If you are planning to add solar panels to your eco-friendly home, there are several factors to take into consideration before adorning your roof. Below we answer some frequently asked questions.
I want to install solar panels, but I’m not sure where to start. What should I consider first?
The first step is to uncover how much electricity your home uses each month. If you save your utility bills, this should be a cinch. You can also call the utility company to request the information. It’s also worth considering how your electricity usage might change – will you work from home in the future? Are you planning on expanding your family? Once you have this ballpark figure, you can proceed.
Where should my solar panels be installed?
In the northern hemisphere, the ideal location is on the roof, facing south.
Panels should be at a 45 degree angle. If your roof is flat, the panels will have to be elevated.
What if my roof is mostly in the shade?
This is a major concern. If you know your roof is largely shaded, have a solar installer come and explore the possibilities with you.
Is the same true for clouds and fog?
Thankfully, solar panels still work in cloudy and foggy conditions. You may experience 15-20% less electricity generation than direct sunlight, but they will still produce.
How large should the solar panels be?
For every kW of electric capacity, approximately 100 square feet of roof space is needed. On average in the United States, a residential solar system is 3 kW, which would require 300 square feet.
In my neighborhood there can be blackouts during the summer months. Will the solar panels still work during the blackout?
They will not. The solar panels will be shut down. In the event of a blackout, electric grid operators will automatically shut down your system, in order to ensure the safety of individuals repairing the electrical problems affecting the grid.
How long will these panels last?
Solar panels have a lifespan of 30 years. Each year they lose approximately 0.5% of their efficiency. They require little maintenance, mostly cleaning and removal of dirt and leaves. The only component that requires replacement is the inverter, which lasts up to 15 years.
Are there incentives for installing solar panels?
Yes. Several federal, state and local rebates are available for solar energy. In fact, in some states like New Jersey, the incentives are so substantial, the solar panel system will essentially pay for itself in 3-4 years and will result in tremendous savings over the 30 year life span of the panels.
More questions? Check out “Residential Solar Energy Explained.”
*Image courtesy of Living Off Grid.