
Consider additional energy-efficiency recommendations:
Several solar energy providers offer advice on how to consume less electricity. Providing an excellent customer experience may be achieved by making valuable recommendations.
How to Perform a Solar Site Assessment?
These are the essential activities you must carry out during your site visit. While conducting your initial site surveys, remember to take lots of images so you can look back on them later if necessary.
Inspect the main service panel:
- Identify any upgrades that the house or company requires.
- Would there be room for a solar circuit?
- Does the present electrical panel provide enough amperage for the house or business?
- Ask the owner of the house or company if their energy requirements may alter shortly. Do they have any immediate plans to replace their current appliances with electric ones, such as a dryer, water heater, or range, or to purchase an EV and install a charger?
- Think about if the electrical panel is secure or whether it may ignite a fire within the house.
Document shading and other obstructions:
- Assess whether the roof has too much shade and how to reduce it.
- If you reside in the Northern Hemisphere, check the roof’s south, west, and east sides for impediments that may be present now or in the future.
- Take into account who owns trees shading the roof and whether just pruning trees will significantly enhance solar exposure.
- Keep in mind that little trees will develop and may ultimately shade the roof over the system’s lifespan.
Determine the condition of the roof:
- Find out how old the roof is and whether any repairs are now required.
- The kind of roof will determine what you check for, but shingles that are cracked or missing, flashing that is broken, signs of pooling, and obstructions in the downspouts are all indications of an old roof.
- If there have been any roof leaks, inquire with the property owner or, if accessible, check the attic for water damage.
Consider the roof dimensions, pitch, and rafter spacing:
- You may do this stage manually or with solar design software.
- You could increase the price somewhat to account for the longer installation time if the roof is very difficult or steep. The installation will take a little longer since installers will need to exercise extra caution while working on steep or challenging roofs.
- While installing the solar mounting system and figuring out whether the roof is technically solid, it’s useful to gather structural information about the roof, such as the size and spacing of the rafter.
Ask the homeowner for additional information:
- It’s typically the simplest to obtain the information you want while on location.
- Determine the roof’s age.
- If necessary, obtain a copy of a year’s worth or more of power bills to determine the home’s past energy usage.
- Enquire about any other unrelated matters, such as the conduit and inverter’s positioning.
Tips for a Successful Site Survey
During a site inspection, look for anything that can jeopardize the project or raise the price of the system. Although conducting your initial site inspections is challenging, it will get simpler with practice.
Bring all the equipment you’ll need for the site inspection, such as a ladder, measuring instruments, a mobile phone or camera, a pen and clipboard, and a brochure or sales materials. When in doubt, snap a ton of pictures that you can look back on. This reduces the need to get in touch with the potential client again to ask follow-up questions or arrange for another site visit.
Each solar project can benefit greatly from having a solar site survey. Performing solar site assessment is no doubt very important but hiring the best professionals is also very important. A solar site assessment conducted on-site may still be extremely helpful and enhance the client experience, even though many solar firms have switched to totally remote site studies. It’s a great chance to get to know the prospective client and find out what can drive up project costs or installation times, helping you avoid underbidding or holding up the solar installers.