Add Solar Panels To An Existing System On Energysage
With any solar project, big or small, its good to shop around. By signing up on the EnergySage Marketplace, you can receive multiple quotes to compare costs for solar. If youre looking to add panels onto your existing system, note that in your account, along with information about your existing system so that installers can provide you with the most accurate quotes possible.
Can You Add Solar Panels To An Existing System
Youve already reduced your electricity bill if youve gone solar. However, you may wish to add more solar panels to your existing system your solar panel system may have been undersized, to begin with, or your power demand may have grown after installation owing to new additions to your home, new appliances, or the purchase of an electric vehicle .
The procedure of adding extra panels to your existing system will not be the same as it was when you were looking for a solar panel system in the first place. Here are a few crucial considerations to bear in mind while you research your alternatives.
Solar Panel Upgrade And Compatibility
What panels were used in your original installation, and does any component require an upgrade? Your solar panels will continue to generate electricity for more than 25 years, at which point you might see more significant dips in production, so its unlikely youll need to replace the panels of the original system. But still ask your installer to check everything, including the racking and wiring.
When adding new panels, its a good idea to install the same type as your original array if possible. This ensures everything will match aesthetically, and has the same power outputs and efficiencies as your other panels. If youre unable to install the exact same panels, you should still look to install new panels with the same or similar power output otherwise you could damage your existing array.
Read Also: Solar Water Heater For Pool
Did You Buy Your System From 2007 Through 2012
If you purchased your system during this period, its likely that youve been told you can add panels to your existing system. But that was something that people were told regarding the technology of the time. Instead of a complete installation, people were told that they could expand their existing infrastructure, and immediately start gathering solar energy.
Its technically possible, but actually unlikely. Though it was true at the time, solar panel technology has improved since then. The solar panels that are available today arent going to be able to be integrated with older systems. So even though theoretically you can expand your installation this way, on a practical level it isnt possible.
You can create an entirely new system and then , and that will work. But it isnt going to be a single system, its going to be two systems creating the same pool of energy. Thats still useful and usable, its just something that youre going to need to consider, in terms of the installation cost. Usually youre better off getting a right-sized solar panel system from the beginning.
Incentives In Adding Solar Panels To Existing System
If you want to add more panels to your home, you may not be eligible for the same incentives you claimed when installing your first solar panel system. This can include rebates and tax credits, such as the federal solar tax credit. This is because many incentives can only be claimed once per property or person.
It is also complicated to deal with performance-based incentives with additional solar panel projects. Many such incentives are based on how much electricity the solar energy system in your home generates. It is possible to run into issues if you purchase a new inverter or file for another permit.
That said, do not hesitate to speak with your installer. It will know the incentives you will still be eligible for if you add additional panels to your solar system. You can even seek help from a tax advisor or accountant to explore your situation in greater detail.
You May Like: What Is Openness In Solar Shades
Youve Just Lost A Premium Feed
Most of the solar systems installed under the generous solar feed-in tariffs of yesteryear were small because solar PV systems were expensive, and premium FiTs were necessary for them to make financial sense. Fortunately, this is no longer the case PV system prices have come down to a point where going solar makes sense even without a strong feed-in tariff.
But most state-backed feed-in tariff programs stipulated that system owners could not expand their existing solar systems at the risk of losing their feed-in benefits. Two of these programs the Solar Bonus Scheme in NSW and the Transitional Feed-in Tariff in South Australia recently concluded payments, leaving the formerly size-constrained system owners at liberty to add more solar capacity. Other state programs will end in the coming years .
In this situation, there are several options:
G83 & G59 Solar Applications
The second thing to bear in mind is the size of the system.
Systems under 3.68kW are deemed small scale and can be installed and connected to the grid straight away. The system then needs to be registered by submitting a G83 form to the Distribution Network Operator after the install .
The reason for the 3.68kW is because there is a 16 Amps per phase limit so 16A multiplied by 230v = 3.68kW.
If you decide to install a system larger than 3.68kW, then you need to make a G59 application to the DNO this is a legal requirement they will decide whether this size system will operate within the existing grid framework i.e. an acceptable load will be exported on the grid. In most cases this application will be approved provided the proposed system is not deemed excessive. The process will however take approximately 8 weeks from start to finish, so it may delay the install.
