How to decide if Solar Panels are a Good Option for Your Home
So you want to eliminate your monthly electric bills and think solar panels are the way to go. Once an exclusive club belonging to the adventurous few, solar panel installations is heating up and this once cutting-edge technology has made its way into the mainstream.
In 2016, more than 2,500 megawatts of residential photovoltaic (PV) systems were installed, the largest number of residential solar panel installations in the U.S. Moreover, this represented a 19 percent increase from the previous year, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
But solar PV installations isn’t limited to just the sunnier states of California and Texas. Despite its name, PV panels are able to draw energy from the sun even on cloudy days. Need proof? States in the north and east that are known for long winters including North Carolina, New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts are now among the top 10 states leading solar panel installations.
Condition of your roof
Since solar PV panels are usually installed on top of your roof, it is important to ensure any damages or leaks are repaired. Also, if your roof is more than 20 years old, you may want to consider replacing your roof before installing solar panels. This will avoid the cost of having the solar panels removed and reinstalled when you have your home re-roofed. If your roof is not suitable for solar panels, your installer may recommend a stand alone system. In this case the solar panels are installed on a stand that is anchored into the ground on the side of your house.
Which direction does your roof face?
Homes with roofs that face south will capture the most energy from the sun. But even if your home isn’t south-facing, your solar PV system will still operate at up to 80 percent efficiency. That is still more than enough energy to power your home. Your solar panel installer will tilt the PV panels at the optimum angle for capturing the most energy based on the precise location of your home. Just as important, however, you will want to clear away any obstructions such as tree branches that could obstruct the PVs view of the sun.
Understand your energy usage
Your most recent electric bill will tell you a lot about your household’s energy consumption including your cost per kWh. The bill may also show a history of consumption for each of the last 12 months so you will know which months your family uses the most electricity along with a monthly average. Jot down your cost per kWh and multiply it by your average monthly usage to determine your average monthly cost for electricity. For example, if your average monthly usage is 900 kWh and your rate per kWh is .185/kWh, your spending $1,998 per year on electricity (900 x .185 x 12). Your PV installer will use this data to help determine the right-size system for your home.
Amount of peak sun-hours in your location
Although most areas of the country will see 7 to 10 hours of daylight, the amount of peak sun-hours is about 3 to 5, depending on the season. Peak sun-hours are the hours of the day when the solar energy or insolation (PV) is strongest in a given location. You can use a solar insolation map or contact a professional solar panel installer to determine the number of peak sun-hours for your geographic location and position. This will help you decide if solar panels are a good option for your home.
Calculate the cost of solar panels
Since the cost of solar PV panels vary by location and type of system, it is best to contact us for a free estimate without obligation. We will provide you with a complete estimate, including all eligible rebates and incentives. Taxpayers are eligible for a 30% residential renewable energy tax credit off the cost of qualified PV systems installed before December 31, 2019. For example, your net investment cost for a $20,000 5-kW PV system would be just $14,000.
And if you’re currently spending $1,998 per year on electricity as in the earlier example, that’s $39,960 you are spending in energy costs over a 20-year period. Continuing with this example, solar panels will save you a total of $25,960 or $1,298 per year. But since energy costs are expected to rise, most homeowners will likely save even more over the life of the system. Plus, with zero down financing there is no out of pocket costs allowing you to start earning a return on your investment from day one.
As long as your solar panel investment ends up saving more on electricity than you are currently spending, it is a good option for your home.