The Ultimate Guide to Home Solar Installation
More and more people have turned to home solar installation—in fact, as of 2018, there were 62.4 gigawatts (GW) of installed solar in the United States alone. Whether looking to reduce your carbon footprint or your electricity bill, installing a home solar panel system can prove worth the energy. Looking for a quick and easy guide to home solar installation, ways to decrease your energy use, and everything in between? You’re in luck. We’re here with a handy guide and FAQ to answer your burning questions.
Home Solar Installation: The Way Solar Power Works
What’s in a name? A lot when it comes to solar power. Naturally, solar power uses sunlight by changing it into electricity. Some solar power uses photovoltaics, or PV, to directly convert energy. Others, however, use concentrated solar power, which converts sunlight indirectly. The systems that combine PV and concentrated solar power are called hybrid systems.
The home solar installation incorporates PV solar panels to generate electricity by converting sunlight with the photovoltaic effect. During this chemical effect, material that has been exposed to light creates some voltage and electric current. Homes that install solar power can potentially decrease their electric bills by generating and storing their own electricity.
Many people ask, “what is clean energy?” Well, solar happens to be one of the most popular clean energy sources, as it does not cause any emissions.
Cut Your Spending
There’s no one-size-fits-all way to curb electric bills, but there are a variety of options out there for shrewd homeowners looking to lower their monthly bills. Those looking to make easy changes may use the cold laundry when doing laundry, switch out lightbulbs, and unplug electronics when they’re not being used.
These and other fixes can decrease electric bills, but may not result in the big savings people are looking for. Although home solar installation isn’t for everyone, it can have big advantages for homeowners in the long-run. The average lifetime savings in California from solar power is $73,714, after repayment. On average, the system is fully paid off in just over five years. For Californians who undergo home solar installation, cash flow approximately doubles every five years.
Not only can solar power potentially cover 100% of daily energy usage, in many states costs of installation can be partially offset by incentives and tax credits.
Solar Incentives, Tax Credits, and More!
If you are serious about home solar installation, you should check whether your state offers any tax credits or solar incentives to people choosing to go solar. For example, in California, there are a number of options. Two of the most notable are:
- Net metering
- Federal solar tax credit
With net metering, Californians are able to essentially sell additional energy back to the utility company. In 1996, the California Public Utilities Commission started requiring utility companies to offer one-to-one net metering, meaning that if you personally send any unit of energy back into the grid, you receive its full retail value.
The federal solar tax credit in California is commonly known as the solar Investment Tax Credit or ITC. With the ITC, 26% of the total cost of qualified solar installations is credited back to the homeowner. For a system that costs $20,000, the tax credit back would be $5,200. That’s not chump change.
Of course, even with net metering and tax credits, many cannot afford home solar installation outright. These people may be interested to learn about loan programs and payment plans. Although some companies offer these themselves, your state may offer its own, as well. For example, people living in California can use a Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) loan program. With this program, the loan is attached to the property where the home solar installation is completed. Therefore, if you use this loan and then move, you aren’t stuck paying off the loan on the system.
Additionally, your state may offer tax exemptions to those who install solar power residentially. Homeowners in California have 100% of the assessed value of their solar systems exempted from property taxes because of the Property Tax Exclusion for Solar Energy Systems.
No two states are alike, of course. It’s important to do your own research on the options available both federally and locally according to your state, city, or county. It is a good idea to check whether the manufacturer or installer of your residential solar system allows customers to pay in installments or provides any bulk discounts or loans.
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Size Does Matter
Each home is different, so it’s crucial to evaluate your house before you plan a home solar installation. Solar panels use direct and scattered light from the sun to generate electricity. In general, homes in the US have plenty of exposure to ensure success. On an individual basis, however, results may vary.
You can use several calculators available online to get a good idea of your home’s solar potential. The angle of the roof, exposure to the sun, proximity to tree cover, and the age of your roof can all play a role in whether the home solar installation is a good option for you and your energy needs. When in doubt, turn to trusted contractors who can evaluate your home and determine its solar potential.
They are trained to recognize whether a roof can sustain solar panels if the roof is in good enough condition to last the entirety of the system’s life, and what the appropriate size is for your home’s system. Although the average number of panels needed in the US is 16, this figure can vary. Keep a record of your annual energy use and mention any planned changes during your consultation, as well.
Find a Solar Installation Company You Trust
Although some people choose to personally complete their home solar installation, almost everyone can benefit from speaking with a professional to assess the options available. It is crucial to make sure the installer you speak with is qualified. They should be certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners, and come recommended by friends, family, neighbors, and online reviews alike.
When you meet with any company, ask:
- Do you know local permits and interconnection processes?
- Can you provide references?
- Are you properly certified?
- What is the system’s warranty?
- Are there any pending or active judgments against your company?
Respectable companies should also list the maximum generating capacity for their systems and readily provide estimates of how much energy the system will produce monthly or annually. With this figure, it is easy to compare against your current utility bills and see whether the home solar installation will cover your energy use.
Unsure of whether the home solar installation is right for you and your family? Look no further. We’ve compiled an easy, comprehensible list of some of the most-asked questions out there. Check it out:
Home Solar Installation Frequently Asked Questions
Can I Install My Own Solar Panels?
Yes! Many people choose to install their home solar systems themselves. There are a number of things you can DIY to save money as well: mounting and installation, sizing, picking components, etc. Help from professionals often yields the best results, however.
How Many Solar Panels Are Needed to Power a House?
The number of panels needed to power homes can vary based on location and size. 16 panels are typically recommended for houses of about 1,500 square feet. This quantity of solar panels should generate enough electricity to completely cover approximately $100 worth of electric bills monthly.
