How many panels are needed for a 5 kW solar installation?

Francisco CastroMay 6, 201958710

How many solar panels will you need for a 5 kW solar installation

Solar panels are a highly efficient and reliable piece of equipment, with a lifespan covering more than two decades. 

That’s why investing in a solar power system for your home is guaranteed to keep providing energy for many years after you reach the payback period - the point where the initial investment you made will be paid off in savings.

Powering your home with renewable solar energy has a number of advantages, such as shielding you from the ever increasing price of electricity, allowing you to tap into a number of incentives and rebate programs that will cut the price of your solar system even further and leaving more money in your pocket to save for retirement. There’s also the increase in value for your home and little maintenance and upkeep once the panels go up on your roof.

When you decide to go solar, your installer will conduct an analysis of your energy needs so he can recommend the right amount of solar panels to offset these needs. It is critically important to analyze this figure correctly, thinking about current and future needs, so that you can continue to reap the rewards of renewable energy for many years to come.

The Analysis

According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), in 2017 the average annual electricity consumption for a U.S. residential utility customer was 10,399 kWh - an average of 867 kWh per month. 

When switching to solar power, you need to add up your yearly electricity bills, which will include how many kWh of energy you use in every billing cycle. This will help you determine what your individual usage is.

But based on the figure above, you can figure out how many panels does an average American home needs.

For this, you also need to find out how many peak solar hours your region receives. This is the average number of hours in a day when the sun is at its highest, which is when your panels will be generating the maximum electricity.

In Southern California, the average peak solar hours is 5.5.

Let’s do some math

Armed with these numbers, you can start the process of determining how many panels are needed for a 5 kW solar system.
First, you would multiply 5.5 x 30 (number of days in a month)= 165

If an average U.S. home uses 867 kWh per month and you divide that by 165, you would get a 5.2 kW solar system needed to power that residence. After the federal tax credits, the average price of a 5 kW solar power system in California is of about $14,906.

Now comes the tricky part, because the number of panels will fluctuate depending on how powerful are the photovoltaic modules you choose. The average solar panels today oscillate between 280 - 340 Watts. Fortune Energy carries a large selection of solar panels for you to choose from.

If you picked the 280 Watt panels, you would divide the 5,000 (5.2 kW solar system) by that figure = 17.8 (or about 18 solar panels).

But if you picked the higher wattage panels, you would get 14.7 (about 15 solar panels).

The difference can be substantial, as each solar panel measures 17 square feet. 

The right decision here is important and could be based on how much space you have on your roof and your budget. If your roof is small, then there will be a limit of the amount of power you can generate. You can squeeze more out of this available roof space by installing more expensive, higher wattage panels that generate more energy per square feet. The best option for this array might be going with a string inverter that connects all solar modules to a single inverter that transforms the DC (direct current) electricity to AC (alternating current) power. 

You can also opt for microinverters that go directly on each solar panels, but you would have to buy one for each module and the costs can multiply, but they also offer more efficiency.

If roof space is not an issue, you can opt for the lower wattage option.

An easier way to do these calculations is by letting the Hahasmart price checker gives you this information in a matter of seconds by simply using your address and average monthly electricity bill. They’ll recommend what the correct solar power system is for your home to offset those electricity costs, the total cost of equipment and even an estimated cost of installation of your solar panels. They can also help the installer or you in designing the layout of the system.

Do remember that even though you're installing what is recommended to cover 100% of your energy needs, it doesn’t mean that all your electricity will be covered entirely by your solar panels.

That’s why almost (if not ) all residential home solar power systems are still connected to the grid. This is so you can have energy when your panels are not producing it (such as during the night). In this way, you only pay the utility company for the small amount of power you used from the grid, instead of needing 100% of it from it. 

But that’s not all. If your utility allows for net metering and you produce more solar energy than you can consume in a given day, that excess is given back to the grid and the utility company will give you credit or money for this electricity. If what you return to the grid is more than the amount you take from it, you can still come up with a $0 energy bill.

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