There are several factors you should take into consideration when planning a home solar energy system. Do 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
The US lies in the middle latitudes of Earth which means it receives more solar energy. Because of this, most of the US is prime land for solar energy systems. However, certain areas will generate more electricity than others. This depends on the amount of solar energy that can reach the system. That being said, the best area to install a solar system is found across the Southwest.
You will also want to measure the geographic orientation and tilt of the solar panels. These two factors have an effect on the performance of your solar energy system. The proper geographic orientation maximizes the amount of daily and seasonal solar energy received by the system. If you are in the northern hemisphere, you will want to face your panels true south. Most solar panels are mounted flat on a roof, but the optimal tilt angle is the angle equal to your latitude. Most roofs have a pitch less than latitude, which will affect the efficiency of the system.
Calculating the Costs of a Solar Energy System
The costs of a solar system fall into two categories: capital costs and operating costs. Capital costs refer to the upfront design and installation. Operating costs refer to the maintenance and operation of a system over its lifetime. The components, size of the system, whether it’s grid-connected or not, and the amount of sunlight available at the system’s location are all determining factors for these costs.
The next step is calculating the output of your solar energy system. The easiest way to do this is to ask a contractor how much electricity the system will produce each 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 solar energy system. In some areas, there is a chance that solar-generated electricity will end up costing you more in the long run.
Calculating the Returns of a Solar Energy System
In order to determine whether a system is a viable option for your home, you also have to determine your electric consumption. To do this, you can start by looking at your utility bills over the past year. Next, compare your demand (annual electric usage) to how much electricity your new system will produce per year (measured in kilowatt-hours). This will give you an idea of how much you could save on electricity.
This information can help you determine the correct size of your solar energy system. It can also help you know whether your home needs to be more energy efficient by being optimally insulated. This is one of the first steps recommended if you want to achieve a home that relies fully on solar power.
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 company. With a big enough system, there is also the option of selling energy back to your utility company.
Does a Solar System Make Sense For You?
Going solar has many benefits, but it’s important to take adequate steps towards ensuring a maximum return on investment. 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 energy system.