What's In This Article?
What is Solar Energy?
Solar energy was one of the first types of renewable energy sources to be utilized on a large scale, and it is the Earth’s most abundant energy source by far.
Solar energy can be used to power homes, factories and other buildings, though some parts of the world aren’t well-suited to this type of renewable energy due to their climate, especially in the winter months.
Aside from being used in the US and other OECD countries as a clean energy source, solar energy is also increasingly being used in poorer, developing countries. For some people living in these nations, solar energy is the only option as their villages or neighborhoods don’t have any existing energy infrastructure, such as power stations, transformers and power lines.
How Does it Work?
You can power your home with solar energy by converting light from the sun into electricity.
To be able to harness sunlight rays and convert them into usable electricity, solar panels are installed onto the roof of your property. These panels generate DC (Direct Current) electricity, which is then fed into a solar inverter to convert the DC electricity into AC (Alternating Current) electricity.
The solar panels are made up of silicon photovoltaic (PV) cells which absorb the sunlight rays and use them to produce electricity via the Photovoltaic Effect.
If you have many solar panels installed on your roof and live in an area which receives plenty of sunshine for most of the year, there’s a good chance you’ll be generating surplus electricity and can therefore sell it to a local energy company.
The Pros of Solar Power
Clean Source of Energy
Solar energy is a clean and abundant source of energy, so it’s a great alternative for eco-conscious Americans who are keen to reduce their carbon footprint and make the earth a more sustainable place to live.
There are other renewable energy sources that also don’t emit any carbon when they are used, but none are as easy to get started with as solar power.
Allows You to Save Money in the Long Run
If you live somewhere that gets a good amount of sunshine for most of the year, you can slash your energy bills by switching to solar power. This can save you tens of thousands of dollars in the long run – and it’s even possible to make a profit by selling surplus electricity to a power company for other households to use..
This benefit is especially important with electricity prices rising considerably in many parts of the US and this trend set to continue.
Relatively Easy Installation
There’s certainly many different things to consider when thinking about having solar panels installed on your property, but the actual installation process is relatively easy and straightforward.
Solar panels have come a long way since they were first invented and began being used. Today’s models are considerably more efficient and more affordable, which is good news for people considering switching to solar energy, as it means you get more bang for your buck.
Improve the Value of Your Property
Having solar panels installed onto the roof of your home can improve its value, as a new owner would also be able to benefit from them and save a significant amount of money on their electricity bills.
So, even if you’re not certain that you’ll still be living in your current home in a few years’ time, going solar could still be a great idea from both an eco-conscious and financial perspective.
The Cons of Solar Power
As with pretty much everything, solar energy isn’t without its potential pitfalls…
Significant Initial Investment Required
The cost of buying and installing solar panels varies massively depending on the size of your home, where you live, and your specific energy usage needs. However, it’s almost always going to require a hefty initial investment, with most Americans who decide to switch to solar energy having to fork out around $20,000.
Keep in mind that the US and a number of other countries offer financial support to encourage people to switch to solar power, so the amount of money you’ll actually need to pay upfront will usually be considerably less than the quoted cost.
Furthermore, there are also private financing options available to help homeowners cover the cost of having solar panels installed.
Not Always An Option
For some people, utilizing solar panels to power your home isn’t an option. This may be because of climate or simply because the roof of your home can’t support solar panels, among a few other potential reasons.
How Much Money Can I Save?
Given the fact that solar panels can reduce your electricity bills to zero and even allow you to generate a profit by selling extra energy, there’s lots of money to be saved in the long run.
Your exact savings will depend on how much you currently pay for electricity and where you live, but most households will typically save tens of thousands of dollars over the course of a few decades of using solar panels.
How Can I Get Started?
1) Estimate Your Energy Needs
If you’re seriously considering switching to solar power, the first step is to get an estimate of your monthly or annual electricity needs. This will allow you to determine how many solar panels you need.
Most households in the US typically need around 20 to 30 solar panels, but you may need considerably more or less depending on the size of your home and the State in which you live.
2) See If You’re Eligible For Financial Support
There are a number of different State and federal solar incentives which you may be eligible to receive. These may come in the form of a subsidy or a rebate program, and they can significantly reduce the financial burden of going solar.
3) Get a Few Quotes
Next, you should reach out to a few solar energy companies to see how much it would cost for them to install solar panels onto your property. They will typically ask for an annual electricity bill so they can gauge your energy needs, so it’s advisable to have this ready beforehand so there’s no holdup.
In addition to looking at cost, be sure to get an estimate of how long the installation process will take and the warranty periods for the various different components. Once you have a quote which falls within your budget, you can move on to step 4.
4) Hire An Installer
Now you can start looking at different solar panel installation companies. You can either go for a local installer, which usually has better knowledge of your State’s rules and solar incentive programs, or a national installer, which typically offer a longer warranty period.
In any case, it’s a good idea to speak to a few different installers to get a better idea of what’s a reasonable price to pay.
5) Handle the Paperwork
Before solar panels can be fitted onto the roof of your property, you must apply for permission from your local or State government.
Then, you need to contact your utility company to agree a net-metering arrangement and a sign a contract which typically follows a standard template they have for people going solar.
6) Connect to the Grid
Finally, one last inspection is required before your system is connected to the grid and you can begin using it to generate free and clean electricity for your household. Your installer and local utility company will handle this final step together.
Things to Consider
When thinking about going solar, you should try to determine if your house is a good candidate for solar power.
Some important things to consider include:
Solar panels are a long-term investment and it’s typically only worthwhile over the course of a few decades, so it’s a good idea to make sure that your roof isn’t damaged and can also last that long.
Otherwise, you risk having to fork out a lot of money to have the panels removed and refitted later on.
It’s also a good idea to measure your roof so you can get an idea of how many solar panels you can realistically fit on there. This will allow you to get a sense of whether or not solar power will be enough to meet all of your household’s electricity needs.
Where You Live
Where you live influences how much sunlight you get, with some parts of the US receiving sunshine for most of the year, while others receive considerably less sunshine. If your city receives very little sunshine, going solar might not be a worthwhile investment for you.
How Much Sunlight You Get
Aside from where you live, there are other factors that affect how much sunlight solar panels installed on your property’s roof could receive.
For example, if your home is surrounded by taller buildings or trees, the shade could result in significantly fewer sun rays hitting your roof.
For many American households, switching to solar power can be a great move, both from a financial and eco-conscious perspective.
It can be quite a time-consuming process, but you should be able to find a good, affordable deal as long as you follow our buying tips and 6-step process. Furthermore, it’s definitely worth checking what solar incentives are available to you, as they can greatly reduce the cost of going solar.
Lastly, even if switching to solar power won’t be enough to meet all of your energy needs, it’s still worth considering as it can nevertheless help you significantly reduce your carbon footprint and slash your utility bills.
A Quick Summary
- Solar energy was one of the first types of renewable energy sources to be utilized on a large scale, and the industry has exploded in some parts of the US, like California and other warm States.
- Solar energy is all about converting light from the sun into usable electricity.
- Solar panels can be installed onto your home’s roof to absorb rays of sunlight to either be used immediately to power your home, or stored for later.
- If your solar panels generate more electricity than you need, you can sometimes sell any surplus electricity back to your local utility company to make a profit and recoup your installation costs more quickly.
- Having solar panels installed is expensive, but most households in the US are eligible to receive significant financial support in the form of subsidies or rebates to lessen the financial burden of going solar.
- If you live in a part of the US that doesn’t receive much sunlight, or if your home is surrounded by other taller buildings, switching to solar power might not be a financially sound move for you.