When homeowners think of installing a solar energy system on their home, rooftop solar is probably the first thing to come to mind. What many homeowners don’t realize is that installing ground mount solar panels is just as easy and cost-effective. Here are the top three things that you need to know about ground-mounted solar panels.
1. In many cases, ground-mounted solar panels can be your best option
While rooftop solar arrays are the most common choice for homeowners, there are many reasons to consider a ground-mounted solar panel system.
Generally, ground mount solar panels cost a bit more than rooftop solar on a per-watt basis because of additional labor and permitting that may be required for the installation. That being said, if your property isn’t ideal for rooftop solar, installing a ground-mounted system can actually save you more money in the long run.
Rooftop solar arrays are restricted by the characteristics of the roof on which they are installed. If your roof isn’t at the right angle, doesn’t face south, or has obstructions like chimneys or skylights, then your solar array will be less productive. On the other hand, ground-mounted solar panels can be located wherever the conditions are best.
In addition, if your home uses a lot of electricity, your roof might not be big enough for a solar energy system that meets your electricity needs. In contrast, ground-mounted solar systems can be sized to match your electricity consumption without the space restrictions of a rooftop system.
2. Not all ground-mounted solar panel systems are created equal
There are two basic types of ground-mounted solar panel systems:
Standard ground mounts use metal framing driven into the ground to hold your solar panels up at a fixed angle. Some standard ground-mounted solar panel systems can be manually adjusted a few times a year to account for seasonal shifts of the sun.
Pole mounts support multiple solar panels on a single pole and elevate panels higher off the ground than a standard ground mount. Pole mounts often incorporate tracking systems, which automatically tilt the solar panels to capture the optimal amount of sunshine.
Tracking systems can increase the production of your solar panels by 25 percent or more. If you decide to add a tracking system to your ground-mounted solar array, you have the option of either a single-axis or a dual-axis system. Single-axis tracking systems move your solar panels over the course of the day to follow the sun as it moves through the sky. Dual-axis tracking systems can also adjust based on seasonal variations in the sun’s position.
3. Ground mount solar panel systems offer benefits for all homeowners
Even if you are a good candidate for a rooftop solar energy system, there are many benefits to choosing a ground-mounted solar panel system.
First, ground-mounted solar panel systems are very easy to place, because they can be located on open land. They don’t require drilling into your roof, and the bracings used in standard ground mount systems are lightweight and easy to remove. (If you opt for a pole mount, they will usually be installed more securely.)
Second, a ground mount solar panel system can be more productive per panel than a rooftop solar array. Because they’re not dependent on your roof, ground-mounted solar panels are set at the perfect angle to optimize energy production. This means you can generate more electricity than a comparably-sized rooftop system, and save more money in the long run.
Finally, ground-mounted solar panels are very easy to access for cleaning and maintenance. If you live in an area that receives a lot of snow in the winter, being able to easily sweep the snow off of your solar panels is a major convenience.
Most installers offer a ground mount option, and the cost of standard ground-mounted solar is comparable with a rooftop solar energy system installation. If you decide to include a tracking system in your installation, you will pay an additional upfront cost, but the resulting increase in electricity production can make tracking systems cost-effective for many homeowners.
Three Tips for Solar Shoppers
1. Homeowners who get multiple quotes save 10% or more
As with any big ticket purchase, shopping for a solar panel installation takes a lot of research and consideration, including a thorough review of the companies in your area. A recent report by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) recommended that consumers compare as many solar options as possible to avoid paying inflated prices offered by the large installers in the solar industry.
To find the smaller contractors that typically offer lower prices, you’ll need to use an installer network like EnergySage. You can receive free quotes from vetted installers local to you when you register your property on our Solar Marketplace – homeowners who get 3 or more quotes can expect to save $5,000 to $10,000 on their solar panel installation.
2. The biggest installers typically don’t offer the best price
The bigger isn’t always better mantra is one of the main reasons we strongly encourage homeowners to consider all of their solar options, not just the brands large enough to pay for the most advertising. A recent report by the U.S. government found that large installers are $2,000 to $5,000 more expensive than small solar companies. If you have offers from some of the big installers in solar, make sure you compare those bids with quotes from local installers to ensure you don’t overpay for solar.
3. Comparing all your equipment options is just as important
National-scale installers don’t just offer higher prices – they also tend to have fewer solar equipment options, which can have a significant impact on your system’s electricity production. By collecting a diverse array of solar bids, you can compare costs and savings based on the different equipment packages available to you.
There are multiple variables to consider when seeking out the best solar panels on the market. While certain panels will have higher efficiency ratings than others, investing in top-of-the-line solar equipment doesn’t always result in higher savings. The only way to find the “sweet spot” for your property is to evaluate quotes with varying equipment and financing offers.
For any homeowner in the early stage of shopping for solar that would just like a ballpark estimate for an installation, try our Solar Calculator that offers upfront cost and long-term savings estimates based on your location and roof type. For those looking to get quotes from local contractors today, check out our quote comparison platform.