Things You Need to Know When You are Planning a Home Solar Electric System

Marty Batteen
The Right Way to Install Solar Panels at Home

How many solar panels are needed to run a house? When you are planning a home solar electric system, there are several steps that you have to follow. Once you have seen all of your options for your solar panels for a house, then you could follow these steps. Here are a few things you need to know when you are planning a home solar electric system.

How do I choose solar panels for my home?

  1. Investigate your home’s energy efficiency

This is the first thing that you have to do before you start the process of powering your own home with solar energy. You, as a homeowner, should investigate all of your energy use and you should consider potential efficiency upgrades. One thing that you should be aware of though is the total electricity usage, and you should consider low-cost and easy-to-implement efficiency measures before you go and choose solar.

Resources that can reduce your electricity use:

  • Lighting– Switching to energy-efficient lighting like LED light bulbs.
  • Heating and cooling– One thing that you have to be aware of is that your heating and cooling actually significantly affect the amount of solar energy that you are going to need, especially if you use electricity to heat and cool your home. You need to weatherize your home so that it would reduce the amount of electricity that you need when you turn solar.
  • Home energy audits– This would help understand where your home is losing energy and this could tell you the steps to take to improve the efficiency of your home.
  • Appliances and electronics– You should consider investing in highly efficient products, and use your appliances and electronics more efficiently.
  1. Assess your solar potential

Assessing all of the potential solar energy that you address could produce is best to know before you could choose your solar system. The solar resources across the United States are limited for home solar electric systems because all of the PV technologies that are used, use both direct and scattered sunlight to create electricity.

There are a ton of mapping services and tools that are made available to you that would be able to help you determine your home’s solar energy potential. Some services could also offer you information on the estimated system size, local contractors, and potential costs and savings.

You have to consider the following when you are assessing your potential solar potential:

  • The age of your roof and how long until you would need to be replaced
  • Neighborhood or homeowner association (HOA) restrictions and approval requirements
  • Nearby shade trees
  1. Assess your options for using solar

If you want to go solar, then buying and installing a system that you fully own and maintain is not the only option that you could consider at this time. There would be many programs that would enable you to still benefit from solar electricity, even if you rent your home or even if you do not want to buy a rooftop system.

Some of the available options that you could use for solar energy at home:

  • Solar lease
  • Solarize programs
  • Purchasing a solar energy system
  • Community or shared solar
  • Power purchase agreements (PPA)
  1. Estimate your solar electricity needs

You have to review your electricity bills to determine annual electricity needs. It would usually be shown in kilowatt-hours (kWh) that you could review each month of the year. There are possibilities that you may or may not use more electricity in some months than others.

Another thing that you should do is consider any planned changes. Your electricity needs may increase, especially if you are planning on purchasing an electric vehicle and planning a home addition.

  1. Obtain bids and site assessments from solar installers

You have to be sure that you find qualified and insured professionals with the proper certification when you are researching installers. The solar industry’s standard certification is from the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners.

When you are interviewing some installers, here are some questions that you should consider asking:

  • Can the company provide references from other customers in your area?
  • Is the company properly licensed or certified?
  • Is your company familiar with local permitting and interconnection processes?
  • Does the company have any pending or active judgments or liens against it?
  • What is the warranty for this system like?
  1. Understand available financing and incentives

There are small solar energy systems that are eligible for a 30% federal tax credit through 2019, but the tax credit decreased to 26% in 2020, then 22% in 2021 and it would expire on December 31, 2021. But you are not eligible for this tax benefit when you are opting for a solar lease and power-purchase agreement since you do not own the solar energy system.

Incentives are also available but every situation is different and you have to choose what is best for you and your property. 

  1. Work with your installer and utility

Your installer should be able to help you complete all of the necessary permitting and steps if you ever decide to install a solar energy system in your home. They would be the ones who would determine the appropriate size for your system, which would then depend on your electricity needs. They also consider the following:

  • The system’s orientation and tilt
  • The system’s efficiency at converting sunlight to electricity
  • The site’s solar resource or available sunlight
  • Other electricity sources, like utility, wind turbine, or fossil fuel generator

When you are planning all of these, and after all of these steps, you have to be sure that you understand how all of the billing and net metering will work. You should also understand all of the additional utility fees that you are going to be required to pay.

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