Solar Panels For Home: Complete Buying And Installing Guide (India)

Sun-to-homeImage source: Canva

Solar panels convert sunlight to electricity, which means free and clean electricity without the need of any other fuel. Fun fact: The earth receives 20000 times the energy we need from the sun every day.

Why Use Solar Power

Climate change is at its peak and irregular weather changes have started becoming more and more common in almost all parts of the world. Unless pollution levels are taken under control, our planet will be an extremely difficult place to live in within the next few decades. The major sources of air pollution are coal and fossil fuel powered power plants. As there is an increase in the need for more electricity, it is more important to switch to cleaner and non-polluting renewable energy. One of the best choices of renewable energy is solar power, which is powered by the sunlight that we receive naturally, and for free.

Can I Install It On My House?

Yes, you can install it on your rooftop and get free electricity for the next 30 years or so (effective lifetime of solar panels).

How Will It Benefit Me?

The biggest benefit is free electricity. You will also get freedom from power cuts and better voltage (which means longer life of appliances used). Cutting down on pollution will help you and your children lead a better life.

How Much Electricity Can I Generate?

You can generate 5 kWh (=5 units) of free electricity from 100 square feet of your roof. A typical 1500 square feet home can generate enough for its needs and also make money by selling the excess power generated.

How Much Can I Save Off My Electricity Bill?

For instance, let’s assume you’re getting an electric bill of INR 2000. That’s roughly 333 units if your unit cost is INR 6. 333 units a month is around 11 units a day. You would require a 2.5 kW system costing INR 2,50,000 to completely power your house from the sun.

Can It Be Installed In Apartments?

Unfortunately not. Solar panels need unhindered sunlight throughout the day for maximum efficiency. But you can always talk to the concerned people in your residential complex and ask them to fix up solar panels on the building’s rooftop, so that the entire building can share free electricity, or use it for lighting purposes in common areas. An alternative for apartments is using small wind turbines that you can fix on your balcony if the wind speed and direction is okay.

What Can I Power At Home Using Solar Energy? Can I Run ACs?

You can power your entire home with free solar power or you can partially power it depending on how much space you have on the roof and how much you can invest.

How Does It Work?

In simplest terms, solar photovoltaic (PV) panels convert sunlight to electricity. They are semi-conductors which release photons when excited by light energy from the sun. As none of the photons escape the cells and panels, it doesn’t require any top up and its life is almost infinite (can last forever).

Does It Work On Cloudy Days? What About At Night?

The power produced will be low on cloudy days. Germany, one of leading solar producers, receives lesser sunlight compared to tropical India. Solar panels cannot generate power at night. However, you can charge batteries during the day with solar power and use them later.

How Much Does It Cost?

A solar power system (panels + controller + inverter + batteries) costs around INR 1,00,000 per kilowatt (kW) depending on the type you want. One kW panel can generate around 5 kWh (=5 units) per day in most parts of India. One unit is 1000 watts (=one kW) running for one hour. Best way to determine how much power you use is to check your electricity bill. The number of units written there is how much you consume in a month (divide it by 30 to get a day’s consumption).

What Are The Types Of Systems Available? How Do I Know Which One Is Better?

There are two main types of systems that are available:

  1. With Battery – It can work during the night or when the sunlight is not very strong, and is a good choice if you get frequent power cuts and need to go completely off the grid. Costs approximately INR 1,00,000 per kW.
  2. Without Battery – It is the simpler and cheaper option but it works only during the day. Costs approximately INR 65,000 per kW

If it is within your budget, a battery based system is a better choice, as you can use clean power even at night.

I Can’t Afford So Much, Can I Use Part Solar And Part Grid?

Yes, it is actually the more common and convenient option in terms of cost as well as the fact that you will have different consumption needs in different seasons. Ideally, covering the minimum consumption is the best way.

What Is Net-Metering? Is It True The Electricity Company Will Pay Me If I Sell Excess Power To Them?

Net-metering is a process where you sell any excess power generated by your solar panels to the grid. For the same purpose, you need to install a two-way meter at your place that will show how much electricity you are using from the grid and how much you are giving back.

The electricity company usually buys your power at a higher cost from you, which means you will achieve your ROI faster. Some states in India have started implementing it already, so do check with your electricity company for the same. Net-metering is a great way to reduce grid load and add clean power through private investment.

Are There Government Subsidies? How Can I Get Them?

There is a 40 percent subsidy on the capital cost. To avail that, you have to purchase the system from the list of approved providers on the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) site. Do note that there is a wait list on the subsidy as some projects are prioritised over others.

Do Banks Provide Loans For Solar Power?

Yes, banks provide soft loans in association with the government.

What Is The Payback Time?

Usually 7 years, after which you get more than 20 years of free electricity.

How Do I Install It?

You can place the solar panels directly on your rooftop. They are usually screwed to a frame, which requires a simple mechanical job.

What Are The Requirements?

  1. Rooftop space without shade – at least a 100 square feet for a kilowatt.
  2. Sunlight 🙂

Does It Require A Lot Of Space?

No, you need only 100 square feet for a kilowatt. A typical 2000 square feet house can accommodate 20 kilowatts of solar power, which is much higher than a household requires.

What Directions Should They Face?

In India, south and south west inclination is the best direction to get maximum solar power.

solar-rooftop

Image Source: Wikipedia Commons

Where Can I Buy?

There is a list of approved suppliers on the MNRE site. You can also buy online on some popular e-commerce stores. Do check if they provide installation services or not.

Why Are Some Solar Panels More Expensive Than Others?

Depending on the material (Mono-crystalline and Poly-crystalline) and efficiency, solar panels are priced differently. The ones that are more efficient require lesser area and are more expensive.

Is Installing Solar Panels A Good Idea? What Is The ROI I Can Expect?

Apart from reliable clean power, solar panels are a good long term investment. You can recover your capital cost in five years if you are a commercial user.

How Do I Maintain It? Are There Any Maintenance Costs?

Depending on how dusty your area is, you would just have to wipe them down for dust. If you have opted for a battery system, the batteries need to be replaced every six to eight years (it will cost around INR 30000 for a kW system).

What Are The Other Gadgets Powered By Solar Energy? Are They Available In India?

Yes, solar powered lights, water pumps, mobile chargers and other off grid applications are available in India.

Are Solar Panels Harmful To Health In Any Way?

No. On the contrary, they will help reduce pollution and benefit your health in the long run.

Will I Have To Invest In Any Re-Wiring Etc.?

Yes, depending on what appliances you need to power. Wiring the entire house is the simplest option as the person who will help you with the process will be able to wire it easily.

What Are The Popular Solar Panel Brands?

Su-kam, Luminous, Moser-baer, Tata BP Solar, First Solar, SunEdison, Sharp, and many other local brands are available in India.

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