There are several factors that come into consideration when planning a home solar energy system. One of the first factors involves determining whether the available amount of solar resources is enough to meet your energy generation needs (i.e. if you have enough clear access to sunlight for extended periods of time, both during the day and throughout the year). You also want to determine the size of your future system, and whether you have the surface area to sustain it.
The natural questions then follow: “Is the investment worth it? Will the system generate enough energy to offset the costs in a timely manner?” Finally, you have to take into account the legal situation regarding solar panels in your area. This means knowing how to deal with your local home owners association, and whether you need any local permits.
Evaluating The Site
Most of the US is prime land for solar electric systems because there is an abundance of both scattered and direct sunlight. However, certain areas will generate more electricity than others, depending on the amount of solar energy that can reach a system. That being said, the best area to install a solar system is found across the Southwest.
When determining the viability of a system from an economic standpoint, you can contact a system supplier and calculate the costs and returns that you can expect. You will also want to measure the geographic orientation and tilt of the solar panels since these two factors come into play in terms of performance.
Calculating the Costs and Returns
The costs of a solar system fall into two categories: capital costs and operating costs. Capital costs refer to the upfront design and installation costs while operating costs refer to the costs of maintaining and operating a system over its lifetime. You have several factors that determine these costs: the components used, the size of the system, whether the system is grid-connected or off-grid and the amount of sunlight available at the system’s location.
In order to determine whether a system is a viable option for your home, you also have to determine your electric consumption and how that will affect the economics of the situation. To do this, you can start by looking at your utility bills over the past year, calculate the consumption, and account for consumption trends if possible.
This information can help you establish better energy trends, determine whether you need to make your home more energy efficient by making sure your home is optimally insulated (this is one of the first steps recommended if you want to achieve a home that relies fully on solar power), and determine the correct size of your solar system.
The next step is calculating the output of your solar system, and the easiest way to do this is to ask a contractor about the amount of electricity that the system will produce in a year. It’s also a good idea to compare the purchase price of utility-generated electricity with the cost per Watt you’d get from a PV system. In some areas, there is a chance that solar-generated electricity will end up costing you more in the long run.
When talking about costs and returns, you cannot leave out subsidies, rebates and other incentives. These write-offs can make going solar worth it, even if your cost per Watt is higher than it would be from the utility. There is also the option of selling energy back to your utility company, with a big enough system.
Does a Solar System Make Sense For You?
Going solar has many benefits, but it is also important to take adequate steps towards ensuring a maximum ROI. You can do this independently if you’d like, or you could ask your contractor/manufacturer to help you with the estimations and guide you through the necessary steps in order to take full advantage of a solar system.