Plants have been utilizing the sun’s power for photosynthesis since their beginning. NASA has been using solar-powered satellites since the early 1960s. Over the past 10 years, residential homes have finally started taking true advantage of solar power as well. It’s taken a while, but due to advancing technology and government assistance, this form of green energy is starting to become affordable. This can make the green efficiency that is solar power a more everyday home staple.
“You can save and, even eventually, earn money back on what you put into installing a solar power system.”
There are several perks to using solar power energy. Some of these top benefits are that:
- The energy from the sun is limitless. Unlike fossil fuels, it will not run out. (As long as the sun is shining, so is the connected light in your home!)
- Solar power is green, clean energy, so there is little to no carbon footprint.
- Savings. You can save and, even eventually, earn money back on what you put into installing a solar power system.
How do solar panels work?
- They primarily operate through photovoltaic cells, which contain semiconductors and at least one electric field. When the solar panels are installed, the photovoltaic cells inside are ready to get to work pronto.
- Photons from the striking sunlight hit the photovoltaic cells and activate the electrons within the panel.
- The proceeding reaction converts the sunlight into electricity.
- These panels are connected to the grid, so this power is then channeled into the grid.
- The home pulls its power from the grid and uses it to supply your home with power. Then, your bills are the only things that have to be adjusted to the net use.
“solar panels sound too good to be true. Can these panels save everyone money?”
This exponentially growing field is generating more and more advances everyday. One example? There are projects currently being worked on with the goal of removing the grid, a removal which would have great advantages. Let’s say the power goes out on your block. With a connected grid, your power shuts off when everyone else’s does. However, with your own individual connectivity, the solar power is kept stored and always at hand for your home. Grid shuts off? Your neighbors have been plunged into darkness? Your bedroom lights stay on!
And as it’s gotten easier and easier, solar panels are almost starting to sound too good to be true. Can these panels save everyone money? Are there other factors that determine if solar power is the right decision for your home?
“As you have to mow the grass of your lawn, there is upkeep involved with a solar power system.”
That’s why we’re here, to break down the potential pros and cons of solar power for your home. Here are some of the most important factors to consider:
What should I know about Solar Panel Maintenance?
As you have to mow the grass of your lawn, there is upkeep involved with a solar power system. However, maintenance of solar panels is surprisingly infrequent. Dust and bird droppings can lower the effectiveness of solar power absorption, but not enough that the panels need weekly cleaning.
Most experts advise cleaning the panels just a few times a year, although they recommend more if you have construction in the area. This is because construction can add a fair amount of excess dust and debris.
It’s good to note that even if you’re solar panels are way up on the roof, most systems can be cleaned via a hose sprayed from the ground. “The more time a solar panel spends basking in sunlight, the more power it can create and the more efficient it is.”
Environmental Considerations of Solar Power Installation:
The immediate area surrounding your home is an important factor. Large trees and tall buildings can cast shade over panels at prime sunlight hours. (Prime hours for capturing solar energy are usually 10 am to 2 pm.) The more time a solar panel spends basking in sunlight, the more power it can create and the more efficient it is.
If you have trees on your property, you may to have consider keeping them trimmed or cutting them down to maximize solar power potential.
The direction of the exposed areas hosting the panels is also critical. If you’re in the Northern hemisphere, you’ll usually want to have them facing true south. This is because it is where your panels will most likely get the maximum amount of sunlight, and therefore, generate the most electricity for your home.
If your roof faces east and west, there are multiple options. For example, you can compensate with using more panels or you can consider putting the panels somewhere other than your roof, such as mounting them on the ground.
How does the amount of sunlight my house receives affect my decision to install solar power?
Naturally, the sun is the most important factor in capturing solar power. This makes insolation a critical component. What is insolation? It is a measure of how much solar radiation energy a spot on any surface area is receiving at a given time.
