Is Solar Right for Me?
Is Solar Right for Me?
The amount of sun available in any given area is dependent upon climate, available sunlight, sun angle (a function of latitude) and other factors. In the U.S., the Southwest has the most solar potential. However, Georgia and the Southeast have enough available sunlight to make solar energy production viable in most areas. Georgia averages about 5 hours of sunlight each day, click here for a solar potential map of the U.S.
A south-facing exposure with minimal shading offers the greatest solar energy potential. However, some solar energy can be generated from any open spot with a direct line-of-sight to the sun. For a general idea of the solar potential at your home, The PV Watts tool can tell you what direction your house is facing and what size system your house can handle. Because of the potential long life of solar panels, your roof (asphalt/shingle) needs to be less than five years old to avoid costly removal or replacement of your panels during roof repairs.
The capacity of a solar system to generate electricity is measured in kilowatts. One kilowatt equals 1,000 watts. The average home system produces between one and five kilowatts. Before deciding on a solar energy system, you’ll want to review your annual kilowatt-hour consumption. This factor is very helpful in determining how much electricity you want to produce. This will help you choose the solar system size that meets your budget and energy needs.
The cost of photovoltaic panels has come down in recent years. But solar systems are still relatively expensive. The average home system costs between $3,000 and $5,000 per kilowatt. Costs will vary depending on the available space, the condition of your roof and orientation of your home. Consult a qualified contractor for more information.
Use the link to the solar calculator on the right, to get an idea of your system’s estimated annual performance. You can then divide the total cost of your system by the estimated savings based on performance to estimate a rough payback. Payback will be longer if your system is not operating at optimum capacity.
Use the solar calculator on the right of this screen to estimate cost of your solar system and how much you might save. You should consult with a qualified contractor to determine what your exact costs would be. Divide the estimated cost of your system by the annual savings to see how many years it will take to pay back the initial cost. Also keep in mind there will likely be some maintenance costs along the way. Payback will be much longer if the system is not operating at optimum capacity – at or close to its rated capacity.
In general, solar panels require little maintenance. However, just as with other home appliances, routine inspections and monitoring are recommended to ensure your system safely produces energy. Other necessary components of your system, such as the inverter and monitoring equipment, may need to be replaced more often. Occasionally, panels will need to be cleaned of debris and anything blocking the sun. Some components may need regular, professional inspections.
Almost all solar energy systems located at a home or business are interconnected to their local electric system. Chances are, you’ll need supplemental energy when the panels are not generating enough (i.e., during rainy periods and at nighttime). The use of batteries for storage can help, but they will add more expense to your system.