Can I start small and add to my solar panel system?

Can I start small and add to my solar panel system?

I frequently get asked by do it yourself solar installers if they can start with a small solar panel system and add to it as time goes on.  This is totally a possibility if you like to pay as you go with cash.

However, there are several reasons why we don’t recommending installing your solar panel system in stages.  Here are a few reasons why:

You need to get new engineering design and stamps every time you upgrade.

Every time you add more solar panels, you have to get a new engineering design, building permits and electrical permits.  Some jurisdictions even require you to have a professional engineer stamp your project before they’ll approve it.  The costs really start to add up when you do these things over and over again.

You have to pay for shipping every time you order more equipment.

Shipping is a major cost in solar installation.  The price to ship one panel can sometimes be the same as shipping ten.  Also, it’s best to get all your equipment at once so it arrives in a larger package, decreasing the probability of damage.

You need a new interconnection agreement with your utility company each time you expand.

The interconnection agreement is a piece of paperwork between the customer and the utility company.  It spells out safety requirements for operating your own power generating equipment on your property.  Most interconnection agreements clearly state that any changes to your system must be approved by the utility company’s engineers.  This means more paperwork and more inspections each time.

You have to reprogram your system every time you add new panels.

Solar panel systems come with monitoring that require you to program your panels so you can check on the performance of each one.  If you add more panels, you have to

You might have electrical problems.

Solar panels do wear out over time, and adding old panels to new is a little like mixing batteries of different ages.  It’s hard to get the voltages to match exactly, so the power in the whole circuit will be affected.  Plus, some inverters don’t work with strings.  It’s hard to find an inverter that can work with just 2 panels and expand to 20.

What should you do instead?

  1. Save up your money to buy the largest system you can afford, instead of buying in pieces.
  2. Consider financing your system.  I don’t like debt for most situations, but debt that will pay for itself and eventually make you more money than you borrowed (just like buying a house) make sense.

If you do insist on installing your system a few panels at time, we recommend the APSystems YC600 Microinverter as an excellent option.  Each microinverter serves 2 panels and connects in AC strings, so it makes it a little easier to add panels.

Did you know that A-Line Energy Solutions provides free preliminary solar design and affordable equipment packages for do it yourself installers?  Enter your info on the screen to get started right now.