How much solar radiation energy your home can receive comes down to your location. Some places are sunnier than others. The low-latitude climates of Southern California, Texas, and Florida receive more sunlight than higher latitude areas like Washington and Maine. This doesn’t mean solar power isn’t an option in these cloudier places, it just means a home that requires a set amount of electricity per month will need less solar panels for it in sunny Los Angeles compared to the number of panels it would need in rainy Seattle.
The latitude and angle that the sunlight strikes your home is what will essentially determine your insolation and ultimately the practicality of relying on solar panels. At a smaller scale, because the sun will have a different take on your home in different seasons, positioning your panels one way will be more beneficial in summer than winter, which ultimately comes down to the physics for your specific location.
However the panels are oriented, the main consideration would be to make sure light time is maximized at all times of year. This is where the solar angle calculator comes into play to determine the sun’s angle and amount of power that can be produced for your home during each month of the year. Utilizing this, you can maximize the amount of sunlight capture on a month-to-month basis. Make sure to discuss this with the solar panel company installing your panels.
Will my entire house be covered in photovoltaic panels? Solar Panel Coverage:
How much of your home will be lined with solar panels? The amount of coverage is closely tied into insolation, the factor described just above in #3.
Start by determining how much electricity your home uses in a given year. It varies, of course, but the average home in America uses approximately 900 kWh each month. For your own general estimate, you can review your monthly electric bill and multiply the monthly average amount by 12, the number of months in a year. One you know about how much energy you need annually, you can better determine the level of solar panel coverage needed.
As calculating electricity usage can get pretty technical and detailed, we recommend calling an expert for assistance. He or she can make sure that you’re looking to get the proper amount of solar power you need.“(With solar panels) because you will using the energy of the sun, which shines freely, you won’t be paying high gas and electric bills.”
How much does a solar panel power system cost?
Now, to the most important factor to many: how much money will it take to get a solar power energy system? A lot less than it used to! In the 1960s, when NASA was first utilizing solar panels on a grand scale, it cost about $300 per watt. That dollar amount is now down to a shockingly low $7 to $10 per watt! Let’s see what this translates into for your own home’s cost.
The average price of installing a solar power system is between $20,000 and $75,000. However, it is important to note that many states offers thousands of dollars in rebates and tax credits. For example, if you a buy a $50,000 system in New Jersey, the state will give back $12,500 and the federal government rebates $11,000. This takes off over $20,000, making the system only $26,500.
Another example is California there is the California Solar Initiative. If you purchase your utilities from one of three major companies (PG&E, Southern California Edison or San Diego Gas & Electric) and have ground or roof space that can see sunlight during peak hours for majority of the year, your home will actually qualify for cash back. The process starts with an energy efficiency audit and, after a solar installer has helped handle the CSI application and put a solar panel system in your home, you can submit the Incentive Claim Form.
To see solar rebate programs specific to your area, simply visit the Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy (DSIRE).
And, remember, because you will using the energy of the sun, which shines freely, you won’t be paying high gas and electric bills. “…like a suit or car, a solar panel system can also be leased.”
Solar Panels: Lease vs. Buy?
Even with all the rebates, it’s very understandable that the costs of purchasing an entire system may be a touch high for a lot of folks at the moment. However, like a suit or car, a solar panel system can also be leased.
Besides the lesser cost up front, there are other benefits of leasing, like if you don’t pay enough taxes to seriously benefit from the tax credits. Also, if you prefer not to have the responsibilities of maintaining the system, leasing is a great choice. When you lease a solar panel system, the leasing company owns and maintains the system. These leases aren’t short term either; they average at 20 year terms so will be with you for a while to come!
Hopefully this overview has clarified and informed on some questions and concerns you may have had about solar power. Please use the resources offered on this website for your solar power and green energy needs; that’s what they’re there for! We especially invite you to check out our ever-growing directory for experts near you who are dedicated and highly trained to help with your solar power needs. Best of luck and cheers to possibility of harnessing the power of the sun in your own home soon!
Check out our articles about:
- solar power for homes
- new solar technologies (history of technology)
- provider by zip code search (solar company directory)
- lease vs buy (benefits comparison)
- manufacturers & installers
- savings calculators