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A Guide to Home Solar Power Systems

Since 2008, people have installed many solar panels across the country. More and more Americans are opting for home solar power systems to power their daily household activities. This trend has resulted in the installation of hundreds of thousands of solar panels nationwide. The cost of adopting solar continues to decrease each year.

You might be thinking about installing home solar power systems to your home’s roof or exploring other ways to utilize solar power. While there’s no universal solar solution, here are some resources to help you determine what’s right for you. Before you make the leap to solar, consider asking yourself these questions.

How Solar Panels Work?

 

Home Solar Power Systems

Solar energy works through two main technologies: photovoltaics (PV) and concentrating solar power (CSP).

Photovoltaics (PV): PV panels, commonly seen on rooftops or in fields, convert sunlight into electricity. Cells in the solar panels absorb photons from the sunlight when it hits them. This creates an electric field across the layers of the panel, causing electricity to flow. PV technology suits residential use and widely generates electricity for homes and businesses.

Typically, large-scale power plants use Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) technology instead of residential settings. It involves the use of mirrors to reflect and concentrate sunlight onto receivers. These receivers collect solar energy and convert it into heat. The heat then produces steam, which drives turbines to generate electricity on a larger scale.

PV technology is often used in residential solar installations, while CSP technology is mainly used in large-scale power plants.

How do I get started?

To get start the process of home solar power systems, you have several options:

  • SETO winners have made mapping services. These services can determine if your roof is suitable for solar panels. They can also provide price estimates from local solar companies.
  • You can also search online to find local companies that install solar panels. Make sure to read reviews thoroughly to choose the best fit for you and your home.
  • Join solar co-ops and Solarize campaigns. These programs help groups of homeowners work together. They can get better rates and choose an installer.

They also promote solar energy in the community. When you join these campaigns, you can save money on solar installations by bargaining together with other residents.

Can You install solar myself?

The best way to install solar panels is to hire a certified professional installer who uses high-quality panels. The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) awards the certification that is recognized as the industry standard.

What is the energy production capacity of solar power?

You can use PVWatts, a tool created by NREL, to estimate solar power generation. PVWatts helps calculate the amount of power you can generate from solar energy. A useful tool for estimating solar energy production. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory developed PVWatts.

PVWatts estimates energy production and the cost of energy for grid-tied PV energy systems worldwide. It’s helpful for homeowners, small building owners, installers, and manufacturers to get an idea of potential PV installation performance and compare solar costs to utility bills.

However, we recommend working with a solar installer for a more accurate estimate tailored to your specific situation. They can provide a custom estimate based on factors like your location, roof orientation, shading, and system size.

NREL usually analyzes systems with an average size of 7.15 kilowatts DC, ranging from 3 to 11 kilowatts. EnergySage says this much power can cover all the energy needs for a typical home in Austin, Texas.”

How much can you Save by going solar?

Whether you’ll save money by going home solar power systems depends on several factors:

  1. Your electricity consumption: The more electricity you use, the more you can potentially save with solar.
  2. Size of your solar energy system: A larger system can generate more electricity, potentially increasing your savings.
  3. Buying or leasing: Whether you buy or lease your system can affect your savings.

The efficiency of your solar system depends on two main factors. One factor is the direction of your roof. The other factor is the amount of sunlight it receives.

Electricity tariffs and net metering: Your savings are also influenced by the electricity prices established by your utility provider and the compensation you receive for surplus solar energy returned to the power grid.

In some areas, solar is already cost-competitive with utility electricity. The cost of solar has been decreasing yearly since 2009, including “soft costs” like permitting and inspection. SETO’s funding programs aim to improve solar affordability and accessibility for consumers.

Additionally, energy efficiency upgrades can complement solar economically by reducing the amount of solar energy needed to power your home. Using Energy Star appliances and other energy-efficient products can further enhance your savings.

Solar Financing Options

Consumers have various financial options when going solar. In many cases, purchasing a solar system outright is cheaper than getting a solar loan, lease, or PPA. Buying a solar system upfront can result in lower overall costs. Opting for a solar loan, lease, or PPA may end up costing more in the long run.

If you choose to buy your solar system, solar loans can help reduce upfront costs. Monthly loan payments are often lower than typical energy bills, saving you money from the start. Solar loans are like home improvement loans. Some places offer solar energy loans with low interest rates, making solar power cheaper.

New homeowners can choose to add solar panels to their mortgage. They can do this by taking out loans from the Federal Housing Administration or Fannie Mae.

