5 Tips for Considering Solar Energy for Home Use

| 2/10/2016 3:16:00 PM

Photo by Fotolia

You don't have to live in a California mansion and drive an electric car to benefit from what solar energy has to offer. It’s the versatility of solar energy that makes it a great choice for homeowners across the country. From an average-size system of 5-6 kW that will offset (or nearly eliminate) your monthly utility bill to a small off-grid system of 2 kW for a cabin requiring back-up power, solar energy offers myriad benefits.

It takes two key ingredients to turn solar into a success story for homeowners: highly-rated solar contractors who know what they are doing and educated homeowners who know what they want. So how is this achieved? By making sure that you don't fall into the following common traps:

Not having the right expectations

If your main motivation is to help the environment, then solar can be a great option, but if you are also installing solar panels to save money, then you need to understand the economics of your decision. For example, if the electricity you are buying from your local utility is relatively inexpensive, then you may not recoup your solar investment. Other factors that affect the profitability of solar panels are the amount of sunshine you receive, the cost per watt of panels and the available financial incentives, such as the 30% federal investment tax credit (ITC). To determine if solar energy makes financial sense for you, you need to compare the levelized cost of solar energy to the cost of electricity from your utility and see if you’ve reached grid parity. When solar electricity is cheaper than electricity from the utility, it makes financial sense to consider solar energy.

Jumping in before making sure that solar is right for you

While solar is great for many homeowners, it's not suitable for everyone. If you are considering a rooftop system and your home is surrounded by trees or in the shadow of a large building, solar panels will not work as they are intended to. If your roof is oddly configured, or very old, or facing north (in the northern hemisphere), rooftop solar may not be the right choice. In this case, you could consider a ground-mounted system if you have the land for it, or look into community solar, where you (and many others) benefit from a solar project built elsewhere.

Not finding more than one highly-rated installer