The good news is that inverters are limited to 16 Amps, so in reality a 4kW system can be installed without the need to go through the G59 process, however if you are planning to install additional panels which will take your total installed capacity above the 4kW threshold , you will need to go through the G59 process.
Read Also: How To Fund Solo 401k
Adding Solar Panels To An Existing System: Easy As It Sounds
When it comes to adding a new solar panel, there are a few questions you should ask yourself:
- Do you have enough room? If your prime solar-energy collecting spot on your roof is pretty much full, you may not be able to add another panel that can generate enough power to make it financially worthwhile. However, if you have room to grow and can place extra panels without much issue, then you could consider expanding.
- How old are your existing panels? If your panels are 10 years old or more, you probably wont be able to add modern panels to your existing system. Solar technology is changing rapidly to become more efficient and easier to control, so adding new panels may not be possible with the infrastructure already in your home. You may be better off simply upgrading your current panels to new ones in a more modern system .
- How big is your current power inverter? Solar panels generate direct current or DC power, but the appliances and devices in your home run on AC, or alternating current power. Therefore, you need an inverter to change the power type and feed it into your grid. However, inverters can only handle so much load, and overloading them can lead to a blowout or power failure. Adding more panels may generate more power, but if your inverter cant handle the load, you wont have any power flowing through your home at all.
Can You Add Batteries To An Existing Solar Energy System
We get asked this question often, can you add a battery backup system to an existing solar energy system? Maybe you installed your solar system a few years ago and now youre ready to add batteries.
In this video, Charles and Warren uncover the things you need to know if you are ready to add batteries to your system.
Watch this video for three great alternatives to the popular Tesla Powerwall:
Learn more about solar battery backup options for your home:
View our list of the best batteries for solar power storage:
You May Like: How Many Different Types Of Solar Panels Are There
Option #3 Get A Whole New Separate Solar System Installed Next To The Original
This option can make a lot of sense if batteries with backup are not on your radar. You get a new system, with a separate warranty. And because installers are so efficient at installing whole systems, and dont have to fiddle around integrating into existing solar wiring, it can often work out cheaper than upgrading your existing system. And yes you can claim the solar rebate again on your second system it will already be included in any quoted prices.
Read Your Solar Monitoring App
Solar Retailers normally use applications to monitor your power usage and generation. So, the answer to whether you should upgrade your existing solar array might be right there!
Picture showing the interface of a solar monitoring application.
The applicationâs interface has invaluable information that will help you make sound decisions. Use it to understand how much power youâre producing. Then, compare the kilowatts you export or import from the grid.
Your utility bills could be skyrocketing every month if youâre importing more power than you export. Consider upgrading your solar system if you want to make the calculations even.
Your utility bills will possibly be the first indication that something is not right with your system. Read your bills correctly to detect any changes in the monthly charges.
A picture showing a sample utility bill from the Australian Energy company
In case your bills have changed sharply over the last few months, they should raise an alarm. Either your system has issues or your power network provider has spiked the fees.
However, find out if you have new usage patterns such as peak and off peak power use, new appliances or air conditioners. If thereâs none, check with your solar retailer or the grid company to determine the root of the problem.
If everything is fine, your current system isnât meeting your power demands and requires an upgrade.
The inverter displays an error
Picture showing inverter errors
Recommended Reading: How Does A Residential Solar System Work
You May Need To Get Another Inverter
Inverters are able to have arrays oversized to approximately 133% of their original rating for the new panels to qualify for the STC rebate. If your inverter can’t support the new panels, you’re going to need to replace it with a larger capacity inverter which can be an expensive exercise.
The solar industry is also a very new and progressive industry and Australian Standards have changed and been updated many times in recent years as a result. One particular change in 2016 was a change to an Australian Standard requiring inverters to have special grid settings inbuilt as standard, settings that inverters from the years prior do not have nor are capable of having . To qualify for the STC rebate for new installed solar panels the inverter they are being connected to needs to be listed on the current Clean Energy Council list of compliant inverters and more often than not an inverter model installed before 2016 will not be on this list and therefore the panels cannot legally be added to the inverter nor will they be eligible for the STC rebate.
But that doesn’t mean that you can’t change your installation, it just means that you’re going to need to find another way. The better thing to do could be to install another inverter and a completely separate system and avoid having to alter the existing system completely.
