When designing home solar energy systems, professional photovoltaic contractors typically choose fixed-tilt mounting racks. Sun trackers, which rotate the solar panels as the sun moves across the sky, are rarely used.
Why is this? Wouldn’t your rooftop PV system create more electricity with a tracking system? Possibly, but solar energy production isn’t all that matters.
How Sun Trackers Work
Fixed-tilt mounting racks hold solar panels in place at a specific angle. Tracking systems, on the other hand, keep the panels aligned with the sun’s position. Some sun trackers feature a motor or actuator drive with sensors and software that control the movement, while others are passive, relying on solar heat and gravity to shift the solar panels.
Two types of sun trackers are available. Single-axis tracking systems follow the path of the sun from east to west. Dual-axis trackers do that as well, but they have another pivot point that changes the tilt of the solar panels in order to harness the maximum amount of sunlight.
The Cost of Sun Trackers
Industry experts say that sun tracking systems can boost home solar energy production by 20 to 40 percent. So why aren’t trackers a part of most rooftop PV systems?
Price is a major factor. Sun trackers are quite a bit more costly than fixed-tilt mounting racks – in some cases, the difference amounts to thousands of dollars. Plus, because tracker installation comes with added difficulties, it results in higher labor charges for professional PV system installation.
Sun tracking mounts were more common decades ago, back when solar panels cost an arm and a leg. Now that prices have plunged, trackers aren’t usually worth the additional expense.
Sun Tracker Maintenance
Trackers don’t just come with higher prices and greater installation costs – they also increase the maintenance requirements for a rooftop PV system.
Unlike fixed-tilt racks, sun tracking mounts have moving parts. As such, they require regular professional maintenance to ensure continuous operation. And even with proper care, the mechanisms can fail. When that occurs, repairing or replacing the damaged components can be rather expensive.
Designing Your Home Solar Energy System
Chances are, your professional photovoltaic contractor will advise against using sun tracking mounts for your rooftop PV system. The step up in solar energy production trackers provide isn’t likely to offset their increased costs and maintenance requirements.
Professional contractors do recommend tracking systems for some solar energy installations. Those are almost always industrial and commercial projects where space for solar panels is limited, but it’s always a good idea to compare your options.
The expert team at Nationwide Solar can help you do exactly that – and you can rely on us to design an efficient, cost-effective home solar energy system that meets your energy needs. For a free, no-obligation consultation anywhere in Washington, Oregon, Utah or Idaho, contact us today.