Solar energy is becoming more popular. But is it the right choice for your home?
It’s exciting to think of joining the ranks of eco-conscious individuals who care about renewable energy. However, the expensive price tag of installing a solar system scares a lot of homeowners away from the opportunity.
Thankfully, there are tax incentives and rebate programs that can cut down on the cost of going green. The last hurdle to overcome is determining whether or not your home’s a good candidate for solar.
Read on to discover the truth about whether or not solar panel installation is right for you.
Table of Contents
The Age of Solar Energy Sources
There’s no denying it; we’re in the age of solar energy. Other than the United States, Italy, Germany, and Japan are jumping on the solar bandwagon.
Homes with rooftop solar panels are producing tons of electricity. The rise in popularity definitely has something to do with the financial incentives.
Along with cutting down on electricity costs, there are panel installation discounts. A lot of homeowners are able to deduct as much as 30% of the total cost of installation from their taxable income. Sometimes the incentives can cut the cost of installation down as much as 40% or more!
There are also special rebate programs. When you add the tax incentives and rebate opportunities together, the savings are hefty.
Where Do You Live?
There are 2 words that will help determine whether or not you’re a good candidate for solar energy; climate and location. Your geographical location is going to determine exactly how much sunlight you have available to create electricity.
Your location is also going to determine how much electricity you need throughout the day. For instance, do you live somewhere where it gets really cold? Then you’re going to need a lot of electricity to heat your home.
The reverse is true if you live somewhere with a tropical climate. The more extreme the weather conditions, the more electricity you’ll need to keep your home comfortable.
Your location will also affect the conversion efficiency of your overall solar system. For instance, let’s say you live in Central Pennsylvania. You’ll probably receive somewhere around 2 kilowatts of radiation for each square mile during the month of January. January, of course, is when you’ll need extra electricity that will heat your home.
Conversely, somewhere like Phoenix, Arizona, will receive around 5 to 6 kilowatts of radiation per square meter during intensely hot months like August. These, of course, are times when the air conditioners are needed to run all day and night.
When you think about the conversion system efficiency of your solar system, you have to consider the effect that extreme heat can have on it as well. Extreme temperatures can diminish the panel’s ability to work efficiently, which can really impact the amount of radiation received during certain seasons.
Solar Irradiance Data
There are a lot of new words to learn as you get into the world of solar. But don’t worry, even the big words can be broken down into simple explanations. Take, for instance, the term solar irradiance data.
If you want to find out how much electricity a solar panel on your home can generate, you’ll need to discover the solar irradiance data for your area. What does this mean exactly? It’s simply the amount of solar energy falling on one square meter within a specific location.
A square meter is 9.9 square feet. It’s the amount of space used to make the solar calculations.
The solar irradiance data is a special calculation that helps determine exactly how efficient solar panels can be. The calculation uses the numbers of sunlight combined with the intensity of the sunlight.
Don’t worry about it; you don’t have to do any math. There are solar calculating websites that have done all of the legwork for you.
Special Factors to Consider
Keep in mind that solar calculations are approximate. The exact solar irradiance of your location will be affected by different factors such as weather conditions.
Other things to consider are the angle and location of your solar panel. Plus, if there are any obstacles you’re dealing with, they can also affect your solar irradiance.
Obstacles include things like a mountain blocking sunlight from your home. Or a large building or another type of structure that’s keeping sunlight from hitting your solar panels during any time of the year.
If you want to get the most accurate idea of what you can expect from your solar system, you need to compare the maximum to the minimum amount of solar irradiance for different times throughout the here.
For instance, during a long winter storm or a cloudy day in the summer, how much solar energy would your panels be able to receive? Of course, it is going to be a lot less than the average amount of solar irradiation.
For those days, you’re going to need a backup power source to meet your energy requirements. The alternative will be installing a large enough solar system to generate electricity even through the cloudiest of days. The top solar company will be able to offer you a variety of setup options.
Sun City Energy Sources
Do you live somewhere that gets the sunniest days throughout the years? The average of sunny days matters a lot when considering solar systems.
Certain states are just plain lucky in the world of sunlight. For instance, locations like Yuma, Arizona, can expect to have 242 sunny days every single year!
Phoenix Arizona comes in with around 211 sunny days every year. Following up, Las Vegas, Nevada has a whopping 210 bright and sunny days on an annual basis.
Using a solar system to supply electricity for a home in these areas definitely makes a lot of sense. Even if you’re dealing with an obstacle that’s going to block some of the sunlight, you won’t have to worry about running out of electricity.
