Getting ready for Solar

People often ask me when they are in the process of building a house and are thinking of installing solar in it, what do we need to do to be ready for solar?   Well, here are a few suggestions that I feel are important.  

1.  When choosing your air conditioner units, look for a SEER rating of 19 or greater.  These are often inverter style air conditioners.  New normal AC units are SEER 15-17, older units are often less then that.  Although the higher rated air conditioners are slightly more expensive, they will pay for themselves in savings in a few months.  These ratings makes a big difference in an appliances efficiency and the greater efficiencies  translate into greater energy savings.  When dealing with multiple air conditioners in your home it can mean several hundred to even  thousands of dollars per year for multiple units.   When I do the load calculations for sizing a solar package, the higher SEER rated air conditioner units means that I can downsize a solar system which means less solar production is needed, which means less panels and even possibly a smaller sized inverter.  Translation, less money spent on a solar system.

2.  How are you planning to heat your water?  This also can save money by less solar production needed and by lowering the energy consumption while heating the water.   There are a couple of good alternatives to the regular electric element hot water tank or the on demand water heaters that are hooked up inline with your showers or kitchen faucets.  Consider the typical regular electric hot water tank.  It uses an electric element that is 240 volt at 3000-4500 watts to heat your water.   The inline on demand water heaters are typically 240 volt 12000-18000 watt units.  Both of those options draw a lot of energy to heat the water.  What if I told you that you can use a fraction of that energy to heat your water at a reasonable cost for the appliance?   I recommend a hybrid electric heat pump water tank.   They heat the water at a fraction of the cost per month and it also acts like a small air conditioner that dehumidifies your utility room where it is placed.  This is a far better option then the traditional electric water tanks or inline on demand water heaters.  By choosing the hybrid electric hot water option, we can reduce the size of your solar system to save you money.  They use much less energy.  There are also solar evaculated tube style water heaters available, but they do have some potential drawbacks like extra maintenance due to the hard water here in Costa Rica and the scaling issues that the hard water can create. 

3.  Pool pumps and opporational timers are important to consider if you have a pool.   The typical pool pump consumes 480 kwh’s per month or 2000 watts per hour of consumption during the pump run time.   That would be a 1.5 – 2 hp pump.  Larger pumps will draw more energy.  These pumps should be put on a daily/hourly timer to run 8 hrs a day to limit the energy consumed.  It’s best to run these while the solar production is available so you can use the solar energy generated from your solar system.  The alternatives to the traditional pool pumps are solar pool pumps that use the DC current from the solar panels which use no energy from the grid or the main solar system.  This again, allows me to lower the size of the main solar system or it will reduces the monthly energy consumption from the energy provider depending on the solar system wiring method.  In many cases when installers install a solar package the inverter may only power a critical loads panel which the air conditioner units or pool pumps are not on. I will write another article on the differences between whole home backup systems and critical loads backup systems.  That’s a lengthy topic to get into during this article.  There is a big difference between these two systems.   Stay tuned for that article later.

4.  Lighting and fan choices.   LED lights use less energy then the old style incandescent bulbs.  These days it’s hard to find incandescent lights, and I’d recommend LED lights over fluorescent tube lights.  When picking ceiling fans you can observe the voltage and the current or amperage used by the fans to calculate the power used.   The formula is, power is equal to voltage times the current in amperage.   For example, watts (power) is equal to 120 volts times the current in this example we will use 1 amp, which would give you 120 watts of power used for the given time that the fan runs.  If that fan runs 12 hrs a day that would be 1440 watts for power used for that one fan.  If you chose a fan with a lower current value then your power consumption would be less and you would save money throughout the month or again your solar system may be reduced.

5.  This next suggestion isn’t a money saver, it’s more of an astetics thing.   When building your house, I recommend that I meet with the builder at the build site so i can instruct the builder and their electricians where to install the conduits for the roof top solar pv wires, preferably inside the wall structure to hide the conduit as an eye sore.  Hiding the conduits inside the wall reduces the posibility of an unwanted viewpoints of the equipment.  Take the time to get any solar installer involved with the pre-construction  discussions to avoid these concerns. These are a few of the ways to prepare or “get ready for solar”.   Ultimately, its up to you to choose if you want to follow these simple suggestions.  They are not hard and fast rules but if followed, they will save you money and the possibility of an eye sore.  If you would like more information regarding solar, please contact me at or by cell or at what’s app at 506 6330-5137.  You can also follow me at Sunny Side Solar Solutions facebook page to read my weekly articles on many different solar topics.  These same topics can be read at my facebook group at Costa Rica Solar Installation Reviews along with other important information related to solar.