A lot of people are looking into green alternatives for electricity that also gives them control over their power. Since most of us in urban areas can’t have wind generators, many are purchasing or leasing solar panels.
Usually installed on your roof, solar panels convert sunshine into electricity which can then be stored in large batteries, or the solar panels can heat up water reducing the load on your hot water heater.
Types of solar
- Water heater
Solar water heaters are designed to keep water heated and can be used in the home in conjunction with a standard hot water heater, or in a pool. Installing one will reduce your electric or gas bill depending upon how your hot water is heated.
For the rest of this blog, we’ll just be focusing on replacing electricity purchased off the grid.
Photovoltaic cells are put together in plates to convert solar energy to electrical energy and are a clean way of providing electricity for your home or office.
A typical home solar electric system consists of :
- Solar cells
- Modules or panels (which consist of solar cells)
- Arrays (which consist of modules)
- Balance-of-system parts.
Before you start the process, you’ll want to pull out your electricity usage for two years. Many service providers have that information online. You’ll use different amounts at different times of the year, and it’s also dependent upon how much of your home is run by gas.
You also will want to think about your budget. If you’re paying $350/month on average just for your electrical bill, then you can figure out how long it will take for your return on investment if you’re saving that much each month.
When talking to a professional installer, you’ll want to get answers to:
- How much sun do you get?
- Will your roof support the panels?
- How many panels will I need to replace all of my electricity usage?
Chances are that your solar panels will not replace all of your electrical usage especially if you use an air conditioner. And for some people, buying off the grid will be cheaper than if you use solar panels.
- Lower utility bills
- Reduce impact on the environment
- Increase energy independence
Here’s a great article that takes the common disadvantages that people talk about with solar panels on a home and provides rebuttals.
Here’s two by National Geographic discussing
- Purchase the solar panels.
- Lease the solar panels.
There are companies around that will install the panels for free as long as you sign a contract to pay them for the solar energy. They also guarantee it will be cheaper than purchasing off the grid. Read all of the paperwork carefully.
Some questions to consider are what happens after the end of the contract and you don’t want to continue? Will they repair your roof when they remove the panels? Who is responsible for the repair of the panels?
Solar panels or solar water systems are an investment and you should consider the long term rather then any short term benefits when making your investment.
It’s also not clear if having solar panels will increase or decrease the resale value of your home. You will need to talk with a reputable real estate agent who is familiar with resale values in your area.
Want to know what they’re really like? Here’s a blog post on GigaOm from Kevin Tofel who converted to solar and how it changed his lifestyle.
Would you be interested in investing in solar energy for your home?