Planning for Solar? Follow These Steps
Photo: © chinasong - iStockPhoto
Like most homeowners, you probably don't want to spend any more on your home's energy needs than you have to. Solar energy is a popular choice for many reasons, not the least of which are its affordability and efficiency. In fact, depending on where you live, if you finance a new solar energy system, your loan payment may be less than your current utility bill. If you're designing a new home or retrofitting an existing home and planning for solar to be your main energy source, work with your contractor and builder to integrate the system into your home's design.
Is Solar Right for You?
Residential solar panel installations are on the rise in the United States—according to the US Department of Energy, more than one million American homes have had solar panels installed as of May 2016. However, utilizing solar energy for your home only makes financial sense if the panels can generate electricity for less than what you are paying your utility company. That means that while living in a sunny location is key, your state's utility costs are also a factor.
Before you schedule a solar installation assessment, answer these basic questions to help you determine if solar is a good fit for your home:
• Does your roof have unobstructed, clear access to sunlight for most of every day?
• Is there appropriate roof space or an area large enough to mount the system?
• Is the investment worth it?
• Can you meet requirements for local permits?
Selecting the Right System
Evaluate your energy consumption patterns before selecting your solar system components, so you can choose the appropriate photovocaic (PV) system size for your home, and help reduce your overall electrical use. Begin by performing a load analysis, which should include:
• Recognizing your current consumption trends
• Examining your utility bills for the past year
• Calculating your energy consumption
A Grid-Connected or Stand-Alone System?
A grid-connected PV system uses power from your utility's grid when it does not produce enough energy. When your system produces excess electricity, your utility provider is required to buy it. With net metering, your provider pays retail price for excess power that you send back through the grid.
Choose a stand-alone PV system if:
• You live in a remote location and it would be more cost-effective.
• You are planning to install a hybrid electric system that also uses a small wind electric system.
• You have minimal power needs.
Before Purchasing a System, Research City or County Permit Requirements.
These will include an electrical permit, building permit, or both. Most PV providers will roll the permit prices into the complete system price.
For more information about solar installation in your community, contact the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners to locate a certified solar installation professional.