According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the United States added 2.5 gigawatts of photovoltaic solar power in the first quarter of 2018. That brings the total national installed capacity to just under 56 gigawatts, which is enough to supply up to 10.7 million homes with all their energy needs.
These numbers prove that solar power is a viable alternative energy source for homes and businesses. Are you thinking about converting your property to solar power in 2018? Use these tips to decide if solar is the right choice for your home and lifestyle.
Is solar energy an option for my home?
While the technology that supports solar energy continues to evolve, some properties are not ideal for private installations. How can you tell if installing solar on your property is an option?
- Figure out how much power your home needs on a daily basis by reviewing several months of your past power bills.
- Does your property get enough sun to make solar power feasible? Use this tool to find out.
- Use this solar calculator to determine how many solar panels your home will need.
- Contact a residential solar experts in your area. These experts will be able to assess the layout and geography of your land to decide if a private solar installation is possible.
There are several reasons why you may not be able to have a private installation for your home. Some of them include:
- Living in an area with lots of tall trees.
- Your roof’s slope, shape, or positioning prevents the installation of roof-top panels.
- Features like detached structures or other outdoor accessories that don’t leave enough room for installations.
If you find you don’t qualify for one, you can still take advantage of this emerging technology. Solar communities, often called solar farms, are cooperative energy programs that provide members with credits to their utility bills. If you can’t install your own panels, you may be able to find a solar community near you.
Does using solar energy mean my lifestyle has to change?
Modern families rely on gaming consoles, computers, and other electronic devices for education, entertainment, and everything in-between. This tech-heavy lifestyle requires a lot of energy to keep devices charged and connected. Does converting to solar power mean you have to give up your gadgets?
The short answer is no. Once it enters your home, solar power works just like traditional power sources. It’s unlikely that your home will need to be upgraded to support photovoltaic power. Also, new solar technology and strategies make this environmentally-friendly fuel just as reliable as coal, nuclear, or power from other renewable sources.
If you aren’t sure that a solar installation will satisfy your family’s daily power needs, contact your local utility provider. Many power companies are using solar power and other renewable energy sources to supplement their traditional fuel supplies. You can opt to have a portion of your power come from these alternative sources with no changes on your part. This option allows you to continue using your home’s power without restrictions or worrying about supply limits.
How does switching to solar affect my monthly utility bills?
Whether you decide to install solar collectors on your property or contribute to a solar community, photovoltaic power will reduce your monthly utility payments. The amount you save, however, depends on several factors.
- The number of solar panels you have installed. More panels and batteries in your solar installation gives you a greater pool of power to draw from. That means you’ll rely less on traditional, more expensive fuel sources through the utility.
- The amount of electricity you use daily. If you use more power than you collect on a daily basis, you’ll likely still have an electric utility bill. However, it will be less than if you didn’t have a solar installation.
- What time of day you consume electricity at your property. One of the drawbacks to solar power is that you produce electricity on cloudy days, during stormy weather, or at night. While batteries and other power storage devices help, you’ll have to depend on your utility provider’s standard sources of electricity under these adverse conditions.
Energy prices fluctuate rapidly. In April 2018, the average price of electricity from all sources in the United States was 12.89 cents per kilowatt-hour. Around the same time, solar installations were providing power at a cost of 2.155 cents per kilowatt-hour at the utility scale and at a levelized cost of around 7 cents per kilowatt-hour at a residential scale. That means solar power consumers can pay up to 84% less for their electricity than their neighbors who use more traditional sources over the 25-year life of a system.
Solar installations do require a heavy upfront investment. However, the monthly energy cost savings helps consumers quickly recoup their dollars. Government and corporate incentives and credits also make new installations more affordable for the average property owner.
What things should I consider before converting to solar power?
Solar power is flexible, environmentally friendly, and cost-effective. However, this power source is not ideal for everyone. Here are a few questions to ask yourself before deciding to go solar.
- How long will it take to recoup your investment costs? Use this solar energy system payback calculator to evaluate how long it will take for you to start saving money with your installation. If you plan on moving before the payback time, a new solar installation may not be the right choice.
- How will you pay for the initial installment? Government rebates and tax credits won’t arrive until the following year. If you don’t have enough cash saved, you may be able to find an installation company that offers payment plans or financing. There are many zero down solar loans available in 2018.
- How does my utility company treat solar energy exported to their grid on monthly bills? Net metering allows solar consumers to sell their excess electricity to their utility providers. Those credits are then applied to regular monthly billings. Consumers in some sunny areas have received bills with negative balances using this practice. Contact your provider’s customer service department before switching to discuss how excess energy credits are applied.
If you think solar energy is a good choice for your lifestyle and property, contact a residential solar energy company in your area for a personalized assessment of your energy options or use our solar estimator that will tell you:
- How many solar panels do you need for your home?
- How much electricity do solar panels produce in your location?
- How much solar panels will save you on your monthly electric bill?
- Compare the best current solar offers available in your area.