When you buy a solar energy system, you can benefit from the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC). This credit offers a 26% tax rebate for systems set up between 2020 and 2022. It also offers a 22% tax credit for systems installed in 2023. Congress must renew the tax credit by 2024 to prevent its expiration.

Solar companies offer solar leases and PPAs to consumers, allowing them to have solar systems installed and purchase the electricity produced. These agreements result in lower electricity bills without monthly loan payments, often requiring no upfront costs.

Solar leases require fixed monthly payments determined by estimated electricity production. Solar PPAs, on the other hand, involve purchasing power at a specific price per kilowatt-hour. However, with these options, you don’t receive tax benefits since you don’t own the solar system.

Understanding solar financing options can be challenging. The Clean Energy States Alliance has released a guide to help homeowners navigate their choices, explaining the pros and cons of each option.

Safe and Secure Energy

Solar energy is a safe and secure source of energy. All solar panels meet international standards for inspection and testing. Qualified installers make sure they also meet local building, fire, and electrical codes during installation. Moreover, a certified electrician meticulously inspects your solar power system as a component of the installation procedure.

Solar panels have a protective layer that prevents chemicals from leaking out. This layer is akin to the way defrosting components are encapsulated in a vehicle’s windscreen. Sometimes solar panels can break because of bad weather or accidents. Solar panels can break due to bad weather or accidents.

If they break, the amount of lead and cadmium released is still within safe limits set by the U.S. government. These limits apply to homes, businesses, and large solar energy systems.

The Environmental Protection Agency is responsible for ensuring the safety of soil, air, and groundwater. The International Energy Agency’s Photovoltaic Power Systems Technology Collaboration Program delineated this duty.

Environmental Benefits

Using solar power instead of traditional energy sources helps to decrease harmful emissions and pollutants in the environment.” This reduction in carbon leads to less pollution and promotes cleaner air and water.

Increase Your Home’s Value

Investing in home solar power systems can boost the value of your home. A recent study considers solar panels upgrades comparable to a renovated kitchen or finished basement. People all over the country are willing to pay an extra $15,000 for a house with a typical solar panel system.”

Moreover, indications show that properties equipped with solar panels generally sell quicker than those lacking them. In a 2008 study, California homes with energy-efficient features and PV systems were found to sell quicker than homes with higher energy consumption. Important to note that these studies focused on homeowner-owned solar arrays.

Net Metering Options

Net metering is an agreement between solar energy system owners and utilities. System owners can earn payment for the extra solar power they produce and send back to the grid through net metering. This means they can earn money for the electricity they don’t use.

The surplus power feeds back into the grid, helping to power other homes and buildings. System owners receive compensation for the electricity they contribute to the grid.

Net metering began in the 1990s, where the electric meter would reverse when exporting power. However, the process has since become more complex. Net metering payments for your solar system depend on the rules set by your state and electric utility.

These rules determine if you are eligible to receive payments for the excess energy your system generates. Understanding the policies and practices in place is important to know if you qualify for net metering. Contact your state or electric utility for more information on eligibility requirements.

Stay aware of the rates involved and understand how bill credits are determined.

Solar Energy Storage

Storage or backup system typically in the form of batteries, refers to energy storage. With energy storage in your solar system, you can use the power it generates when you need it most. This is possible regardless of the weather conditions.

You can store the energy generated from the sun for later use. A home battery backup power system can be helpful at night when you need to heat your home or run household appliances. Additionally, storage ensures you have power during outages.

What actions should I take if I suspect a solar firm is falsely presenting itself or its offerings?

If you believe a solar company is not being honest, there are steps you can take to address the issue. You can start by gathering any evidence you have that shows the company is being dishonest. Next, you can reach out to the company directly to discuss your concerns and try to come to a resolution. If that doesn’t work, you can file a complaint with the appropriate regulatory agency or seek legal assistance.

Contact the FTC to report fraud, scams, and unethical business practices involving solar companies. The federal level should do this.

  1. State level: Laws and regulations regarding consumer protection may vary depending on your location. You can reach out to consumer protection offices in your state or territory for assistance and guidance. They can help you with how to handle the situation. Contact them for support and advice.

Addressing concerns promptly is crucial to ensuring fair treatment and upholding the integrity of the clean energy industry.

Is my home suitable for solar panels?

