Going solar is an investment, but it pays for itself over time and provides many energy and environmental benefits. Before deciding to go solar, you should weigh the costs and benefits of solar panels and determine if it makes sense for your home and lifestyle.
Here are some main steps to help you find out if going solar is right for you.
Determine Your Energy Usage Needs
According to recent reports, more than two million homes use solar panels as their primary energy source throughout the US. The best way to determine how much energy your home needs is simply by looking at your monthly electricity bills over the last 12 months.
Solar installers typically offer you several options for solar panel systems, each one sized based on your home’s energy needs. If you’re unsure which system size is best for your home, ask your installer for recommendations.
Do You Have a Sunny Yard?
The amount of sun your property receives each day is the number one deciding factor in how much electricity you can generate with solar panels and how big an array will be required to power your homes.
If the roof of your home gets a lot of sun rays – especially if it faces south-going solar can be a very wise choice.
Look Into Incentives and Rebates Before You Buy
Many states offer generous incentives, such as tax breaks or rebate programs, to reduce the cost of going solar by thousands of dollars.
In California, for example, residents are eligible for a rebate that covers up to 60 percent of their system costs. And buyers in states like Colorado and New Jersey can save even more. Look into what incentives and rebates that you can gain once you install solar panels in your space to make the most of your decision to switch. If you live in a state that offers incentives or rebates to go solar, be sure your contractor is certified by the city or state.
Consider the Installation Cost
If you’re considering going solar, one of the best times to hire a contractor is now. Solar panel installation costs vary depending on project size and complexity, but you can expect to pay between $10,000 and $25,000 for a typical 5-kW system (the average size. for most homes).
Understand How Much Power You’ll Get from Solar
Most installers offer a guaranteed amount of power output for your system. In other words, they guarantee that their system will produce a certain amount of power or provide a certain amount of energy.
If your system doesn’t hit the guaranteed goal, the installer should offer you reimbursement for the difference.
As a general rule of thumb, a system will produce about 30 percent less each year than the amount advertised. If your system is supposed to produce 5,000 kWh of power per year, you can expect about 4,100 kWh.
Who Should Go Solar and Who Shouldn’t?
If your home is located in an area that doesn’t receive a lot of sun, or if the roof has too many shade trees nearby, going solar probably won’t be an excellent fit for your home.
You should also think about the costs and benefits of going solar if you have a time-of-use power plan when electricity rates change depending on the time of day you use it. For example, many utility companies charge less during overnight hours or on weekends so that people can charge their electric cars at cheaper rates.
Going solar will increase the amount of power you use during peak hours. When rates are higher, it may not be worth the added cost. However, if your bills are high enough to warrant a more significant system size, then installing solar panels makes sense no matter what time of day you use electricity from the grid.
In addition, some people opt not to install solar because some neighborhoods can’t accommodate large systems. It is known as a shading issue and usually occurs when trees grow or homes are built close together.
If you’re worried about shade from your neighbor’s roof, be sure to check with your installer before you sign the paperwork on your new system.
Lastly, if you have a large family and use a lot of power during peak times, going solar may not be the best financial decision for you. If your system is sized correctly and produces enough power to offset your usage during peak hours, you’ll likely save money on your utility bills. But if it doesn’t produce enough power, you’re better off saving up for a more extensive system.