Everything You Need To Know About
Adding Solar Panels At Home
Solar power for homes and businesses is the way of the future. A bold statement, but one that is backed by Federal and most state governments. A Solar array offers many benefits, but even just ten years ago, there were few homes operating under solar power. Thanks to incentives by some states and the federal government, more homeowners are switching to solar.
If you are one of the homeowners on the fence about solar, then this blog is for you. Here, we answer some of the hard questions and show you why solar is good. Just to balance it out, we also show you why solar might not work for your home. Let’s get started.
Why go Solar?
Helps the Environment
Why not? Solar is good for the environment because it reduces the need to produce electricity, which is made by burning coal and natural gas. Being interested in helping the environment is not the only reason to go solar.
A plus for solar is that it helps to reduce the United State’s dependence on foreign energy supplies. We burn 33 percent of our coal production and 33 percent of our natural gas production to produce electricity. It takes zero greenhouse fuels to produce solar energy. Going solar is not only good for the earth, our health, but it is good for our government too.
Reduces Your Carbon Footprint
If you are interested in the environment than going solar helps reduce your household’s carbon footprint by a ton. In fact, it can help reduce your household’s carbon dioxide yearly emission by an average of 17.59 tons. That’s a lot of tons.
To give you an idea of what that means, consider that an acre of 50-year-old oak trees absorbs about 15 tons of carbon dioxide per year.
To add to the bounty that you get when you install solar panels is the savings of cold, hard cash that you save on energy costs. If you are an average household then your annual energy costs are around $2,000. How much of that can you chip away at with solar?
Well, the honest truth is a lot of it. The deal is that you would have to work with a solar engineer to look at your actual energy usage and then match the kilowatt rating of a solar array to those costs. In some states, there are solar incentives which will pay you a percentage based on how much excess energy your system produces.
Interested? Get a Free Estimate
Interested? Get a Free Estimate
How Does Solar Energy Work?
For homes or businesses, the process is actually really simple. The solar cells, which are called photovoltaic cells or PV for short,
collect energy. These are akin to batteries. They store energy and transfer it to your solar inverter. Invert means to turn
something upside down or inside out. So what a solar inverter does is it changes incoming solar energy into usable electricity. It
inverts energy from one form to another. That electricity is then stored in batteries so that you home can draw energy from its
reserve even when the sun is not shining. The process is simple but there are a lot of providers pushing a lot of systems and they
are not all speaking clearly. At MySolarPowerPlan.com, we understand the struggle, but we are here to help you.
How to Choose a Solar Installer
A solar array is a big purchase. Sure, there are programs that can get solar on your roof for zero down, but still, the cost is there. You want to follow the protocol for any capital purchase or investment. Here’s what we recommend.
1. Start with the company
Check to see that they are licensed, bonded, adequately insured, and that they have a positive and high rating with groups like the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
2. Check Customer Reviews
Has a long list of customer reviews online and references from past customers. The idea here is that the company has been in business for a while and is stable. It is really difficult to get help if the company is no longer in business.
3. Offers a good warranty
Remember that a solar array is not something that you want to have to replace twice. With all capital expenses or investments, the warranty counts. Most solar arrays and solar panels are designed to last 20 plus years. Make sure that the warranty matches at least half of the life expectancy of the system.
4. Cleaning and Maintenance
Do they include cleaning and maintenance of the system? Solar panels only work well when they can actually collect sunlight. They require periodic cleaning and routine maintenance. Who pays for this?
5. Made of Quality Materials
The system and solar panels are USA made. Not all products for solar are made here in the United States. You want to make sure that you are buying quality and not knock-off products.
6. Offers Multiple Systems
The company should offer more than one type of solar array. Not every home has the same needs.
How much Should You Pay?
Since solar took off, the price for a good home solar array system has dropped. There are also federal incentives that help to lower the rate even further. We cannot give you an exact price because each home is different, but we can say that on the high end of things you should expect to pay around $4 per watt. The actual cost varies from area to area, and the range is $3-$4 per watt installed.
If your home solar array is 6 kw it should produce 6000 watts and that would cost you $24,000 minus any federal and state discounts. That’s not a bad investment considering that the average household spends $2,000 for energy per year and
these systems should last 20 years. That breaks down to about $1,200 a year and potentially a savings of $800 per year. In 2016, the federal tax credit for solar investment was 30 percent. That changes each year, and tax credits are not guaranteed. If your initial cost is $24,000 then your federal tax credit is $7,200 making your out of pocket expenses somewhere in the neighborhood of $17,000.
On top of that, there could be state incentives too. Check with your state and local building departments. If you are a smart shopper, then consider the benefit of today’s low-interest loans. It is rumored that the Federal Reserve is adjusting interest rates upwards in the coming year so now is a good time to do the math.
Pitfalls for Solar
There are always a few pitfalls and there are the three we think matter the most.
Home Owner’s Insurance
Check with your home owner’s insurance provider to see if solar panels will raise your rates. It typically does but not by much. Still, it’s good to know upfront what you are facing.
It is also good to check with your local tax authority. Adding a $10-$20K home solar array raises the value of your home. Home value is how most cities or counties figure property tax.
Cost of the Permit
Every city has their hand out to collect building permit fees and when you install a home solar array, they will want a piece of that pie too. Sometimes the installer will cover that or include it in the lending figures. If you can pay for that upfront then you save on the interest to repay that back to the bank. You might save a few bucks.
Is your House a Fit?
Not every house is a good fit for solar. The solar engineer will examine your home and its exposure to sunlight. The prime time for good solar energy is from 10 am until around 2 pm. That is the time of day when the sun is highest in the sky. If you have a really good exposure you might get 12 hours of solar collection during the longest days. Remember that as the sun’s angle drops you receive less light. So, sunrise is almost at zero light while noon is the strongest.
Do you have shading issues? Trees are a big concern, but so are neighboring buildings. A tall building will delay sun collection until past 10 am and may shut down collection before 2 pm.
Latitude makes an impact too. Where your home sits on the map is a key consideration. Higher latitudes receive less sunlight than the middle latitudes. In short, you get more sun at the equator than you do in NYC.
How Long Does it Take
The actual installation takes a day or two. The time to get a permit takes anywhere from a week to two months. The total project time is installation plus permitting. So a week to two months is pretty typical.
How to Determine the Size of the Home
Solar Array for your home
This is not a cut and dry approach, but you have to consider two things. Latitude or (isolation) and energy usage. Latitude provides the quality of incoming solar radiation and usage determines how much energy you need. If you want to estimate the size of the system you will need, simply take your energy usage per day and multiply it by 25 percent (.25.) That will tell you roughly how many kilowatts your system needs to be to cover your energy needs. Also, be sure to verify this with your solar engineer.