Manufacturers design household solar panels to withstand different climates. However, in some cases, rooftops may not be ideal because of age or tree cover. If trees shade your roof too much, rooftop panels might not be ideal.

Your roof’s size, shape, and slope matter too. Usually, south-facing roofs with a 15-40 degree slope work best, but others can be okay too. Also, think about your roof’s age and when it might need replacing.

If a solar expert says your roof won’t work, or if you don’t own your home, you can still benefit from solar power. Community solar lets lots of people share a solar setup, either on-site or off-site. Divide costs among everyone involved, and people can join in at a level that suits their budget. Check out community solar to learn more.

Assess Your Options for Using Solar

You don’t have to buy and maintain a solar system to go solar anymore. Even if you rent or don’t want rooftop panels, there are ways to enjoy solar power.

Here are some options for using solar energy at home. Check with local installers and your utility to see what programs are available in your area.

Purchasing a Solar Energy System

To maximize financial benefits, consider purchasing a solar energy system with cash or a loan. This can help you take advantage of tax credits and boost your home’s value. This is especially true if a solarize program isn’t available or isn’t practical.

Here’s how it works: The installer connects your system to the grid and gets a permit from the utility. If your panels produce more power than you need, you can sell the excess to the grid. And if you need more electricity than your panels generate, you’ll draw from the grid as usual.

Buying a solar system is a good idea if:

  • You want one for your home.
  • You qualify for state or federal tax credits.
  • You’re okay with handling maintenance or repairs (though many systems come with warranties and maintenance plans).
  • You want to cut your electricity bills.
  • You plan to sell extra power back to your utility through net metering.
  • You aim to boost your home’s value.
  • You can pay upfront or get financing through a lender (such as banks, utilities, or installers).

Community or Shared Solar

Roughly half of U.S. households can’t install rooftop solar because they rent or lack enough roof space. If that’s you, consider joining a community or shared solar program. These let a bunch of people team up to buy solar power at a level that suits them. The setup can be on-site or off-site. It can be owned by utilities, solar companies, nonprofits, or a group of individuals.

Community solar might be for you if:

  • You can’t or don’t want solar panels on your home.
  • You can’t get tax credits.
  • You don’t want to deal with maintenance or repairs.

Check out the community and shared solar to learn more.

Solar Leases

When you rent a solar energy system, you can use the power it generates. However, someone else, like a third party, owns the equipment. You pay to lease it. Solar leases usually don’t need much upfront money, just fixed monthly payments for a set time.

Here’s how it works: You pay the developer a flat monthly fee based on how much electricity the system should produce. This fee is often lower than your regular electricity bill.

Leasing solar is a good idea if:

  • You want solar at home but don’t want to buy a system.
  • You can’t get tax credits.
  • You don’t want to handle maintenance or repairs.
  • You want to cut your electricity costs.
  • You plan to sell extra power back to your utility through net metering.

Power Purchase Agreements (PPA)

Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) allow consumers to have solar systems installed on their property by solar companies. They then purchase the electricity generated by these systems.

A deal where a developer handles design, permits, financing, and installation at little to no upfront cost. The consumer agrees to buy the power produced by the system at a fixed price per kilowatt-hour over its life. Usually, this price is lower than what the local utility charges.

PPAs might be right for you if:

  • You want solar but don’t want to buy a system.
  • You can’t get tax credits.
  • You don’t want to deal with maintenance or repairs.
  • You want to cut your electricity bills.
  • You plan to sell extra power back to your utility through net metering.
  • You want solar with minimal upfront costs.

To learn more about power purchase agreements, check out our resources.

Solarize Programs

Communities can efficiently adopt solar power through Solarize programs. These programs let groups of homeowners and businesses team up to choose an installer and negotiate lower rates. By buying in bulk, more people can afford solar because the group setup makes it easier and cheaper.

Consider Solarize programs if:

One is available in your area.

  • You want to install solar at home.
  • You qualify for tax credits.
  • You’re okay with maintenance or repairs (most systems have warranties, and many installers offer maintenance plans).
  • You want to cut your electricity bills and sell extra power back to your utility.
  • You aim to increase your home’s value.

Learn more about Solarize programs to determine if they’re right for you.

Final Thoughts 

Home solar power systems have become popular since 2008, offering eco-friendly energy solutions and potential savings on bills. With decreasing costs and increasing awareness, more homeowners are considering solar as a viable option. By understanding how solar panels work and exploring financing options, you can make an informed decision about incorporating solar energy into your home.