What You Should Know About Ground Mounted Solar Panels
In the last decade, the solar industry has seen an annual growth rate of 48%. This is largely due to the incentive programs that are offered on a federal and state level. These programs have helped decrease the costs of solar panels, as well as increase the demand for solar products. One product in particular that has grown in popularity is ground-mounted solar panels.
In this guide, we will discuss ground mount residential solar systems and everything you should know before setting up your solar system.
What Are Ground Mounted Solar Panels?
It’s simple, a ground-mounted solar panel system is solar panels that are mounted on the ground. As long as they are placed a few inches apart and a few feet off the ground, your solar system will generate the energy needed to run your home.
When you think of solar systems, most people would think of panels being mounted on a rooftop. However, this is not always the best possible scenario. Ground mounts allow homeowners to easily mount their panels without having to access their roof. This is great for those who have a steep roof. Ground-mounted panels are as efficient and cost-effective as those mounted on roofs.
What Type Of Mounting System Is Best For Me?
If you compare a rooftop system with ground-mounted solar panels, the energy produced may be about the same, but that depends on how your roof is designed. Here are some differences between these two systems:
A rooftop mounted system is by far the most common type. However, not everyone’s home is well suited for rooftop-mounted solar panels. Solar panels will need to face either the south or the west to gain access to direct sunlight. Therefore, if your roof is not positioned correctly, you would need to look at ground mounts as an alternative.
The advantage of mounting your solar panels on the roof means that you will not have to worry about space as much. They will be up and out of your way, and you will not have to worry about mowing around them.
Flat ground will allow you to position your panels in any direction that you want. This will allow you to maximize sun exposure, which is not possible with a slanted roof. This is the biggest advantage of a ground system, as you can manipulate the way your panels receive sunlight. As a result, they will gain more sunlight and allow you to generate more power.
Comparing the Two
While both have their advantages and disadvantages, ground mounts allow you more flexibility. You will be able to access them with ease, as well as angle them in any way needed to access more sunlight. Plus, you will not have to worry about obstructions, such as skylights and chimneys. A lot of individuals who choose solar as a DIY project will choose ground mounts because of the ease of access and flexibility.
On the flip side, mounting panels on the ground can be slightly more pricey, and solar power installation may take more time. You have more room to install panels on the ground but the cost of mounts is higher than the small brackets used on roof mounts. If you are looking to produce the most energy possible, you will want to choose ground-mounted solar panels. Think of it this way, if you have a solar system that will produce more energy, the extra mounting cost will pay off in no time.
Evaluating Your Home For Ground Mounted Solar Panels
If you have a yard then you will be able to mount solar panels on the ground. When choosing ground mounts, you should consider the amount of room you have. If your yard is small, then you may be unable to mount a large number of panels. You also have to remember that if you are using your yard for mounting solar panels, then you will not have room for a lawn, flower beds and other landscaping. If landscaping is important to you and you are tight on space, you may consider mounting your panels on the roof.
How Many Solar Panels Do I Need
Many factors must be taken into consideration to determine the number of panels that are needed. You will first have to evaluate your monthly power bills and see how much energy your home uses. From there, look at the wattage of the solar panels that you wish to install. The higher the wattage the fewer panels you will need. Just understand that the higher wattage panels will be more pricey.
From there, you will need to determine the amount of direct sunlight that your panels will receive each day. This will vary depending on where you live. Places such as California and Arizona will receive much more sunlight than eastern states. Once all of these things are determined it is time to do the math.
Let’s say you are using 300-watt panels that will receive 5 hours of direct sunlight. You will be able to produce 1.5-kilowatt-hours of electricity maximum, which is 1,500 watts. On average, a home will use 900-kilowatt hours of electricity each month. With each solar panel producing 1.5-kilowatt-hours of electricity, you would theoretically be able to accommodate your electricity bill with 20 solar panels.
Types of Solar Panel Ground Mounts
Before you can decide on mounting your solar panels on the ground, you must consider the various types of mounts that are available to you.
Standard Ground Mount
A standard ground mount is the one that everyone thinks of when they envision mounting solar panels on the ground. Several poles are placed in the ground and a racking system will be placed on top to hold the panels in place. These systems can be custom made to suit your needs.
Installing this type of mounting system is much of the same engineering that goes into putting a fence together. You would begin by digging several holes that are a few feet deep. Next, you would set the poles in place and fill them with concrete. This will create a strong foundation for your mounting system.
