A Homeowners Guide to Go Solar!

Jessica PirroNovember 13, 201918530

There have been hundreds of solar panel installations that have been completed in the United States Since 2008. With solar panels being installed on more and more rooftops, quite a few Americans are choosing to power their homes with solar power, and the number is only increasing. The cost of solar panels is decreasing yearly, thanks in part to the Solar Energy Technologies Office’s investments.

A Homeowners Guide to Going Solar

Homeowners who are considering adding a solar-powered system to their rooftops or finding another way to harness the sun’s solar energy and turn it into solar electricity. While there aren’t one-size-fits-all solar-powered systems, there are some resources that can help you figure out what is best for you. Before you get a solar panel installation, here are a few questions that you should consider:

How Does Solar Power Work?

Two primary technologies can harness the sun’s energy and turn it into solar electricity. The first one is what’s popular throughout residential solar panels, which are photovoltaic cells, or PV. There are solar panels that you’ll see on rooftops or in fields and on carports. When the sun is shining on the solar panels, the photons from the sunlight are absorbed by the photovoltaic cells in the solar panels, which then creates an electric field across the different layers and causes the electrons to flow, creating solar electricity.

The second technology is concentrating solar power, which is also known as CSP. It is used primarily in very large power plants and it isn’t appropriate and concentrate sunlight onto receivers that collect solar energy and then convert it to heat, which can then be used to produce solar electricity.

What Solar Financial Options are Available to Homeowners?

Consumers have different financial options to select from when deciding to get a solar panel installation. In general, a purchased solar-powered system can be installed at a lower cost than a solar-powered system that is installed using loans for solar, a power purchase agreement (PPA), or a lease for solar.

If you prefer to buy a solar-powered system, a loan for solar can lower the cost of solar. In most cases, monthly loan payments are going to be smaller than a typical energy bill, which will help you save money from the start. Loans for solar functions in the same way as other home improvement loans and some jurisdictions will offer subsidized loans for solar energy with below-market interest rates, making solar energy even more affordable. New homeowners can add solar panels as part of their mortgage with loans available, where borrowers can start financing for home improvements in the home’s purchase price.

Buying a solar-powered system makes you eligible for the Solar Investment Tax Credit, or ITC, which is a 30 percent federal tax credit on your solar-powered system that is available through 2022.

Leases for solar and PPAs allow consumers to host solar-powered systems that are owned by solar companies and purchase back the electricity that is generated. Consumers enter into agreements that allow them to have lower electricity bills without monthly loan payments. In most cases, that means putting no money down to get a solar panel installation. Leases for solar entail fixed monthly payments that are calculated using the estimated amount of solar electricity the solar-powered system will produce. With a power purchase agreement, consumers agree to purchase the power generated by the solar-powered system at a set price per kilowatt-hour of electricity produced. With both of these options, though, you are not entitled to tax benefits since you don’t own the solar-powered system.

Is My Home Suitable for Solar-Powered Systems?

Solar panels are being built to work in all climates, but in certain cases, rooftop solar panel installations aren’t a good fit for all rooftops, due to age or tree cover. If there are trees near your home to create excessive shade on your roof, rooftop solar panels might not be the most ideal option. The size, shape, and slope of your roof with the slope that’s between 15 and 40 degrees, even though other roofs might be suitable too. There is also the age-old question of how old your roof is as well as when you need to replace it.

If a solar installer comes out and determines that your roof isn’t suitable for a solar-powered system, you don’t own your home, there are still ways that you can benefit from solar energy. Community solar power allows multiple people to benefit from a single, shared solar-powered system that can be installed on or off-site. The cost of solar panels is associated with purchasing and installing solar-powered systems that are divided among all of the participants, who can buy into the shared solar-powered system at a level that best fits their budget.

How Much Will I Save by Adopting Solar Power?

The amount of money you can save with solar panels depends on how much electricity you consume, the size of your solar-powered system if you choose to buy or lease your solar-powered system, and how much solar power it can generate given the direction your roof faces and how much sunlight hits it. Your savings also depend on the electricity rates set by your utility and how much the utility will compensate yours for the excess solar energy you send back to the grid.

How Do I Start the Process of Getting a Solar Panel Installation?

Several mapping services have been developed that will help you determine if your rooftop is suitable for solar energy. In addition to the mapping services, an internet search can help you find local solar installers and get a solar panel installation. You are most likely going to have many options to choose from, it’s important to read reviews of solar installers to make sure that you are selecting the best fit for your house.

Solarize campaigns can also help you get a solar panel installation. These different solar energy programs work together to collectively negotiate rates, select a solar installer, and creates an additional community interest in solar energy through a limited-time offer to join the campaign. Ultimately, as the number of residents who participate in the programs increase, the cost of solar panels will decrease.

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