What Does It Cost to Put Solar Panels on Your House?
As of 2020, the average cost of solar panels per watt in the United States is between $3.18 and $3.37, according to various sources. Average residential solar power systems operate at about 6kW, which means the cost before any tax credits would land around $19,000.
How Do I Convert My House to Solar Power?
Whether you install your home solar panels yourself or leave it to a professional, it is important to do your research. Design your system according to your energy needs, buy the necessary equipment, build panel mounts, connect your panels to racking equipment, and establish a solar inverter.
Can a House Run on Solar Power Alone?
The short answer is yes! Given the right conditions and proper sizing, a home solar panel system can meet all of a household’s electricity needs. Some people are even able to earn money through net metering because their solar panels produce excess energy.
What Can a 300-Watt Solar Panel Run?
A 300-watt solar panel exposed fully to sunshine for one hour generates 300 watt-hours of electricity. The electricity produced daily can vary due to weather and sun exposure. Review how many kilowatt-hours your household uses monthly to get an idea of how these panels will work for your family.
What Are the Two Main Disadvantages to Solar Energy?
Though there can be many advantages to home solar installation, there are a couple of disadvantages, namely high initial cost, and unreliable output. Installation costs may reach almost $25,000 before tax credits. Likewise, electricity output can vary based on location and weather.
Is It Worth Installing Solar Panels?
For many people, yes. Those who can afford initial costs live in areas with high energy rates, and high solar ratings can benefit greatly from installing solar panels. With tax breaks in place, many homeowners may want to switch to solar panels to lower their carbon footprints and their bills.
Do You Really Save Money With Solar Panels?
After the initial costs of installation, many people save thousands over their system’s lifetime. In California, the average lifetime savings for homes with solar power is nearly $74,000. It is important to weigh the pros and cons of switching to solar power, however, as systems can be pricey.
Can I Get Solar Panels for Free?
Many companies offer “free solar panels,” which can be quite deceptive. Although companies may install solar panels for customers for no cost initially, they charge for the electricity these panels produce. These agreements may ultimately save you money, but you should consider all options before deciding.
Why Is Solar Energy Bad?
Solar power still produces some pollution, though it is significantly less than fossil fuels produce. Transportation, installation, and inappropriate disposal of solar panel systems can contribute to pollution, as well. Additionally, some panel-manufacturing techniques are connected to greenhouse gas emissions.
Why Is My Electric Bill So High With Solar Panels?
A common misconception with solar power is that bills drop off entirely. Though bills may be reduced significantly in ideal conditions, homes located in overcast areas may not see as dramatic savings, as any excess electricity from sunny days is stored to offset usage on cloudy days.
Do Solar Panels Work at Night?
Because solar power converts sunshine into electricity, these panels do not produce energy during the night. However, those who live in sunny areas may be able to run their electricity at nighttime with excess electricity that is produced during sun exposure.
How Long Do Solar Panels Last?
Typically, solar panel warranties guarantee 25 years of function from systems. Some panels experience slightly reduced efficiency before the warranty expires. That being said, most warranties guarantee at least 80% of their rated efficiency at the end of 25 years, which means panels may lose 0.5-1% efficiency yearly.
Can Solar Panels Eliminate Electric Bills?
Depending on your home’s current energy use, location, and exposure to sunshine, solar panels may be able to reduce or completely eliminate your electric bill. Many areas of the US have a high energy rate and can benefit from implementing a home solar panel system.
Can I Run an Air Conditioner With Solar Panels?
Solar panels can power basically every home appliance. That being said, on average, air conditioners use approximately 1.3kW of power. The average solar panel system ranges between 2kW and 4kW. If you power your air conditioner with solar power, you will likely use most of your solar energy.
Can You Run a Refrigerator on Solar Panels?
Refrigerators use about 3.5 kilowatts per hour. Because of this high energy use, solar panels may not be a viable option for powering a fridge. However, with the right setup and number of panels, running a refrigerator on solar power is possible.
How Much Do Solar Batteries Cost?
Prices for solar batteries can vary significantly, from $5,000 to over $7,000. When measured per kilowatt-hour, prices range from $400 to $750. These estimations do not include installation costs or the price of any additional equipment needed, either.
How Many Solar Batteries Do I Need?
During the night, many homes can be effectively powered by only one or two batteries in conjunction with a solar PV setup. If there is no source for renewable energy, however, three or more batteries may be necessary to provide power during the full 24 hours of each day.
What’s the Catch With Solar Panels?
Solar panels are not a solution for every home and every family. Although they can be efficient and can offset electricity costs, it is important to make sure the conditions are right to benefit from a home solar panel system as much as possible.
Do Solar Farms Give off Radiation?
Solar panels emit low amounts of EMF radiation, which is likely not dangerous. However, solar power systems using photovoltaics can create dirty energy that may ultimately expose homes and other buildings running on solar power to EMF radiation.
Are Solar Panels Bad for Your Roof?
Solar panels are not bad for your roof, but you may not want to install solar panels if your roof isn’t able to last at least 25 more years. Additionally, you may want to seek out a licensed and qualified professional to ensure your installation goes off without a hitch.
How Long Will It Take for Solar Panels to Pay for Themselves?
In the United States, homeowners who install home solar panels break even on the costs in under eight years on average. Depending on location and weather conditions, some people even see their home solar system completely paid off within five years.
Though solar panels can have a large initial cost, they can save you money and help save the environment over time. Still not sure? Try out a few calculators available online and reach out to consultants to see if your household is ready to harness the power of the sun.