Does Going Solar Make Sense For Your Home?

Questions you need to ask yourself before going solar

Solar power is a great way to save money and use completely green energy, but to be perfectly honest, it's not right for everyone.  Solar power equipment and installation is costly.  Certain areas and home situations will not be ideal for generating power, and certain cities and states don't provide the same incentives, making it a tougher decision.  To clear up some of the questions and confusion, here are 5 questions to ask yourself to find out if solar power is right for you and your home.

  1. Are You Going To Be In Your Home For A Long Time?
    This is one of the first and most important questions to ask when considering solar power.  A solar power system can be quite costly ($10,000-$40,000 depending on the size and wattage), so just like when purchasing a home, you'll want to weigh your options carefully.  The average home will end up saving about $100-$200/month depending on the incentives and programs you qualify for, so you're looking at about 4 to as much as 30 years before the system pays for itself.  If you're unsure how long you'll be in your home, leasing your solar equipment will probably be your best option.
  2. Does Your State/City Make It Worth Your While?
    This is where you're going to have to do some research.  Some states (most notably California and Vermont) heavily incentivize the purchase, installation and use of solar panels to the extent that you'll not only save money, but you may actually generate income from your surplus power and from the sale of SRECs.  Other states have no such programs or even a certification program for SREC generation, making it much more costly for the same equipment.  Do your research, and make sure to find all of the city, state and federal programs you qualify for.
  3. Is Your Home In An Ideal Location?
    You can't make solar power without sunlight, so having a home with a small roof (a narrow house) or a home that is shaded by trees, hills or buildings will severely limit the amount of power you can generate.  You don't need a massive roof in direct sunlight for solar to make sense, but the better your situation, the more money you'll save over the life of the panels.
  4. Do You Have Large Energy Needs?
    Calculating your energy requirements can be tricky.  Most people do not power their homes 100% off of solar energy, but you want to get a good idea of how much you will need.  A typical solar power system will generate between 1000-2000 kWh per month.  To get a good idea of how much power this is, the best way would be to look at your electricity bill and see how much you're currently using.  Alternately, you could go through your home and add up the electrical appliances you actually need.  For example, a desktop computer will use around 300-500 watts, whereas a refrigerator will use 500-1000 watts.  How this converts to kWh is take your total wattage usage (for this example, let’s say it's just the computer and the fridge, so around 1200 watts) times the amount of time it's being used (again, let’s assume that they are both used 24 hours/day) and you get 28,800 watt hours (or 28.8 kWh).  There are also devices you can get to monitor your usage, or you can simply look at your meter and measure it from month to month or day to day.
  5. Is Going Green Important To You?
    Finally, how important is it that you "go green"?  For some, the cost, the hassle of applying for government programs and the potential to save little to no money depending on your situation may not matter when you take into consideration the positive impact you'll be having on the environment.  The green aspect of going solar is an intangible value that you'll need to think about and decide for yourself what its worth.  Ultimately, there will be some cost associated with either decision, so weigh all of the implications and options carefully before making your final decision. 

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