Locations that have 200 or more sunny days start the year will have a surplus of electricity. You’ll probably even be able to make money selling some of that electricity back to the utility companies. Of course, that’s only if you know how much energy you’re using in the first place.
Evaluate Your Energy Consumption
To fully understand the payoff of switching to a solar system to replace your current setup, you’ll need to find out your total consumption of energy. That all starts with understanding your electricity bill.
Energy is measured in British thermal units or BTUs. A BTU Equals 250 calories. It’s the amount of energy you need to raise a pound of water by 1 degree Fahrenheit.
A quadrillion BTUs is called a quad. You measure your electric power using quads because BTUs are too tiny.
Your electric use will be measured in watts. When you want to compare the cost of your utility bill to the cost of electricity your solar system produces, you’ll need to look at the cost per kilowatt.
Don’t worry; this is a lot simpler than it sounds. To make things easy on yourself, we suggest having your electricity bills in front of you from the past year.
Add up the total number of kilowatts that you used for the year. If you’re able to view your utility account online, you’ll probably be able to find a summary for the whole year. That way, you don’t have to add up each bill.
You could also request the total number of kilowatts from your utility company. Simply give them a call.
Once you have the total kilowatts for the entire year, you’ll be able to get the numbers you need. For the time being, ignore any additional charges on your utility bill and only focus on the kilowatts.
Now you can divide the total amount you paid for electricity by the total number of kilowatts used. This will let you know exactly how much you’re paying for electricity on a per kilowatt basis.
What’s Your Baseline Usage?
If you calculate the cost of your electricity per kilowatt month by month, you’re probably going to discover that the cost is higher during the months when you need to use air conditioning and heater more.
Your electricity consumption during the months when you’re not running your AC and heater are going to be your baseline usage. All it takes is a little comparison of your baseline usage to your energy consumption during the summer and winter months to see how much you are spending on heating and cooling.
Ready to take things a little further? You can divide your total annual amount of kilowatts by 365 or 366 days. This will give you a number that reveals your average daily usage. Having your average daily usage will help you decide what power needs your house has.
How to Finance Panel Installation
Let’s say you do the math, and discover that installing a solar system will be cost-effective. You’d be able to save a ton of money and still have the energy you need throughout the year. Perhaps you even live somewhere with the perfect temperature and geographic location, so you’ll be able to benefit from selling energy back to the grid.
If you want to move forward with getting a solar system, you’ll probably be able to find some type of financing to pay for the initial installation. The interest that you pay on the walls should be factored into the total cost of your system. Every dollar counts.
You also want to calculate your monthly payment when you’re creating your new household budget. Basically, you can expect your monthly electricity bill tomorrow unless it disappears. Depending on the power and efficiency of the solar system you install, you might not have to make any electricity payments at all.
Diving Into Tax Incentives and Rebates
Keep in mind that the sticker price for your solar system could go down as much as 50% when you start taking advantage of tax incentives and rebate opportunities.
There are all sorts of different rewards programs offered by local utility companies, the federal government, and state programs. When you reach out to a solar contractor, ask them for their expertise on the best tax incentives to apply for it.
You can also ask them to keep you apprised of the best rebates around. A lot of times, solar contractors will have this information available directly on their website.
What About Repairs and Maintenance?
Don’t buy solar panels that don’t come with warranties. A good warranty will last anywhere from 20 to 25 years. There are also individual components of the solar system that will come with their own warranties.
For instance, your batteries have to be replaced within a certain time frame. Usually, 5-8 years is a normal maintenance plan for replacing solar batteries.
It’s normal for the efficiency of your solar system to decrease over time. This happens as solar panels age. Aging solar panels can have deteriorating connections, making it hard for them to generate the most electricity.
In other words, if your system starts to wear out, you’ll begin to notice that you’re producing less electricity. What’s the solution?
For starters, you need to have a team of professionals install your solar panels. Proper installation is the best way to avoid premature deterioration. If you want your panels to last as long as possible, have the pros put them in place.
As long as you have a team of professionals install your panels, you should have a valid warranty. The moment you start to notice that a panel is aging or needs replacing, use your warranty. That’s what it’s there for!
Start Generating Electricity
Panel installation is expensive, but it pays off in the long run. Once you have your system fully installed, you’ll be able to maintain and manage it with very little difficulty. Before you know it, you’ll be an expert in all things solar!
Are you ready to become one of the millions of concerned individuals who understand that the world needs clean energy? Are you ready to eliminate your electricity bill altogether?
Reach out to a team of professional solar professionals, and find out if your home is the perfect candidate for installation. Then read another one of our articles.