Have you ever wondered if solar makes sense for you? The truth is solar makes sense for many homeowners, but they never really investigated it. Solar can save you tens of thousands of dollars over the life of the array. Solar works in every state of the country, because every state has plenty of sunshine. Did you know the colder it is, the more efficient a solar panel is? Here is an overview of what you need to know. Please note: This covers general rules when considering solar. Your situation may have special circumstances and challenges and may require additional considerations.
You Need Sunshine!
The first consideration, when thinking about putting in solar, is whether or not you have a roof or a plot of land that gets enough sunshine. If the area you are considering doesn’t have trees or buildings casting shadows between 9AM and 3PM, chances are you may have some options. The more hours of sun, the more solar makes sense.
If the area has trees that will grow in the next ten years that will block part of the solar array, you will have to make a choice: Remove the trees, keep them trimmed, or not put in solar. The same consideration should apply to areas where new building construction is expected.
If sunshine is or will be an issue, you can stop here. There is no need to read further.
Define Your Goals
The next step is to have a clear understanding of what you are trying to accomplish with solar. For example, some people just want a little bit of solar to say the are doing their part to help the “Green Movement.” Others want to make enough electricity to run a water pump on their farm or have a battery backup in case the power goes out. Most people want to offset all of their electrical usage so they don’t have to pay the electric company for it. One neat thing about solar is that it is modular in design, meaning you can start with just a few panels, and add on in the future as you desire.
Do You Have Enough Surface Area?
Once you have determined you have great sun exposure and know what you want to accomplish with solar, the next requirement is ensuring you have enough surface area to install solar panels. How many and how much space? That depends on how much electricity you need to generate. A family of four normally uses a lot more electricity than a family of two. The higher your electric bill, the more panels you need and the larger surface area your array will require. In general terms, if you have an area facing south with lots of sun, you have the ideal setup for solar!
Following are some other items to consider before going solar:
- You must own the home in order to install solar.
- Are you going to live in your home for the next ten years? If yes, you will see a return on your investment.
- Does your roof need to be replaced in the next ten years? If yes, we recommend you replace your roof before installing solar. Solar panels come with a 25 year warranty and should last 40 years. Be smart and replace your roof first!
- Most home owners who go solar, trade their electric bill in for a solar purchase plan, with payments often costing less than their current and future monthly electric bill. Your credit score will impact your ability to obtain financing.
- If you live in an area with strict codes, such as with Neighborhood Associations, check to ensure solar arrays are permitted. Some will allow for roof mounted solar, but not ground mounted. Do your homework!
- Solar makes sense in some states, but not others. This is NOT because of a lack of sunshine, but because the laws of the state are written in a way that doesn’t allow for Net Metering. For our customer base in Michigan, Net Metering is allowed. For other states, please check with your local solar company and find out if your state is solar friendly to home owners.
What is the Next Step?
If it appears you are a good candidate for solar, your next step is to ask for expert help to further analyze your specific situation. Most solar sales and installation companies will ask you to send them a copy of your electric bill. This enables them to calculate your average monthly usage. From there, they will check your home to ensure there is enough room to install the quantity of panels to meet your goals. This includes calculating surface area as well as looking at shading issues. Next comes an analysis and proposal, detailing a solution, providing cost, calculating your return on investment, how long it will take for the system to pay for itself, etc. If the solution makes sense to you, welcome to the Green Revolution.
Written by Troy Bracke, December 2017
Troy is a solar professional with Michigan Solar Solutions. He has been in the industry since 2015.