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Rooftop Solar vs Ground Mount


Last updated 9/13/2017 at 2pm

With all the new residential Solar installations around Borrego Valley, folks who haven’t yet decided whether or not to add Solar power to their homes, or what kind they should get, or how much it costs, should take into consideration the differences between rooftop and ground mounted systems.

According to local Solar array installer John Henry, owner of Watts New Solar (recently separated from Integrity Solar), one of the benefits of a roof-mounted system is that it’s all but invisible. It sits up on the roof day after day, month after month, and year after year drawing electricity directly from the sun, and doesn’t take up any valuable yard space. “But there are maintenance issues,” says Henry. Specifically, getting up on your roof (or hiring someone) and scrubbing off the calcium deposits built up on the glass. “The panels need to be cleaned at least once per year, preferably with distilled water.” Folks might want to ask a solar-powered neighbor the last time he/she cleaned the panels or had them cleaned, and how much it cost.

But there is an alternative to rooftop Solar – a ground mounted system. According to Henry, “A ground mount could cost $2-3,000 more than a rooftop due to plan costs, plus lots of parts and labor.” This includes concrete footings and a support system requiring County inspection. But according to Henry, that extra cost might not be such a burden, considering benefits the homeowner receives over the life of the system.

Maintenance costs for ground mounts are lower due to the accessibility factor, including more frequent cleaning of the panels (by the homeowner, and not having to climb the roof); frequent cleaning increases efficiency in light gathering, hence electricity generation. Also, if something fails, as in a windstorm, no need for a possibly dangerous climb to reach the equipment for either the homeowner or a repairman. One more advantage for ground-mounted systems is that the slope and orientation of the array can be set for maximum Solar radiation collection for winter and summer.

While Henry and everyone else in the business backs up their work with a 10-year warranty, the easier it is to access the system the better, and less costly.

And there is yet another benefit to paying the extra bucks going ground-mount, if you have the yard space: Companies like Watts New Solar will finance the whole system. No up-front costs, and the homeowner can consider the money saved every month on electricity bills as going towards the benefits of accessibility and increased system efficiency.

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