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Planning Solar for Your Home

Assess Your Home’s Energy Efficiency Prior to Solar Implementation

Before embarking on the journey to power your home with solar energy, it is essential for homeowners to evaluate their energy consumption and explore potential efficiency improvements. Gaining a thorough understanding of total electricity usage and implementing cost-effective, easy-to-adopt efficiency measures is crucial before opting for solar energy.

Consider the following resources to decrease your electricity consumption:

  • Home energy audits: Conducting a home energy audit enables you to identify areas where your home is losing energy and determine the necessary steps to enhance your home’s efficiency.
  • Appliances and electronics: Enhance the efficiency of your appliances and electronics usage, or contemplate investing in highly efficient alternatives.
  • Lighting: Transition to energy-efficient lighting options, such as LED light bulbs.
  • Heating and cooling: If your home relies on electricity for heating and cooling, these needs will significantly impact the amount of solar energy required. Weatherizing your home and utilizing efficient heating and cooling methods will decrease the electricity production needed from solar power.

Evaluate Your Solar Potential

Prior to determining the most effective way to utilize solar electricity in your home, it’s important to evaluate the potential solar energy production at your location. Photovoltaic (PV) technologies harness both direct and scattered sunlight to generate electricity, making the solar resource across the United States sufficient for residential solar power systems.

Nonetheless, the power generated by a solar energy system at a specific site relies on the amount of sunlight it receives and the system’s size.

Various mapping services and tools can assist you in determining your home’s solar energy potential. Some of these services also provide information on estimated system size, potential expenses and savings, as well as local contractors.

These tools serve as an excellent foundation, helping you establish whether your home is suitable for solar energy, and if not, the optimal alternative for reaping solar benefits. While these tools offer valuable insights, they may not account for every variable relevant to your specific system. To address this, collaborate with a solar installer who can deliver an accurate assessment of your solar potential, along with detailed recommendations, estimates, and equipment expertise.

Take into account the following factors:

  • Nearby shade trees: Contractors can help assess shading, but also consider your own or your neighbors’ trees that continue to grow and may cast shade on your system in the future.
  • Roof age and replacement timeline: If you anticipate needing a new roof within the next few years, consider undertaking this improvement before installing solar panels.

Neighborhood or homeowner association (HOA) restrictions and approval requirements: Some states have implemented “solar rights provisions” that limit the power of HOAs to restrict solar installations or access. These provisions differ by state and municipality; research your local HOA covenants and state laws.

Explore Your Solar Usage Options

Owning and maintaining a fully purchased and installed solar system is not the sole choice for those interested in adopting solar power. Even as a renter or without wanting to invest in a rooftop system, numerous programs can help you take advantage of solar electricity.

Here are some options for utilizing solar energy at home; consult local installers and your utility provider for programs offered in your region:

Acquiring a Solar Energy System

Opting to purchase a solar energy system with cash or through a loan is an ideal choice if you aim to maximize the financial benefits of solar panel installation, take advantage of tax credits, increase your home’s market value, and if solarize programs are not available or feasible.

The solar installer will connect the system to the grid and obtain an interconnection permit from the utility provider. When the PV system generates more power than needed by the homeowner, it is often possible to sell the excess electricity to the grid. Conversely, when the homeowner’s electricity demands exceed the system’s capacity, the home can draw energy from the grid as usual. Discover more about grid-connected home energy systems.

Purchasing a solar energy system is a suitable option if one or more of the following conditions apply to you:

  • You want to install a solar energy system at your residence
  • You qualify for state or federal investment tax credits
  • You are willing to take responsibility for maintenance or repairs (note that most solar energy systems come with warranties, and many installers offer operations and maintenance plans)
  • You aim to reduce your electricity expenses
  • You intend to sell unused electricity generated by your system back to your utility provider through a net-metering arrangement
  • You want to enhance your home’s value
  • You possess the initial capital to purchase the system or have access to capital through a lender (note: various banks, utilities, and solar installers offer financing options for solar systems).

Community or Shared Solar

Nearly half of all U.S. households cannot accommodate a rooftop solar system due to renting or insufficient roof space. If a rooftop system is not feasible for you, consider participating in a community or shared solar program. These programs allow a group of individuals to collectively invest in a solar system, tailored to suit their needs and budgets. The system may be situated on- or off-site and could be owned by utilities, a solar developer, non-profit organizations, or multiple community members.

Community solar might be a suitable option if one or more of the following apply to you:

  • You cannot or do not wish to install solar panels at your home or property
  • You are ineligible for state or federal investment tax credits
  • You do not want to be responsible for maintenance or repairs
  • Discover more about community and shared solar options.