If you’re anything like me, there’s one thing you dread every month: the light bill. You cringe when it hits your mailbox and you cringe even more when you open it up to see how much you owe. And the rates just seem to keep rising year after year. Don’t you wish there was a way to lower it, without having to sacrifice your heat, your air conditioning, or running the washing machine to clean your clothes to save on energy costs? How about all the damage we’re doing to the environment? Want to reduce your carbon footprint while also saving money? Think it’s not possible? Think again. Go solar!
Benefits of Going Solar
If you’re thinking of going solar, the benefits are numerous. For you, for the environment, and for your wallet. The following are the top benefits of installing home solar panels.
* Lowering your energy bill: As a homeowner, you know the bills never end. Especially the electric bill. And no matter the season. In the spring you start turning on the air conditioning to make the house more comfortable. By July, the air conditioner never stops running. In the fall and winter, you crank up the heat to warm the house. By the time January comes around, do you ever feel like your heater has been running non-stop for months? Me too. The installation of a home solar system can drastically reduce, and even eliminate, your energy bill. Home solar systems last around 25+ years. If your energy bill averages $200/month – you could save over $60,000 for the life of the system.
* Return on investment: I know what you’re thinking. . .how much are you really saving? Do the costs outweigh the benefits? Nope. Most homeowners pay off their home solar power systems within seven years. Do the math – that’s a huge return on investment.
* Utility price hike protection: How much has your utility bill gone up since last year? Seems like a lot right? How about over the past 10 years? The difference is a hard pill to swallow. On average, most utility bills increase 3% a year. With a home solar system set up in your home – you’ve locked in your rate and don’t have to worry about the rising energy costs year over year.
* Property value increases: Have a solar system installed in your home? Congratulations, the value of your home has just increased substantially. And if you’re looking to sell your home, chances are it’ll sell more quickly than a non-solar equivalent.
What Do You Need to Consider?
Whether you’re looking into solar panels for the cost benefits or for the benefits to the environment (ideally both), there are a number of things to consider when choosing your system. Do you prefer low maintenance systems that you install and forget about? How about cost and getting multiple price quotes? How much space do you have? Are you restricted by any homeowner’s association covenants? How much power do you use? Which months do you use the most energy? Here are some of the top things you’ll need to think about when you are toying with the idea of installing solar energy systems in your home:
* What size system do you need? This largely depends on the type of system you’ll install – but if you’re thinking of getting the majority of your power from the solar panel system, the unit will likely be much bigger than one you’re only using for a percentage of your energy generation.
* How much money do you have to spend? If you have the money to purchase the system outright, go ahead and do it. But, most people don’t have that option and will need to finance. Consider how long it’ll take to pay it off and what other types of financial incentives will be available to you for installing solar energy systems in your home.
* Placement of the solar panels: To optimize energy production, panels will need to be installed in positions that will glean the most sunlight. And, depending on your home’s structure, there may be some obstacles to this. In the majority of cases, residential solar panels are installed on roofs. But, if your roof is in poor shape, angled in such a way that limits your energy production, or blocked by trees, it may make more sense for your solar panels to be placed in the ground, mounted to metal poles.
* Fixed or mobile solar arrays: Most residential owners of solar systems have fixed arrays – that do not move, to gather solar energy. These types of arrays are considerably cheaper and easier to install over their mobile counterparts. Sun tracking solar arrays move as the position of the sun’s rays move, to gather the greatest output of solar energy.
* Solar panel material: Depending on your needs and the type of solar power system you plan on installing, your solar installer will advise you on the correct and most optimal material to use. Solar panels are made of a variety of materials, including monocrystalline, crystalline silicon, polycristalline, and thin film.
Once you’ve considered these questions and determined solar is the right way to go for you, start considering the type of system that will suit you best. And when it comes to solar power, there are two main types of home systems: grid-tiered and off-grid.
Grid-Tiered Home Solar Panel Systems
The most common and the least expensive, grid-tiered home solar panel systems are still connected to a power grid, so when not producing power (e.g., overnight), you’ll pull energy from the grid instead of from the solar panels. These systems typically run without a battery, though you can purchase ones with a battery. If your system does have a battery, you’ll still be able to store unused energy for use during blackouts or when the system is not generating power. Without a battery though, you’ll draw from the grid.
Without a battery, any unused energy gets fed into the grid. Not to worry – most homeowners receive a credit for the solar energy the grid uses off of their solar panels. And you’ll only pay the difference of what you’ve used from the grid. If your credit is more than your use, you’ll owe nothing to the utility company. This type of give and take is referred to as net metering.
One important thing to keep in mind with grid-tiered systems without batteries – if the power goes out at the grid, you won’t have power at your home either. Even if the sun is shining to create energy. This is because of safety reasons. When the power goes out at the grid, the inverters which connect you to the grid are disconnected as soon as the power goes out. Once the power comes back on at the grid, you’ll have power again at your house.
Pros of Grid-Tiered Home Solar Panel Systems
* These units are generally less expensive
* Grid-tiered home solar systems are the easiest type to install
* You’re eligible for net metering and other financial incentives
* You’ll have grid power backup when you are out of energy from the solar panels
Cons of Grid-Tiered Home Solar Panel Systems
* When the power’s out at the grid, it’s out at your house too
* You might not get market value for your excess energy that’s sent to the grid and credited during net metering. If you have a battery backup, this does not come into play as your excess energy is saved to the battery
* You may incur possible utility fees for being hooked up to the grid
Off-Grid Home Solar Panel Systems
As the name states, off-grid home solar panel systems are not hooked up to the grid at all. What does this mean as a homeowner? You’ll need to carefully plan and monitor your home’s energy use to make sure you have enough power to get through the day. And, if you’re out of solar energy, you’re out of power – there is no connection to the grid to get you through the night if you run out of solar power and any excess power stored in the battery.
What’s the good news? You’re not dependent on any power company for service. That means no utility bills, no utility fees, and as long as you have stored energy, no worries if the power’s out at the grid. The overwhelming majority of home solar panel system owners are connected to the grid though. If you were to be completely off the grid, you likely live in a very rural part of your state – where utility companies cannot reach, and if they made the connections to reach you, it would cost a pretty penny.
What are the pros and cons of living completely off the grid?
Pros of Off-Grid Home Solar Panel Systems:
* You don’t have to worry about blackouts that occur at the grid
* You can power your entire home from solar energy with no reliance on utility companies
* These systems offer energy to rural homes with no easy access for utility connection
Cons of Off-Grid Home Solar Panel Systems:
* These systems are more complex, more costly, and harder to install than grid-tiered systems
* If you run out of power, you have no connection to the grid for backup
* You cannot cash in on some financial incentives and rebates with these types of systems
Now that you know the information behind home solar panel systems – what will it save you? You can begin putting money back in your pocket almost immediately from the cost benefits of installing a residential solar system. Depending on the options for financing, some systems can even be installed with no money down.
Environmentally speaking, the decreased reliance on fossil fuels greatly reduces your carbon footprint, while using clean energy. Move the push toward a greener environment, you can feel proud that you’ve single-handedly contributed to making our earth a better place and a healthier environment.
Home solar systems also benefit your community as a whole. With more reliance on home systems, your utility bills are kept in check – matching the costs of utilities to the demand of utilities. In general, installation of home systems also benefit the community by making more jobs available for solar power installers.
Whether directly or indirectly, residential solar power systems benefit you, the environment, and the community you live in. Save money while saving the planet. What could be better?