Do you dream of powering your home with sunlight? Solar panels have come a long way from the models constructed in the early 1970s. Today’s panels are more efficient and cost-effective. They can reduce your home’s reliance on fossil fuels while lowering monthly energy bill.
Solar panels take a significant initial investment. Under the right set of circumstances, going solar is an amazing decision. However, if you’re not planning to stay in your home for several decades, going solar may not be financially worth it. Here are ten things to consider before you install solar panels on your property.
1. Your Energy Goals
Solar panels can provide you with a source of free, steady energy for years. However, every household has different energy needs. Before you start looking at solar panels, think about your energy goals. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself.
- How much energy do you want or need to create with solar?
- Do you want to rely entirely on solar?
- How many buildings do you want to power with solar?
- Do you want to store or sell excess energy?
Once you’re clear on your goals for solar, you’ll be better equipped to consider your options. Some people use solar panels to supplement a traditional energy source, while others want to go completely off-grid. If reduced cost is one of your goals, you may want to start with a home energy audit.
2. Quality of Your Roof
Most homeowners put solar panels on their roofs. Before considering solar, think about how soon you’ll need to replace this part of your home. You may want to invest in a new roof before going all-in with solar panels. It’s a lot of trouble and expense to take panels back down for home repairs.
You should also consider the size, orientation, and slope of your roof. This is something that a solar panel professional can help you with. South-facing roofs have the best sun exposure, and most homes need 20-24 solar panels for 100% power. If your roof is too small for this many panels, you could consider putting them on the ground instead.
3. Your Home’s Location
Location is also a significant factor in whether solar is a good investment for you. Solar energy makes more sense in states with lots of sunshine and a few cloudy days. However, solar panels can be effective in some temperate climates as well. You should also consider how your HOA (homeowners association) will respond if you install solar panels.
Research your area to determine whether other homeowners use solar panels and learn about their experience. You can also calculate how much sunshine a day you would need to power your home. Most experts agree that your home can run on four peak hours of sunshine a day.
4. Type of Panels
There are three main panel types: monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film. Most people use monocrystalline panels because they’re affordable and efficient. However, each kind of panel comes with unique advantages and disadvantages.
It’s easy to get hung up on which solar panel company is best. However, there are many good companies to choose from. As long as you go with a high-quality panel, you’ll get a high return on your investment. Inexpensive panels aren’t a good choice because they won’t last as long.
5. Kind of Inverter
Solar panel systems aren’t just made of panels. They also include electrical inverters that turn collected DC solar energy into usable AC current for your home. Most people have a single inverter that connects to all their panels. However, this inverter is the weak link in your solar panel system.
If a panel stops working, you have other panels to rely on. However, a broken inverter means you won’t have access to any usable energy until it’s fixed. Some solar panel professionals recommend installing microinverters to avoid this problem. These smaller inverters are matched to each panel, so you’re less likely to lose power.
6. Options for Companies
Like with any other home improvement project, you should talk to several contractors before choosing a company to work with. Find out about each company’s experience and ask for references. You want to work with qualified and experienced professionals for an investment of this size.
Look for companies that are certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP). You should also ask about warranties, timelines, permits, and total costs. Always get every agreement in writing and talk to several companies so you can make an informed decision.
7. Your Financial Goals
The biggest hurdle for most homeowners is the initial high cost of solar. Before moving forward on this project, it’s absolutely essential that you crunch the numbers and determine how solar panels fit into your financial goals. Talking to different contractors will give you starting figures for how much this home upgrade will cost.
The total cost of solar panels will vary depending on your location, the panels you choose, and the company you work with. Solar panels can range from $5,000 to $40,000, but the average cost for households in the U.S. is $12,000 with federal support. This price includes the panels, electrical components, and cost of labor.
8. Ongoing Costs
Solar panels are designed to be low-maintenance and low-cost after installation. You may have to clean your panels occasionally, and there are extreme instances where they may need to be repaired. For example, a tree branch could fall on a panel and crack it.
However, most solar panels will last 20-30 years with little to no care. Most panel arrays also come with a warranty that’s good for 15-25 years, almost as long as the panels will last. Your solar panels shouldn’t have high ongoing costs unless your inverter goes down or a natural disaster hits.
9. Payment Plan
Solar panel professionals agree that the best time to invest in solar is always right now. That’s because every month you wait on installing panels, you’re paying an energy company. Every hundred dollars you spend is a hundred dollars you could have paid into a long-term sustainable energy source, instead of treating solar panels like an item you can own, look at them as an investment that will give back.
If you’re concerned about the initial cost, look into federal tax credits and state rebates. Some cities also offer financial support for residents who want to go solar. Some homeowners rent solar panels, but this option doesn’t add long-term value to your home. Consider all your options and create a payment plan that works for you.
10. Calculate It Out
Once you’ve gathered all this information, it’s time to do a final review and analysis. Go back over your energy goals and think about which panels and company will best help you reach them. Consider your finances and any federal or state support available to you.
Carefully calculate all the numbers to ensure you can afford this investment. You should also determine how soon solar panels would start to save you money in energy costs – this takes around eight years on average. Thoroughly reviewing the numbers will give you the confidence to take the next step and invest in solar.
Ready, Set, Solar
Once you’ve done the work, it’s time to get moving. Contact the company of your choice and set a date and time for your solar panel installation. Although solar panels have a high initial cost, they can save you money in the long run.
Solar panels are an investment that can give back for years. Instead of sending money to the electric company each month, you can pay yourself and invest in a more sustainable and environmentally friendly future. Use these ten steps to make your dream of solar energy an exciting reality.