In the previous article, we covered how we can now use solar energy to reduce electricity bills. The thought of installing solar panels on your rooftop was once reserved for those with deep pockets. Fortunately, the advancement of technology in recent years has helped to reduce the price of these panels. Newer models now offer better efficiency, longer durability and at a lower price. As a result, its popularity amongst residential owners is now growing. However, the installation cost is still high. Although financial assistance is available, it is still a significant financial commitment. Thus, one needs to carefully consider all aspects before making a decision. In the second part of this series, we will examine the issues from the homeowners’ perspective.
How Much Electricity Can Solar Panels Realistically Generate?
If your main intention of installing solar panels is to reduce electricity bills, hold that thought. First, ask yourself if you have taken all the necessary measures to reduce electricity wastage. That should be your priority.
Located near the equator, Malaysia experiences tropical climate all year round. That explains why we love air conditioning. We use it all day long, to keep us cool in the hot and humid climate. Some even use it throughout the night! We also run the refrigerator all year long, even when we go on holiday. And we love to decorate our house with fancy lighting. These practices naturally increase our electricity bills.
If this is you, then switching to appliances with an energy-saving feature is more practical and should be your first action. For example, you can upgrade to an air-conditioner that features a DC-inverter that keeps the compressor on during operation. This helps to significantly reduce the power loss from the air-conditioner compressor cycling on and off.
Similarly, you can switch your fluorescent lights to light-emitting-diode (LED) lights. It is highly energy-efficient and converts 85% of electricity into light. Fluorescent lights, on the other hand, convert only 25%-35% of electricity into light. The remaining energy is wasted as heat.
The next time you shop for electrical appliances, check out its Energy Efficiency Label. Issued by Malaysia’s Energy Commission, it has a star rating system that shows the energy efficiency and the estimated energy consumption. A higher star rating means it uses lesser electricity to produce a similar output compared to other models of the same capacity. Try to choose appliances with at least a three-star rating.
Where You Place Your Solar Panels Also Matters
The amount of sunlight that your rooftop receives depends on the location of your house relative to the equator. The more the sun shines on your solar panels, the more energy they will generate. In general, houses nearer to the equator with a rooftop that is oriented under the sun path receive more direct sunlight, as the sun path does not deviate much throughout the year.
This is not the case for countries with four seasons, as the sun path is different in the summer and winter. During summer, the Earth’s axis tilts toward the Sun, making the sun travels a high path through the sky. Whereas during winter, the Earth’s axis tilts away from the sun, resulting in a low sun path.
According to this research by University Malaysia Perlis (UniMAP), the ideal orientation for the solar panels in Malaysia is to face South, with a 20º incline towards the East. You will hit the jackpot if your rooftop is facing this way. The further it deviates from this orientation, the lower the efficiency of the panels.
Can My Roof Take The Weight Of The Solar Panels?
Your rooftop needs to be able to support the weight of the solar panels. A solar panel can weigh between 15 kg and 30 kg, depending on the model. Households with higher electricity bills would generally want to install more solar panels. More solar panels would generate more electricity, which will then offset the high usage of electricity. However, that would mean a heavier overall weight. Thus, it is crucial to assess the durability of your rooftop prior to installation.
Traditionally, wood is the preferred material for the rooftop in Malaysia. It is ecologically friendly and works well with other structures, such as steel beams. However, wooden rooftop is susceptible to termites and other insects. The heavy rainfall that we experience all year round also makes it vulnerable to water damage. Nowadays, clay tiles and metal roofing are the norm. Unlike wood, these material are resistant to water, fire and insect damage. Clay tiles are easier to replace, although it is heavier. On the other hand, metal roofing is lightweight but need to be set up by a skilled installer so that it will perform to its optimal standards.
In terms of durability, clay tiles have the lowest score. It is much easier to chip and crack, unlike wood and metal roofings. Wooden roof, although better, is still prone to cracking and warping. Metal roofing seems to be the best choice as its high durability makes it able to support the added weight of the panels. However, this type of roofing may not be visually pleasing to the eye.
Form Over Function: My Roof Still Needs To Look Good
One may assume that the public does not really care how well the solar panels blend into the rooftop of their homes. After all, how the panels appear on the rooftop should not matter, as long as it can generate electricity, right?
Interestingly, most solar panel installation consultants would tell you that homeowners consider the aesthetic value as a high priority. Of course, reducing the electricity bill is the primary criteria for selecting a suitable system. However, the aesthetics value comes at a close second.
Solar panels mounted on the rooftops are noticeable even from afar. It may even affect the resale value of the house! Hence, choosing a system that offers the best in terms of functionality and style is crucial.
The colour and style of a solar panel are generally influenced by three factors. A combination of these three factors produces solar panels with different styles.
a) Photovoltaic Cells
Photovoltaic cells refer to the silicon wafers that convert sunlight into electricity. Different manufacturing methods yield wafers of different colours. Polycrystalline cells are dark blue, while monocrystalline cells are black. Opt between these two colours to suit your taste.
Most solar panels use aluminium frames, often described as “silver” frame. Recently, black-framed solar panels were introduced to the market as a way to make the panel slightly less jarring in contrast with the roof. It quickly became popular as it provides a sleek appearance.
The photovoltaic cells are put on top of a backsheet, then wrapped within the solar module. The backsheet protects the photovoltaic cells and internal components from external stresses. It is either white or black in colour.
It Pays To Consult An Expert In Situation Like These
If you still feel unsure that you can make your assessment, do not worry. You can get professional advice from experienced and certified consultants. When searching for a reliable consultant, pick a company with a good track record. Make sure that they are able to provide solutions that cater to your specific needs.
ERS Energy has been a major player in the solar industry for over a decade. They completed their first solar power system installation in 2009. Within six years, they have completed solar power installations for over 600 homes. As of 2018, they are the biggest large-scale solar builder in Malaysia.
ERS Energy offers a wide range of services, from energy services using solar power systems to EV chargers. They cater to residential, commercial and large-scale systems. ERS Energy can recommend the most suitable system for your home based on your monthly electricity bills.
Visit their website for more information on the services they provide. You may contact their sales representative at +603 2201 1468 or +603 7972 1468. You can also send them a message through WhatsApp at +6012 244 8266.
Moving Towards Renewable Energy
By 2030, Malaysia aims to achieve 20% electricity generation from renewable energy sources, with solar power being the major contributor. Several financing schemes, such as the Green Technology Financing Scheme and the Green Investment Tax Incentives have been launched to make the dream a reality.
To-date, Malaysians are more aware of how they can directly tap into and enjoy the benefits of using solar energy. With decreasing solar panel price, the notion of every household using solar panels to generate electricity may not be a pipe dream after all.
Apart from solar panels, electric vehicles (EV) is starting to gain popularity in Malaysia. It is still very much in its initial stages of growth, but slowly gaining attention from consumers. In the next article, we will delve into the emerging “Electric Lifestyle” and how Malaysians can adopt it.