From cost to constraints: a guide to installing solar panels in your home in the UAE

Doing so will help reduce your electricity bills and is a service to the environment

FILE PHOTO: Solar installers from Baker Electric place solar panels on the roof of a residential home in Scripps Ranch, San Diego, California, U.S. October 14, 2016.  Picture taken October 14, 2016.      REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo
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Have you ever thought about channelling solar energy, but don't know how to go about it? Installing solar panels on your rooftop is not only good for the environment, but doing so also enables you to take advantage of the abundant sunlight we receive in the UAE and to reduce electricity bills, especially when summer hits.

Currently, the return on investment for a residential villa is between five and eight years, which makes this a viable investment for homeowners and long-term residents. Sandhya Prakash, from ­Beacon Energy Solutions, a turnkey energy management and solar provider, talks us through the process for residential villas in Dubai.

Where do I begin?

Before you approach a solar provider, gather your electricity bills, rooftop drawings and think about your budget. Electricity bills will decide if you are a heavy user (Dh5,000 to Dh6,000 per month), medium user (Dh3,000 to Dh4,000 per month) or light user (Dh1,200 to Dh1,500 per month).

Can I aim for a zero electricity bill?

Yes. Depending on your consumption (heavy, medium or light user), you can produce between 40 per cent and 50 per cent (for medium users) of your consumption through solar panels. If you are a light user, you can easily achieve a zero bill.

How much will this cost me?

Depending on your preference, the installation can cost between Dh4,000 and Dh6,000 for the 1 KW Solar Rooftop Plant for electricity production from solar panels. You can expect to cover this within a five- to eight-year period.

How long does the process take?

The installation process takes about 12 to 17 weeks, taking into account the assessment, design, no objection certification and inspections from Dewa, and Dubai Municipality approvals.

Do I need to go to a solar provider?

You will need to approach an approved solar provider on Dewa's list to be able to gain all the necessary certificates to install solar panels and connect to the current electricity grid.

I don’t currently have a budget for this. Is there something else I can start with?

You can start with installing solar-powered lights as part of your outdoor landscaping. What’s more, this can be a DIY project if you prefer. Alternatively, choose to run your entire hot water requirement on solar thermal technologies.

What are my constraints?

For residential villas, space is the biggest constraint. Shading analysis may eliminate more space than you think you have available.

I live in an apartment. What can I do?

If your balcony receives enough sunlight, you can start by installing solar-powered lights there. Speak to your neighbours and perhaps together you can convince your facilities management team to adopt more climate-responsive solutions in your building for waste disposal, composting, rooftop gardens, retrofitting your building with a centralised solar powered water heating system and more.

Karishma Asarpota is an urban planner and researcher