Adding Solar Panels to your Home – What you Need to Know

Even a decade or so ago, solar-powered homes were extremely rare. Given the sheer amount of federal and local incentives available, together with concerns over climate change, solar power is now commonplace.
Along with the installation of solar power, you household’s carbon footprint will enjoy a decrease of an average 35,180 lbs. of carbon dioxide in a single year. What this means in ‘real’ terms is that you’d need to plant 88 trees annually in order to offset that quantity of carbon dioxide.

 

Adding Solar Panels to your Home

How do solar panels work?

Solar panels are relatively simple photovoltaic cells (PV). These PVs harness sunlight, turn it into energy, send the energy to what’s termed as an inverter, and the inverter converts the energy to power suited to the home.

Who should you hire to make an installation?

It’s not a simplistic job, so you’ll need some additional wiring. Further, an efficient solar system can only be achieved through efficient panel placement. And only the pros can achieve this.

What’s the cost?

Since the start of 2011 to date, the price of solar panels has been sliced by over 60 percent. Add in federal and local subsidies and tax credits, then you’re looking at some serious savings to be had.

Tax incentives

For both residential as well as commercial properties, there’s a federal solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) available of 30 percent. It’s up for grabs until the end of 2016.

In terms of local tax incentives, they vary per state and municipality. In terms of Los Angeles residents, you can avail of the ITC, a state of California property tax exemption, in addition to a $0.12 rebate per kW (kilowatt-hour) for the next 20 years.

Lease, buy or finance?

Leases on solar installation are increasingly popular and represent an excellent method of offsetting up-front costs. Further, the leasing company will normally pay for the maintenance and any repairs.

Nevertheless, with a permanent installation, there are some tax advantages, and there’s every chance it will increase your home’s value, given that a potential buyer will save on energy costs without a necessity for installation.

Currently, loans are also a worthy alternative, given that interest rates are extremely low. Do be sure though, that if you opt for a loan, the interest rate is less than that of your electricity bill on average. This way, you’ll still save money.

As a side note, do be aware that by going solar, it will likely raise the homeowner’s insurance premium, but only by a few dollars each month.

Permits

Frequently, the permit, which is a requirement, pushes the lead time up between the signing of the contract and the actual system installation. Your installation company will normally get this for you. The cost and the type is dependent on municipality.

Project considerations

For your solar system to be at its finest, your roof will have to be in receipt of direct sunshine throughout the time of day when sunlight is at its strongest. That’s normally between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Sun exposure to the panels on your roof can be adversely impacted by trees, tall buildings, as well as other factors that cast shadow over your roof. Various kinds of solar panels tend to react differently to shadow. There are some that will reduce on output generation, while there are others that will shut down.

As is expected, the quantity of solar radiation (sunshine) that reaches the ground within a given time period varies from region to region. This is termed as insolation, and it’s the amount of insolation that determines the reason why solar panels in Chicago are less efficient than solar panels in Los Angeles, for example.

How many panels will you require? What size?

This is dependent on a couple of factors: the amount of energy required and the amount of insolation.

If you have a look at your electric bill you will be able to assess how many kilowatts of energy is used in your home on an average day. Simply multiply this figure by 0.25 to find out what size of solar panels you will need.

The amount of solar panels you’ll need is dependent on the output per panel, in addition to insolation. Further, you’ll need to calculate the amount of hours the panels will be in reception of peak sunlight on a daily basis.

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