Standard ground mounting systems cause the panels to be locked into a “fixed” position. The tilt angle and direction of the panels will be permanent. There are many benefits to this type of mounting. It is easy to install and is very cost-effective. However, the downside is that you will not be able to adjust your panels, and it is not a good solution for areas that receive a lot of snow.
If you do not wish to pour concrete to hold in your poles there are alternative foundation options, such as ballasted, driven piers, and helical piles. These types of foundations are typically used for commercial or utility installations. They also may be good alternatives for those who are dealing with soil that is hard and rocky, which will not easily allow you to drill into it.
- Ballasted Solar System – A standard ground mount with the addition of concrete footing that sits just above the ground.
- Driven Piers – These mounts look like huge poles, which will be pile-driven deep into the ground with specialized equipment.
- Helical Piles – These are sometimes referred to as earth screws, as they have the appearance of giant screws. These types of mounts will also require special equipment for installation. It is similar to the equipment used for driven piers.
If you are looking to utilize one of these special foundations it is best to work with a professional engineer to ensure mounts are correctly placed. They are not ideal solutions for those using a solar system as a DIY project.
Pole Mount Solar Panels
Pole mounts are very popular if you are wanting to mount a few solar panels. They are the best solution if you are dealing with a unique situation. These types of mounts are built in a similar way as the standard ground mounts. However, rather than digging several holes, you would only need to dig one large hole to house a large pole.
The solar panels will be mounted on the top of the pole and have a tilt and swivel feature. This will give you the ability to adjust your panels manually. In addition, you would have the option to set up an automatic tracker to help improve the solar output. The main thing with a pole mount system that needs to be considered is the cost per watt.
For residential solar systems, it is cheaper and more efficient to have an array of solar panels. Pole mounts will only allow for a small array to be set up. The benefit of a pole mount is you gain the ability to adjust your panels, and the panels will be high off the ground. If you live in snowy climates and want to do a ground mount, then the pole mount could be a better option for you.
Just be aware that pole mounts tend to be one of the most expensive options when it comes to mounting solar panels. It will require a large amount of concrete and a huge pole to be set. This is not a good option for those looking to do their own solar installation.
Top Rated Ground Mounted Solar Panels
There are hundreds of different solar panel companies on the market. However, not all panels are ideal for ground mounting. Here are some brands that you may consider when choosing solar panels to mount on the ground.
- SunPower – One of the best quality panels on the market, and cost-efficient. It has a superior reputation when compared to other brands and an efficient panel conversion rate of 22.8%.
- LG – LG panels have a high conversion rate, meaning you get the most out of your solar power system.
- Canadian Solar & Hanwha Q Cell – Tends to be the best value solar panel options among those trying to create a solar system on a budget.
- Panasonic – One of the best quality panels on the market for the cost.
- Hyundai Heavy Industries – Some of the best lab testing in the industry, which allows them to create more efficient solar panels.
When Is Ground Mounted Solar Panels The Best Option?
Ground mount solar systems are the best option when you are dealing with a roof that is not ideal. If your roof has a chimney or skylight that will make installation difficult, you may want to opt for a ground mount for your solar panels. In addition, if you want to be able to adjust your panels or access them easily, then a ground mount is also the best solution. You will also want to consider that ground mounts may provide you with more energy for your home. It can allow you to have a larger array of panels depending on the size of your property.
Pros of a Ground Mounted Solar Panels
- Panel Array – Ground mounts allow you to have a larger array of panels. Perfect if you have a larger space to mount panels.
- Generate More Power – Ground mounts tend to offer more sunlight consumption which translates into more power for your home. You will save more money on your electric bills which will weigh out the issue of ground mounting being more expensive.
- Direct Sunlight – These types of mounts allow you more flexibility and you can mount panels without issues of shading.
- Direction – You have to mount panels facing the east or south, and this may be a problem for those whose roof is not pointing in the right direction. You get to choose which direction supplies the most sun when choosing to go with ground mounts.
- Access – You will be able to easily access your panels to clean them off or fix any issues that may arise.
- Electrical Components – You will not need to meet as many fire/electrical codes when mounting on the ground. Roof mounts will call for things such as rapid shutdown devices. Therefore, there is potential to save on products and installation.
- Aesthetics – Solar panels will not disrupt the aesthetics of your home. They will be located on the property and will not directly disturb the way your home looks.
