Is Installing Solar Panels on your Home a Good Idea?

If you’re like most Americans, you get your electric bill in the mail every month and you pay it. If your rate increases, it’s just something you have to deal with. If the utility decides to build a fossil-fuel power plant that pollutes air, water, and land in your area, you supply them with the funds to do so whether you like it or not. However, you can choose to escape this system.

A rapidly growing number of Americans have freed themselves from the traditional energy structure by installing solar panels on their roof. They pay less for electricity, having a smaller environmental footprint, and feel in control of their energy future. And with current pricing at an all-time low, incentives from the government peaking, and utility rates increasing, solar energy has never been so accessible to so many people.

Are you one of them?

Is your roof good for solar?

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not the cost that most often excludes homeowners from installing solar panels. It’s their roofs. If you have a good roof for solar, there will more often than not be a financing option that will fit your needs.

In order to install a solar energy system that will produce ample electricity to provide a solid payback, one must have a suitable roof.

Signs of a good solar roof:

  • A roof that is free of obstructions
  • A roof that is not shaded by trees, flagpoles, streetlights, buildings, or other obstructions
  • A roof that is south-facing
  • A roof that is relatively new and good shape. If you’re not planning to replace your roof for another 10-15 years, then you’re in good shape
  • A roof that is big enough to handle enough panels to significantly reduce your power bill
  • For the average home, a roof space of roughly 400-700 Sq. Ft. will do

If the above description sounds like your roof, it’s likely that you’re a great candidate for a solar panel installation. If not, it’s still worth having a solar expert take a look at your roof to be sure. All solar firms will evaluate your roof for free and with no commitment, including Global Energy.

How much do you pay for electricity?

The more that you pay for electricity, the better your payback from a solar panel system will be. The equation is quite simple:

Your electric rate x solar panel production = your savings

For each kWh of electricity that your solar panels produce, one kWh of your energy consumption will be deducted from your electricity bill. This is called “net-metering.” The more that you pay for each kWh of consumption, the more you save.

Electric rates vary with location, usage, time of year, and electric supplier. A good guide to figuring out how to read your electric bill can be found here. Electric rates are typically higher in the Northeastern US, however rates can vary widely and it’s wise to consult an expert to evaluate out your exact electric rate and usage pattern. All solar firms will do this for you for free as well, including Global Energy.

How much electricity do you use?

Many state solar programs have upper limits on the amount of solar power you can install at your home, compared to how much electricity you use. Typically, you will not be allowed to install a solar energy system that will produce more than 105% of your usage. However, because solar systems are modular (they are made up of smaller parts), staying under this figure is not usually an issue.

In addition, many solar installers have lower limits on the system sizes that they are willing to install. These range widely depending on the installer, but typically the smallest install a solar company is willing to do is around 3-5kW. Systems this size would produce 3,000kWh to 6,000kWh per year, substantially lower than the national average usage per home of 10,837kWh/year.

The more of your electric bill that you’d like to eliminate, the more roof space you’re going to need to cover in solar panels. A good rule of thumb is that for every 8 square feet of roof space covered in panels, you will produce roughly 100kWh/year in solar energy.

What financial incentives are available in your area?

This is perhaps the toughest question to answer when deciding to install solar panels on your home. The good news is that if you positively answered the first three questions, this won’t be as much of a concern.

I would strongly advise not doing this on your own and letting an expert in your area determine this. Incentives exist on the federal, state, and local level and are constantly changing and can be hard to understand. Most online databases for solar energy incentives, like DSIRE, can be out of date.

Are you ready to be a solar ambassador?

Ok, fine, this one isn’t really a requirement for installing solar panels. However, your newly found energy independence will come with the admiration and inquiry of neighbors, family, and friends. Most people who install solar panels on their home are so excited about their savings that they become ambassadors for the technology, trying to convince friends and family to take advantage of the opportunity to save money and help the environment.

Stories of customers standing outside, just watching their electric meter run backwards are not uncommon in the industry. It may sound silly, but once you’ve experienced it yourself it’s hard not to smile and stare as you produce clean electricity and save money.

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