Can I Expand My Existing Solar System?

Can I Expand My Existing Solar System

Many Oregon and Washington homeowners have installed solar panels but want to generate more solar power. Their energy needs have often increased since they initially installed solar panels. Perhaps they are now charging an electric vehicle at home, using a heat pump for home heating, or more people now live in the home. If you are considering adding more solar panels to your solar system, read on to learn if it’s possible to upgrade your solar photovoltaic (PV) system.

Solar Installer

Why add more solar panels?

Adding solar panels to an existing solar system can be a cost-effective and environmentally friendly way to increase your renewable energy production. Adding more solar panels can help future-proof your energy needs against rising utility rates and energy demand, providing greater energy independence in the long run.

Generating more solar energy helps reduce your carbon footprint and dependence on fossil fuels, contributing to a healthier environment and combating climate change. Also, a larger solar PV system with additional panels can increase the value of your property, making it more attractive to potential buyers in the future.

Can I upgrade my solar PV system by adding solar panels?

Many homes with rooftop solar systems in Oregon and Washington can add more solar panels. But, there are a few critical considerations.

family with solar

Roof Space For Additional Solar Panels

Available space for more PV panels is a crucial factor. It’s important to assess whether your roof has sufficient space for additional panels. However, it’s critical to orient the solar panels so they produce the most clean energy. Ideally, you will have additional south-facing roof space for solar panels, but east or west-facing roofs are sufficient. 

Solar Exposure of Your Roof

Shading can impact the energy generation of your solar panels. Even partial shading can reduce the output, especially in the middle of the day when the sun’s rays are the most intense. When adding new panels, it is essential to ensure they will not be severely shaded by obstacles such as trees, neighboring buildings, or dormers.

Aesthetic Considerations

When adding solar panels to an existing system, an important aesthetic consideration is to try and match the look of the new panels with the existing PV modules. This helps create a cohesive and uniform appearance, minimizing the visual impact of the added panels.

When upgrading a solar PV system, Smart Solar Energy tries to source solar panels with similar dimensions, frame colors, and even cell arrangement. By selecting panels that closely resemble your existing ones, the added solar panels will blend seamlessly and maintain a consistent appearance.

Greater Home Energy Use

Another key consideration is the need for more solar power. Evaluate your current energy consumption and assess whether your existing system adequately meets your electricity needs. If you are experiencing increased energy usage or seeking to further offset your utility bills, adding more solar panels can help bridge this gap and save you money each month.

The Smart Solar Energy team is skilled at assessing homes for solar system upgrades. We can determine whether you have sufficient space for more solar panels, if shading is an issue, and how much more you can save on your electricity bills.

Adding Solar Battery Storage Capacity

Winter storms and public safety power shutoffs have caused widespread power outages across the Pacific Northwest in recent years. As a result, solar batteries have become popular in Oregon and Washington. In addition, Oregon residents are eligible for up to $2,500 in rebates for installing solar batteries. 

It is possible to add a solar battery to your existing solar system. This allows you to store excess energy generated by your solar panels for later use, increasing your energy independence and providing backup power during outages.

Time-of-Use Electricity Rates in Oregon & Washington

If you have a time-of-use electricity rate plan from your electric company, you can increase your utility bill savings by installing a solar battery in Oregon and Washington. Many utility companies offer these rate plans, including:

  • Emerald People’s Utility District (EPUD)
  • Eugene Water and Electric Board (EWEB)
  • Idaho Power
  • Pacific Power
  • Portland General Electric (PGE)
  • Puget Sound Energy (PSE).

For example, PGE charges $0.052 per kilowatt hour (kWh) for off-peak times and $0.277 per kWh during peak times. Therefore, in Portland, Oregon homeowners can supply electricity to the grid during times when electricity rates are higher, increasing their electricity bill savings. 

Paying a bill

Quality of the Original Solar System

Although there are many reputable solar companies in the Pacific Northwest, not all solar installers complete quality work, and some solar components can degrade over time. Unfortunately, there are also some solar systems in Oregon and Washington with improper wiring, code violations, faulty equipment, and other issues. For example, corrosion on the racking system can require us to replace parts or even the entire racking system if we need to move the solar array over to make space for more solar panels.

How much does it cost to add panels to my existing PV system?

The cost of adding solar panels varies depending on the number of panels you add and other factors, such as your solar inverter. Your inverter converts the direct current (DC) electricity generated by the solar panels into alternating current (AC) electricity that can be used in your home or fed back into the grid. 

When expanding your system, you may need to upgrade your inverter or add an additional one to accommodate the increased power output. The cost of the inverter can vary depending on its capacity and functionality. Different types of inverters, such as string inverters with power optimizers and microinverters, have different price ranges. Additionally, the specific requirements of your electrical system may affect the cost. For example, some homes must upgrade their electrical panels for solar system upgrades.