Simply Adding Panels With No Inverter
If you have extra room on your roof or your ground mount, adding extra solar panels without an inverter can be a great option. All you need is some extra racking. However, make sure to double-check because there are things you have to bear in mind to make this happen.
First, you need to make sure that all the panels are compatible. The easiest track you can take is to add the exact solar panels you already have to your solar system.
If your panels are no longer available, you can also use a panel with a similar capacity. Talk to your solar panel installer since they may have a better idea of the best panel options for you. Aside from that, you also need to make sure that your current inverter can support the capacity of the added solar panels.
Depending on your inverter size, you can add solar panels and connect them to your existing inverter. However, if the capacity is less than the DC size of the combined new and old solar panel system, you need to purchase a new inverter.
When going with this option, always keep the warranty of your system in mind. If you are satisfied with the job of your solar installer, you can stick with it when adding more solar panels to your existing solar system.
And this way, you can better negotiate warranty terms with your installation company. If you switch companies, you may void the warranty of the original system, and youll run into troubles if issues come up.
Recommended Reading: What Equipment Is Required For Solar Power
Things To Consider When Expanding Your Solar Pv System
Space and Location
One of the first things youll need to consider is where the additional solar panels will go. If you previously installed a roof-mounted system, there may not be an area available thats well-exposed to the sun for more panels. If you have a ground mounted system, available space may be less of a concern, however, youll have to consider this when deciding how many panels you want to add. Remember â panels that face south and are free from any shade perform the best.
Desired Additional Capacity
Now that youve considered what kind of room you have for new solar panels, you can start thinking about how large your additional system should be. Determine your goal for the project. Do you want to cover 100% of your electricity usage, or do you want to just reduce your electricity bill? Talk to your solar installer and share your current electricity bill with them, so you can determine what the best size is to meet your specific goals.
Incentives may be different for expanding your solar system than when you installed solar for the first time. But the good news is, as long as you own your solar system , and you have tax liability, you will be able to use the 26% Solar Investment Tax Credit from the federal government.*
If youre a business, youll also be able to take advantage of MACRS accelerated depreciation, which accelerates all tax savings from depreciation to the year you install your system.
What You Need To Know Before Adding New Solar Panels To Your Existing System
There are a few things to know before you add panels to an existing system. You will also most likely be replacing your systems inverter. Because of that, its a good idea to consider adding home batteries to your system as well. If you decide to add batteries after adding solar panels to your system, you will have to replace the inverter a second time. Systems with batteries require inverters that also charge the batteries and manage their power output.
You May Like: Do Solar Panels Work In Blackouts
Current Size Of Solar System
The size of your current system may influence how many more solar panels you plan to add. If your solar installation stays below 3.68kW generation with the added panels, there shouldnt be any problem.
If you plan to generate over 3.68kW with the added panels, youll have to submit a G59 application form to the Distribution Network Officer . You must receive permission before installation can commence. This is to determine whether the increased size of the system can operate within the existing grid framework. Your installer can help you with the application process, but it may take several months before you get a response.
Factors To Consider When Adding New Solar Panels To An Existing Installation
How many more solar panels do you require? This will be the first question to address since it will have an impact on both the design of your system and the cost of the add-on project.
The number of panels youll need for your system will be determined by a variety of criteria, including your post-solar power cost, where you reside, the equipment you have, and the design of your system. If you can supply your installer with your power bill information since adopting solar, they should be able to estimate how many extra panels youll need based on your specific scenario. If you want to figure out how many solar panels youll need on your own, check out our guide to figuring out how many solar panels youll need.
There is room for new panels.
Do you have adequate room to put more solar panels? The answer may be no if you have a rooftop system with a limited area. Because property owners with ground mounts often have a lot of sunny areas accessible for installation, ground mount systems can be a little easier to build onto.
However, just because you dont have enough roof space to add more panels doesnt mean you should abandon the project. Installing additional solar arrays on other structures on your property, such as carports, sheds, or gazebos, is always a possibility.
Upgrades to solar panels and compatibility
Replacement of inverters
To install the panels, youll need an installer.
Permitting and interconnection
Recommended Reading: How Do I Connect Solar Panels To My House Electricity