Things to Consider Before You Go Solar

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Photo courtesy of Modernize Solar

On paper, installing solar panels on your home seems like a no-brainer. After all, who wouldn’t want to substantially decrease their electric bill or perhaps even eliminate it altogether? While that may sound like a winning idea, there are certain variables and considerations to take into account before investing in a power source that can be just as expensive as it is friendly to the environment. Here are some things to think about before you install a solar power system on your home.

Placement

If your roof has lots of cover either from surrounding buildings or trees, then installing a solar system probably wouldn’t be very beneficial to you. Some sources say to have your panels oriented southwest, while others say to have them facing north. In actuality your panels will get the most sunlight and product the most energy if oriented true south, although you can pivot up to 45 degrees east or west of true south without significantly affecting performance. You’ll also want to consider local and regional weather conditions as well as the angle of your roof.

Cost

Of all the ways you can make your home more green and energy efficient, installing a solar energy system, also called a solar photovoltaic or PV power system, is the most costly despite prices having decreased in recent years. Wholesalers estimate that a mid-sized PV array that generates 815 kWh per month will cost just over $10,000, but that could fluctuate depending on where you live and installation cost. Others have put the average the average a little higher at $16,000, but either way solar power is a considerable investment.

Return on Investment

Converting to solar power is a great way to be more green and reduce the strain we put on our environment, but another common reason for installing a PV system is to reduce or eliminate that pesky electricity bill. It’s uncommon to be completely self-sufficient and not have to use any electricity from the public power grid, but it’s possible. Most people strive to reduce their annual energy cost by 90%, and that is certainly achievable. Additionally, the government currently offers to pay 30% of your installation costs in the form of a tax rebate, which lowers the cost of converting to solar energy significantly. Some states have additional rebates and incentives as well.

Future Expansion

As you’re planning and designing your solar power system, you’ll want to keep in mind how easy it would be to expand your system if you would want or need to do so in the future. It’s easy to forget that converting to solar power doesn’t just mean attaching glass panels to your roof; in addition to those photovoltaic cells, or PV modules, you’ll also need to install the electricity inverter unit that turns the solar energy into electricity that powers your home and a battery cell unit to store extra power. There are newer solar PV panels now that have micro-inverters built into each cell, which makes adding additional panels much easier. You’ll also want to consider whether you want to be off-grid or tied to the power grid.

Longevity

Although solar panels will last a long time, they do need to be replaced from time to time. According to estimates, a solar PV module loses roughly half a percent of its conversion efficiency each year. Generally solar panels won’t need to be replaced more frequently than once every thirty years, but it’s important to be aware that the time will eventually come when they need to be replaced. Hosing your solar panels off a few times each summer and making sure to keep leaves off them in the fall are ways to extend the life of your solar PV array.

go solar, solar system For more solar information and ideas visit Modernize.com. Also, here is a list of solar incentives by state from DSIRE Solar.

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Author:Tim Smith

Tim is energy efficiency and home improvement contractor. He enjoys DIY projects and spending time with his family.

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