Although adding more panels is costly, it can also lead to greater energy production and potential long-term savings. By generating more electricity from your solar system, you can reduce your reliance on the grid and offset a larger portion of your energy bills.

Contact Smart Solar Energy to accurately determine the cost of adding panels to your existing PV system. We can assess your current system, consider the number of panels you wish to add, and provide a detailed cost estimate that includes any upgrades to the solar inverter and racking system. This will help you plan and budget effectively for the expansion of your solar PV system.

Net Metering & Upgrading Your Solar System

In Oregon and Washington, net metering programs allow all utility customers to generate their own electricity and reduce their electricity bills. These programs allow you to receive solar credits on your electricity bills for surplus energy you feed to the grid. You can then use those solar credits on cloudy days or at night.

Electric meter

It’s important to notify your utility company if you are expanding your existing solar system to update your interconnection agreement. At Smart Solar Energy, we complete all the necessary solar interconnection paperwork on your behalf, simplifying the process. 

What are the steps to upgrading my solar PV system?

Upgrading a rooftop solar system in Oregon and Washington state involves several steps to ensure a smooth and successful project. Here are the necessary steps we take at Smart Solar Energy:

Assessment of Current Solar System: We begin by evaluating your existing solar PV system. We consider aspects such as its age, solar equipment condition, and overall performance. Then, we determine your goals for the upgrade, such as increasing capacity or improving efficiency.

Home Energy Needs Analysis: We assess your current energy needs and how they may have changed since the initial solar panel installation. This analysis helps determine the required size and capacity of the upgraded PV system.

Solar Design and Planning: Based on the site visit and consultation, we will design the upgraded system, including determining the number and type of additional solar panels, inverters, and other necessary components. We will also consider any changes required to the electrical infrastructure and interconnection with the grid. At this point, we can tell you your exact options and the price for expanding your solar system.

Solar Permits and Paperwork: We then obtain the necessary permits and approvals from the authorities having jurisdiction over your solar system upgrade. This may involve submitting documentation to local authorities, coordinating with your utility provider, and complying with any applicable regulations. The Smart Solar Energy team can take the lead and guide you through this process, including completing the paperwork.

Procurement and Solar Installation: Next, we finalize the solar system design, obtain your solar permits, and purchase the new components required for your upgraded solar system. Then, we integrate the new components with the existing system and make any necessary adjustments to maximize performance.

Testing and Solar System Commissioning: After the installation is complete, the upgraded system will undergo rigorous testing to ensure proper functioning and compliance with electrical codes and safety standards. This may involve testing individual components, system performance, and grid interconnection.

PV System Monitoring and Maintenance: Once we commission the solar system, we connect a solar monitoring system to track energy production and system performance. 

Solar monitoring portal

Can I add more solar panels myself?

Adding more solar panels yourself is possible for handy homeowners, but it’s important to consider the pros and cons before proceeding. While installing your own solar panels can save money on labor costs, there are some potential drawbacks.

These are some key considerations include:

  • Solar Energy Knowledge and Expertise: Installing solar panels requires knowledge of electrical systems and structural considerations. Likewise, it’s important to have a good understanding of local building codes and permitting regulations to ensure the system passes inspection and is properly installed and permitted. 
  • Licensed Electrician Requirements: In Oregon and Washington, a licensed electrician is typically required for the installation of solar panels. Electrical work, including solar panel installation, generally falls under the jurisdiction of state electrical licensing requirements and building codes. These requirements ensure that the installation is performed safely and complies with relevant regulations.
Electrical Panel
  • Permits and Inspections: Like professional solar installations, DIY installations usually require obtaining permits and passing inspections. Before adding solar panels, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the local permitting and inspection requirements.
  • Safety: Working with electricity and climbing on rooftops can be dangerous. Proper safety precautions and equipment are essential to minimize the risk of accidents. At Smart Solar Energy, we have high safety standards for our solar installers and use safety equipment whenever needed. 
  • Solar System Efficiency and Performance: Skilled solar installers have the expertise to optimize solar panel positioning and configuration for maximum efficiency and performance. Energy production can decrease without proper installation and alignment, reducing electricity bill savings.
  • Equipment Warranties and Support: DIY solar installations may have warranty terms that are different from those of professional installations. It’s important to understand the warranty coverage and support available for the solar panels and associated components. At Smart Solar Energy, we offer a 25-year warranty on our solar panel installations across Oregon and Washington, including labor and service and 24/7 real-time monitoring. 

Expanding Your Solar System Can Be a Bright Idea

Adding solar panels to your existing array offers an excellent opportunity to increase energy production, boost your energy independence, and further reduce your carbon footprint. Whether you’re looking to accommodate increased energy demands, take advantage of available roof space, or maximize your solar investment, expanding your solar array is a wise investment for many homeowners. 

Contact Smart Solar Energy to learn about adding more solar panels to your roof. We install residential and commercial solar systems throughout Oregon and Washington and are happy to assess your property. We are known for installing quality solar equipment and offering exceptional customer service.

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