People who invest in solar are inherently forward-looking: solar panels last for 25 years or more, producing clean energy for decades to come. For people who are considering a new solar–or solar plus storage–installation today, it’s worth thinking about more than just what solar panels to install on your property. There are a few specific ways that you can set up your solar panel system now so that it’s future-proofed for anything else you might want or purchase over the next three decades.
How to future proof your solar installation
When exploring your solar options, it’s worth thinking about not just your past or current electricity usage, but all of the ways in which your habits could change in the future or the types of solar-adjacent tech you might purchase down the road.
For instance, if you plan to switch your heating from fuel-based to electric (i.e., with air-source heat pumps), your electricity consumption will increase in the future. Similarly, if you plan on purchasing an electric vehicle in the future, that will also increase your electricity usage down the road. Recognizing those potential changes in your consumption habits may mean it’s worth buying a larger solar panel system now.
Solar for additional loads
The best way to make sure that your solar panel system meets your bill savings expectations is to be very intentional about the system sizing. There are many ways that your electricity consumption could change in the future, but two of the most common causes of increased consumption are “electrifying” your transportation or your heating and cooling.
Electric vehicle ready solar
Electric vehicles (EVs) are becoming more and more common throughout the country. And with targets like California’s to transition away from gasoline-powered vehicles by 2035, the adoption of EVs is only going to increase moving forward: it’s very likely that the next car you or I purchase will be electric!
There are two things to think about when future proofing your solar panel install for a future EV purchase: first, how much extra electricity will you need; and, second, how easy will it be to connect an EV charger to your existing solar set up?
The first question has an easy answer: we’ve got a handy guide of how many solar panels you’ll need to charge most EVs on the market today. In short, between 6-10 additional 330 Watt solar panels, about 20% to 30% more solar than the average install on EnergySage today.
The second question is a touch trickier. When you purchase an EV and an EV charger, you’ll generally need to have an electrician come back out to your home to wire the system appropriately. One inverter manufacturer, SolarEdge, offers a hybrid solar inverter-EV charger, and their new Energy Hub inverter can quickly integrate an EV charger to power your car directly from the sun. It’s worth asking your solar installer about options to ease the transition to an EV at a later date.
Clean heating and cooling ready solar
If you’re considering switching from a fuel-based heating system to an electrified heating and cooling system for your home (i.e., with air-source or ground-source heat pumps), the calculus for how to future proof your solar install is pretty straightforward: the main thing you need to consider is how much more electricity you’ll use once you no longer heat your home with oil, propane or natural gas.
A good rule of thumb, is that the heat pump will use about the same amount of electricity to heat your home in the winter as your AC currently uses to cool your home in the summer. Don’t have AC? Sorry – I don’t have a rule of thumb for that! As was the case with EVs, be sure to tell your installer you’re considering increasing your electricity consumption with electrified heating and cooling, and they’ll size your system as appropriately as they can.
Storage ready and flexible storage installations
There are additional considerations if you’re thinking about adding energy storage to your solar installation now or in the future, both to make sure that it’s easy to add storage to your solar panel system, as well as to ensure that your storage set up is as flexible as can be to meet your future needs.
Storage ready installations
The best, most cost-effective time to install an energy storage system is at the same time that you install solar: the installation company and installers will already be at your property working with your electrical system, so the added cost of installing a battery is much lower than requiring the company to come back out at a later date.
However, if you’re interested in energy storage but not ready to add it to your solar panel system just yet, it’s still possible to install a storage-ready solar panel system. The easiest way to do so is to install a hybrid inverter, which acts as the inverter for both your solar panels and your battery. Options like the SolarEdge Energy Hub are built to easily allow a battery to be added to your solar panel system either during your initial installation or at a later date. If you use a microinverter system instead, you’ll need to purchase a battery that includes its own inverter when you add it to your solar panel system down the road.
Flexible storage installations
In many cases, when you install energy storage at your home, you’ll have to decide today which loads–appliances and circuits–to back up with your battery for the 10-ish year lifetime of the energy storage system. That’s a difficult proposition for many homeowners: I certainly don’t know which rooms, outlets or appliances I’d need backed up a decade from now.
There are options for installing more flexible storage installations. For one, several manufacturers make batteries that are large enough to power your whole home (or allow you to “stack” enough of them together to power your home). However, you’ll likely pay a significant amount for this extra capacity.
A potentially more affordable option is to install a load control device as opposed to a critical loads panel. This type of technology, like what’s offered by both Span and Lumin, is a way to effectively decide on the fly what parts of your home you want to backup with your battery system. Instead of deciding today what to backup for the next ten years, you can install one of these load control devices along with your battery to have more flexibility with how you use your battery.
Explore your solar & storage options on EnergySage today
To get started with a solar (and storage!) installation that can meet all of your home’s existing and future needs, get started with an EnergySage account today. It’s easy to get started, as well as to let installers know that you’re planning on adding an electric vehicle in the future or that you’re interested in adding energy storage to your solar quotes. See how much you can save on your electricity bills today!