Cons of a Ground Mounted Solar Panels
- Harder Installation – Ground mounts will take longer to install and may cause you to hire a contractor to do the work for you. Depending on the type of mount you are installing, cement footers may need to be poured.
- Pricier – Ground mounts are higher in cost because of the footers being poured, ground wire needed, as well as other components. If you place your array closer to your electric panel, then this will help decrease the cost.
- Space – If you do not own a lot of property ground mounting might not be the best solution for you. It will take up a lot of space and leave you with little room for a lawn, garden or other landscaping.
- Vandalism – Your panels are more vulnerable to vandalism when mounted on the ground.
Shopping Tips for your Solar System
Here are some things to keep in mind when shopping around for your solar system
- Get Multiple Quotes – It is a fact that those who take the time to get multiple quotes on their solar system will save 10% or more on their entire system. It pays to check with multiple companies and see what each has to offer you! In addition, this will help you from paying inflated prices. On average, homeowners who received 3 or more quotes were able to save between $5000 to $10,000.
- Big Name Installers – Just because a company is highly rated doesn’t mean they offer the best prices or customer service. It will pay you to check with smaller installers to see what their prices are. Chances are, they can save you thousands of dollars on the cost of installing your solar system. A recent report proved that larger installers were charging anywhere between $2,000 to $5,000 more for installation.
- Equipment Options – Be sure you get a full list of what you will need for your solar system. Many places will offer package deals, but you will want a break down in cost. This will let you see what you are paying for each item and determine if it is cheaper to get these items from another solar vendor. Never just take a quote without seeing the line item cost. Some people will hide higher prices on specific items within a quote.
Ground-mounted solar panels are a great option for those looking to have an extremely efficient system, want the ease of access, wish to manually or automatically move the panels in the sun’s direction, and have loads of property to offer a large array. There are pros and cons to ground mounting, but in the long run, this type of mounting is ideal for homeowners who want to invest in solar power. Take the time to understand the benefits and you will be able to make the best-informed decision on what type of mounts to use for your solar panels.
Ground Mounted Panels FAQs
Will the consumption of energy affect what solar panel systems are best for me?
If your home requires a lot of energy to run, then a ground mount system is probably best for you. Especially if you have a lot of open space on your property. Ground mounting will allow you to have a larger solar system in place than a rooftop system. You will be able to generate more energy with ground-mounted panels.
Where are ground-mounted solar panels installed?
You can choose to install your ground-mounted panels anywhere you like on your property. Just keep in mind that they need to have access to direct sunlight.
Does ground-mounted solar have to be off-grid?
Ground mount systems can be utilized by customers who are looking for grid-tie and off-grid systems. The type of solar system you have will not jeopardize how you mount your panels.
What are some things I should consider before installing ground-mounted solar?
You want to keep in mind that ground mounting is more complicated and can be pricier. You will want to know the type of soil that you are dealing with, as this will also indicate if ground mounting is a good option for you. In addition, you need to check out the codes within your state, to make sure you strictly adhere to them. If you receive heavy winds and lots of snow, then ground mounting may not be the best option for you. Certain soil types may also cause you to utilize a special mounting design.
Do I have to get my property line surveyed before installing ground-mounted solar?
To play it safe, you should always know your property line before installing a ground-mounted solar system. If you do not, you risk the chance of installing a system on the property that is not yours. Property line issues are common with ground-mounted solar panels.
Therefore, take the time to ensure your system is being installed on your property.
Are ground-mounted solar panels safe & legal in my neighborhood?
You should always look into your state’s regulations when it comes to solar panel installation. Comply with any codes and regulations upfront, so you do not risk the chance of having to take down your system due to non-compliance. As long as you have the right permits and have purchased material that meets industry standards, then your ground-mounted system is both safe and legal.
Is ground-mounted solar cheaper?
No, ground mounting tends to be more expensive. However, ground mounts can supply more energy to your panels, so this could offset the cost of ground mounting.
Do you need to ground solar panels?
When installing a solar system, it is extremely important to ground your solar panels and equipment. This will send any stray electrical currents away from your system in the event of lightning or short circuits.
Can you ground mount flexible solar panels?
Yes, you can mount flexible panels on the ground or roof. There are some mounting systems specifically designed for flexible solar panels.
Do portable solar panels offer ground mounts?
There are tons of different portable solar panels offered on the market. Some of these come with ground mounting options. However, these are a portable kit, so mount options will not be permanent.