Whether I buy a brand new home or a historic home, one of the first modifications I want to make is adding solar panels. It seems like a pretty great idea, right? Throwing a few solar panels on the roof can power your entire home. As a result, I can save a ton of money on my energy bills, reduce my dependency on the electrical grid, and save the environment – all at the same time! Sounds great!
Well, not exactly. The major drawback of a home solar system is the price tag. You can spend thousands, even tens of thousands, of dollars installing a system that you might not even get full use of without proper planning and research beforehand. So before jumping on the solar panel bandwagon, consider a few of the points below first.
Do you get enough sunlight to run a home-sustaining solar system?
It seems like a stupid question, but it really pays to do your homework. Before you do anything, research online or speak with a solar panel expert to see if the region you live in gets enough sunlight. You don’t want to spend a whole bunch of money on solar panels only to discover that they won’t work to their full potential due to lack of sunlight. At that point, you simply wasted a lot of money instead of saving it.
Try Wunderground.com’s tool to estimate the amount of sunlight in your area and the potential benefits of solar power. Simply type in your address or GPS location and a graph will appear telling you approximately how much energy you might harvest annually. Furthermore, if you have an idea of what solar system you want to use and how big you might go, it can estimate how much you might save on electricity each year. It’s a pretty great tool to get you started if solar energy is new territory for you.
How much money do you want to spend?
You’ll want to create a firm budget so you don’t go overboard. If you decide you only want to spend $2,500 on your project, think about how much the panels, materials, and installation will cost. If you need to hire a professional to install your system, shop around for estimates to get the best deal that meets your budget. Do you also want to have a battery system to store extra electricity for days when the sun doesn’t shine? If you do, that will cost you more money. Add-ons like that can sneak up on you.
So before you spend a single dollar, consider what you want from your system and customize it to meet those needs. You might discover that you’ll need to spend more money than you initially thought for what you want. From there you can just plan to spend more or pare down your system.
How much energy do you want your system to put out?
Do you want to power your entire house, or do you just want to cut down on how much power you use from the electrical grid? If you want to power your entire home, look at your electricity usage during the summer and winter. Calculate your average electricity usage for each of these seasons. Those numbers can help you estimate how many solar panels you’ll need.
A simpler option is to start small and supplement your energy usage with solar panels. You can track the efficiency of your system and see if a larger solar panel system is right for you. You can always build on what you have later. Remember that it’s harder to cut back once you’ve invested a significant amount of money and time – not to mention bolted numerous panels to your roof.
Do you have enough space for your solar panel system?
Once you figure out how much electricity you want to reap from your system and how many panels you’ll need to meet that, you’ll need to find the space to install them. Let’s say you calculate that you need a 300-foot by 300-foot solar system to power your home, but you don’t have the accommodations for something that big. Or maybe a tree or building shades part of the place you wanted to use. No big deal, just go back and revisit your plans and goals.
Thinking about all these aspects can help you find the perfect solar panel system for your home without wasting time or money. Don’t be afraid to adjust here and there; making changes on paper is much easier than trying to adjust panels that are bolted and wired into your home. Who knows, you might even discover that a solar panel system isn’t the right sustainable energy system for your home. Maybe another renewable energy resource might work better.
Would you consider installing a solar panel system for your home? Why or why not? Share your opinions with our other readers!