Home solar systems are becoming increasingly commonplace today.
Financial viability, energy efficiency, and the continually growing community of solar providers has turned this once-fringe energy source into an almost everyday form of home power.
In fact, the number of U.S. solar system installations is rising at a record pace. For example, installations nearly doubled in 2016 compared to 2015, an impressive rise in popularity to be sure.
But before you jump into this exciting energy source, there are a few things every homeowner should be aware of before getting started with solar power.
Determining Your Home’s Solar Potential
Not all homes have the same solar potential. Average sunlight exposure, roof surface area, and surface direction (north-south vs. east-west) all play a role in your home’s solar potential. One of the first steps, then, is determining the solar potential of your home specifically.
You’ll also want to calculate your specific energy needs as well. How much electricity does your home use regularly? How does this number stack up to your home’s solar potential?
Exploring Your Options
Solar consumers no longer need to buy their own systems to be a part of the progression towards solar. For instance, some companies provide leasing options, power purchasing agreements (PPAs), and shared solar systems entire communities can use.
So don’t be dissuaded from solar if you think the initial investment is too high – there are plenty of solar options available.
Understanding Available Incentives
Investing in solar, whether with DIY solar panels or with a certified provider, carries with it a number of financial incentives used to attract more people to this renewable resource. What’s more, solar power has gotten so cheap that many of these incentives are actually beginning to disappear entirely.
The federal incentive is currently a 30% federal tax credit slated to expire at the end of 2019. It will then drop to 26% through 2020, 22% through 2021, and disappear entirely in 2022.
What’s more, there are a variety of state-based solar incentives to take advantage of as well.
What to Look for In a Solar Power Provider
Once you’ve determined the viability of solar power for your home or office, it’s time to solicit some bids from solar system providers. But as with any other investment, it’ll take more than just looking at the final price tag to ensure you’re getting the best deal.
Below is a list of a few additional considerations you may want to take into account as provided by the United States Department of Energy.
- Certification – First thing’s first, make sure your installer is properly certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners. With an investment like this, it’s absolutely necessary to have proper knowledge and expertise. Certification proves just that.
- Warranty – Not only does a strong warranty protect you from falling victim to faulty equipment or shoddy installation, it also demonstrates that your installer is using quality equipment as most photovoltaic systems are backed by a 20-year manufacturer’s warranty. Continued maintenance of the system is another aspect of the provided warranty that you’ll want to be aware of. Will your installers repair the system over its lifecycle or is it left up to you?
- Permits & Interconnection – Implementing a home solar power system takes more than just setting up solar panels. It also requires hooking up this system to the grid as well as acquiring the necessary permits to own and operate such a system. Partnering with a provider that is intimately familiar with both of these processes will significantly reduce your headaches down the line.
Beyond these considerations, you’ll also want to be sure that the company has a strong portfolio as well as numerous solid customer reviews, preferably of clients in the same general area. If you know some of these past customers personally, take the time to learn about any problems they had during the process and any unexpected bumps along the way.
Solar Power Generator Set Up
In most cases, setting up a solar power generator should be left to the professionals. There are an enormous number of factors to consider when installing a photovoltaic system according to the U.S Department of Energy, including:
- The system’s overall tilt and orientation
- The efficiency of energy conversion
- The square footage of the system required to meet energy needs
- How to properly secure the system to withstand the elements
- Safety features to ensure both function and protection of the owners
These are just a few of the considerations that a professional provider will take into account during installation.
Once your system is installed, you can expect to see immediate savings in your power bill, caused by both a reduction of energy purchased from the grid as well as payments received due to excess energy sold to the grid.
In general, solar system owners can expect a full return on their investment in about 6 to 8 years, depending on the system.
Getting Started with Solar
The popularity of home solar power is rising at an unprecedented rate. The financial viability, energy returns, and widespread availability all factor into why it’s easier than ever to bring solar into your home.
And if you take into account the various aspects of the process outlined above, you’ll be sure to get the most out of your solar system without fail.