The most common request that EcoEnergy receives is how much will my 1kW/2kW/3kW/10kW/50kW (and so on!) solar system cost? There are a number of variables that are involved in calculating the size (and hence cost) of a solar system:
- Battery Backup
- Solar Generation
- Solar Panel Framing/Mounting
- Electrical Components
- After-Sales Service
While batteries are not needed to benefit from solar, they are helpful in powering critical loads during load-shedding or an extended outage. However, batteries do affect the cost of the solar system:
- Inverter Type: Grid-tied and VFD inverters cannot be powered from batteries, which then limits you to off-grid and hybrid inverters.
- Battery Chemistry: the type/chemistry of battery greatly affects the price. A typical tubular or lead-acid battery will have a 6-month warranty and an expected life of 1 year, while lithium-ion batteries will have a 3-year warranty.
- Critical Loads: the more appliances that need to be powered on battery and the longer they need to be powered, the higher the battery capacity needs to be.
The solar panel array is typically the most significant cost in any solar installation, and is affected by its size. The cost is affected by a number of variables:
- Battery Capacity: any batteries installed with the system will ideally be powered by solar, and increase the size of the solar panel array.
- Solar Panel Prices: higher-quality solar panels (such as those from Tier 1/Grade A manufacturers) come with a minimum 10-year product warranty and 25-year performance guarantee, and subsequently cost more. Many poor-quality panels are available in Pakistan at cheaper prices, but at the expense of performance and build quality.
Solar Panel Framing
The framing or mounting used with solar panels can also greatly affect the cost of the installation. Cheaper materials (such as mild steel) cost less, but will suffer from corrosion quicker than galvanised steel sheets, hot-dipped galvanised steel and aluminium.
Understanding that most consumers will only pay attention to the solar panels, many vendors reduce the quality of the framing - this puts your investment at risk.
The appliances used with a solar system can also affect its cost. If motors are the only appliance in use, they can commonly be powered through a VFD inverter that is cheaper than most off-grid/grid-tied/hybrid solutions.
Cost is also greatly affected by the quality of the electrical components used, such as wiring and circuit breakers. Poor-quality components will often be installed in order to reduce the price and make the solution seem attractive to prospective buyers.
Prospective buyers should ensure that these components are from reputable brands and have a warranty.
A common complaint received is that after the installation, their solar installer disappeared. While EcoEnergy does provide a solution to repair existing installations, it's also important for prospective buyers to clarify the after-sales service that they will receive. Vendors that are competing simply on price are unlikely to be willing to invest resources into providing after-sales service and warranty.