Whether you’re concerned about climate change or simply want to reduce your utility bills, making certain lifestyle changes is beneficial. Along with making efforts to conserve water, installing a solar energy system on your property could be wise. You’ll spend less on electricity each month while shielding yourself from future rate increases. Plus, you’re reducing your carbon footprint.
Incorporating home solar energy systems seems relatively straightforward initially, leaving many assuming that taking the step to go green with home solar is both simple and wise. However, it’s important to understand what comes along with solar panels. If you’re thinking about going solar at home, here’s what you need to know.
How to Create Solar Energy at Home
Generally speaking, capturing solar energy at home requires installing a solar panel-based energy system. Along with solar panels, you have to install other system equipment, allowing sunlight absorbed by the panels to get turned into electricity and then transported into needed areas, such as to a home, battery, or onto the local grid.
If you’re wondering, “How does solar create electricity?” the simplest explanation is that solar panels absorb the sun’s energy throughout the daylight hours, creating electrical charges. Those charges move based on an internal electrical field in the panel, converting them into direct current (DC) electricity. Most homes are set to run on alternating current (AC) electricity, so the DC electricity is then passed through an inverter to convert it to usable AC electricity.
Installing Home Solar Energy Systems
Solar energy systems aren’t typically something you can install yourself, often because the process requires a degree of expertise. Along with dealing with electrical systems – something inherently risky if you aren’t knowledgeable – you have to make sure the panels are set up properly—the angle of solar panels matters, as well as the placement.
The best place for solar panels is usually an area with ample direct sunlight that offers suitable stability. Many homeowners opt for roof systems, preferably south-facing roofs with slopes ranging from 15 to 40 degrees. However, some may have to go with ground-based installations in their yards if their roof is unsuitable.
Solar power systems also require coordination with your local electricity provider. Most homes don’t have the correct meter installed, so an update is usually a must before the system goes online.
Going Off-Grid with Solar
If you install a solar power system that can fully cover your electricity needs – either alone or with batteries – you might think moving off-grid is wise. However, completely disconnecting if you have access to a local utility isn’t just potentially unwise; it might not be allowed.
By remaining connected, you have access to electricity if your system malfunctions, giving you a safeguard. Additionally, you might technically need to stay connected to the local power grid even if you don’t actually need it, particularly if you live in a city or town. However, it could apply to outskirts properties, too.
The Cost of a Solar Panel Installation
While there are financial benefits to adding solar energy systems – including lower electricity bills and property value increases – there is also a significant financial investment. The cost of a solar installation can be pretty high.
The average number of solar panels per house to fully power the property is usually in the 20 to 25-panel range. However, your needs may vary depending on your home, its features, the amount of direct sunlight, and other factors.
A single solar panel can cost between $200 and $250. On average, full installations run around $20,498. That’s a notable investment.
If you’re wondering, “Can I sell solar power back to the grid to offset the cost?” the answer largely depends on where you are located, though it isn’t a commonly available option. Most utility companies use a net metering process to determine how much energy your system creates and compare it to what you use. You’ll only have to pay an electric bill if your usage is above what’s created. However, if you produce more than you use, most utilities don’t pay you for the extra.
Even if that’s the case, you could still reduce the associated cost through various alternative energy programs.
Solar Energy Programs
Through NY-Sun, New Yorkers can access various incentives and financing options designed to make solar installations more affordable. The offerings can vary by location and are often impacted by the amount of available funding. However, they’re worth exploring if your home is in a qualifying area.
Reforming the Energy Vision
Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) is a strategic initiative focused on building affordable, efficient, clean energy systems within the state. Although it does not directly subsidize rooftop solar power, its ultimate aim is to level the playing field for distributed energy vs. centralized power plants (like coal, gas, and nuclear) through market reforms. In some cases, those efforts do benefit consumers.
Federal Investment Tax Credit
With the Federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC), you can reduce your tax liability. Up to 26 percent of the net cost (after rebates and credits) of your solar energy system is potentially deductible, resulting in significant savings.
Paying for Your Solar System
When it comes to covering the cost of your solar system, you have a few approaches available. First, buying with cash is always an option and is primarily considered preferable since it doesn’t involve costly interest.
Second, you can explore various loans or financing options. Using a HELOC or cash-out refinance may work, as well as going with a personal loan. In any of those cases, you typically have some flexibility regarding how the money is used.
Some solar panel installers may also have their own financing options. Typically, these work like personal loans in a functional sense and are often overseen by a traditional lender. However, some may feature in-house financing.
Finally, you can go with a solar lease/power purchase agreement (PPA). With these, you aren’t actually buying the equipment. Instead, it’s similar to renting.
It’s important to note that most solar energy rebate and credit programs only apply to purchased solar energy systems, not leased ones. Additionally, leased systems won’t increase your property value, as they represent a liability and aren’t owned by the homeowner. Renting isn’t the ideal path if you want to capture any of those benefits.
Care and Maintenance of Your Solar System
Solar panel systems are made of durable tempered glass and require little to no maintenance for the 25 to 35 years they will generate power. In most cases, you don’t even need to clean your solar panels frequently – just regularly – though removing dirt and debris as it accumulates could improve their efficiency.
Usually, the best way to wash solar panels depends on the manufacturer’s directions. Each company has its own recommendations, often with good reason. As a result, it’s best to follow any maintenance schedules and use cleaning techniques as they’re outlined.
If something unexpected happens with your solar power system, most equipment manufacturers include warranties. Warranty terms vary by company, so do keep that in mind.
Ultimately, the amount of effort is typically worthwhile. Along with preserving your investment, it allows you to get the most out of your system, ensuring you can reap the financial benefits and maintain an attractive home.