Will Solar Work for Your Home?
The news and mailboxes are full of information on the benefits of solar power. But is it truly affordable and right for your home?
To find the answer, most homeowners first should determine whether their primary motivator in installing solar is the environment or their pocketbook.
If it’s the environment, then home solar installations may be worth pursuing. If it’s your pocketbook, given current technology and pricing, it’s unlikely you will save money with a solar installation. Your electricity bill will go down some, but it won’t disappear. And the cost of installation and maintenance can take quite a while to recoup. When you take those costs into consideration, your monthly energy expenses could actually increase.
Here’s a breakdown of some solar options to help you determine the right path for your home.
- Passive solar is a way to capture the sun’s heat directly, often through south-facing windows and dark-colored stone floors that can store heat.
- Solar water-heating systems typically have panels on a roof that collect solar energy and a pump that circulates heated water for storage in a water tank.
- Photovoltaic or PV systems also collect solar energy through a panel, but the PV panels actually convert the energy into electricity.
Many homeowners today gravitate to a PV system in which panels are installed on a roof in an array. The panels generate power, which is then channeled through an inverter that feeds electricity into the home, back to the electric grid or to a battery system where it is stored for future use.
Several factors affect how cost-effective it would be to install a solar power system for your home. Once you’ve done your research, you can use the calculator at pvwatts.nrel.gov to estimate how much production and value a PV system on your home could yield.
Another path is to find a qualified solar contractor to provide an estimate for a PV system. Look for contractors who are certified with the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners. Choose your contractor carefully—some only intend to sell a system and will provide inaccurate information about savings and benefits.
When you call contractors, they typically will ask several questions to determine if your home is a good candidate for solar. If it is, they will likely be able to provide an estimate.
To complete an estimate, the contractor will need to determine the size of the system, which will depend on several factors, including:
- Your current and anticipated electricity needs.
- Roof area, orientation and pitch (15–40 degrees is ideal).
- The amount of sunlight your home receives per year.
- The amount of shade, dust, snow and/or other factors that can block sunlight.
If your roof will need replacing in the next few years, you’ll want to do that before installing solar panels, so be sure to include that expense when calculating the overall cost. It’s also a good idea to get multiple estimates.
However, before you make a final decision, consider this question: How does the investment in a PV system compare to upgrading the energy efficiency of your home? Efficiency upgrades can sometimes yield more bang for your buck and make your home more comfortable. And using less energy is a green choice too! A home energy audit can help you figure out where to improve efficiency in your home.
Before signing a contract and installing solar panels, please contact San Patricio Electric Cooperative to verify savings claims and confirm the installation will connect safely to our system.