It crosses every homeowners mind at some point and that is tapping into the benefits of solar panels. Powering your home with the energy from the sun and watching your electric meter begin to run backwards is quite an alluring idea. Especially nowadays when the power prices keep going up and the possibility of an attic on our grid seems more plausible. Why not get our power off the grid? Seems like a great plan, especially for homeowners in California including folks looking at homes for sale in La Mesa
The sun is certainly rising for good on solar power. Efficiency has gone up while the expense has come down with fiscal incentives mounting a return on investment. Solar capacity has actually been increasing by over 400% across the country since 2010.
What is NET ENERGY METERING?
Summertime is the ultimate paradise for solar energy yet what about the shorter, overcast days of winter when we run our heaters day and night? This is when the beauty of net energy metering shows it’s true colors.
Net Energy Metering (NEM) basically lets utility customers earn credits for extra power generated from their own renewable energy (including hydro, wind and solar) that is delivered back to the grid. This NEM opportunity is one of the main reasons why solar energy is increasing in popularity.
It’s quite simple. During the summer, the solar energy produced by a customer is directed back to the utility company. The energy meters actually spin backward. Then in the winter, when there is more energy required than is produced; it is simply subtracted from the customer’s credited account.
It’s kind of similar to using the utility like an indefinite efficient battery that keeps going and going… And there are some customers, who have a large enough system and/or are efficient at conserving their energy, end up paying nothing for their electricity. However, a small monthly expense is still paid for just the service of the utility.
On particularly sunny days, your energy meter can be spinning furiously in reverse. Having many solar panels installed facing west for the most benefit during peak sun hours, as well as some facing south which usually is advantageous overall; you can have more than enough energy for powering your home even with your AC running.
The Challenge to GO GREEN
It’s not just about saving money, true net zero on your energy requires a change in your lifestyle. We recommend getting a home energy audit before you go jumping on the solar panel band wagon, as this shift will also change the say you consume energy as well as how it’s produced.
You may want to consider energy efficient appliances, weatherization and lower energy lighting – for example. Many solar panel owners opt for LED lights in their homes, energy efficient water heating system and ductless heat pumps. Next is getting an electric car. It literally becomes a challenge to see how much energy and money you can save.
Going green is a great choice for our environment. It’s sustainable and economical.
What is the COST?
About 1000 kilowatt hours of electricity is produced each year from a single 1,000 watt PV solar panel. An average home will use 1000 kilowatt hours per month. So to be completely net zero, your home would need a system to generate 10 to 12 kilowatts.
The biggest issue with those wanting to install a solar panel system is the cost. It would set a homeowner back about $30,000 for a full array set up. Yet the expense of this has gone down quite a bit lately.
In the later part of the last decade, a typical system would cost from $8 to $10 per watt to install. Today, it’s more like $3. to $5. per watt. So while solar energy has been deemed as something only the rich can afford to do, prices have dropped where it’s become easier for the less-rich folks to fund.
The industry is very competitive. Factors affecting cost include installation (if you have a more difficult style home/roof, it may increase the cost) and product choice.
Advances in TECHNOLOGY
The PV cells are the heart of a solar system. The fragile silicon-based wafers are annexed together and assembled in to durable panels, typically around 40″ by 65″. The panels can generate from 200 to 300 watts depending on their model and manufacturer. After ensuring the quality of their panels, homeowners should look into warranty, efficiency, cost and aesthetics.
Look for panels that have a high level of efficiency, meaning the highest percentage of energy output from the light that hits it in ideal conditions. SunPower, a solar panel manufacturer, holds the industry record for their panels rated at 21.5 efficiency.
A development of solar panels that can absorb various wavelengths of sunlight and reach efficiency peaks over 40% has been announced by scientists recently. However, these cells are a few years out in their affordability and production. This development would allow fewer cells to reach the same power generated from today’s systems
Inverter efficiency is another breakthrough that has come up. Solar panels produce DC power. An inverter converts this DC power to AC power which is what is used in your home. Previously inverters have been at 80% efficiency and currently they run as high as 97% efficient.
To have a completely off grid system, you must add batteries which will add to the expense of your set up. Batteries used to be required year ago, but they haven’t been needed when using NEM.
Where to your PLACE SOLAR PANELS
For the best absorption of sun light throughout the day, south facing panels is recommended. The next best angle is west facing for peak sunlight hours. A 30 to 35 degree roof pitch is optimal. This is equal to a roof rising 7-8 vertical inches over 12 linear inches.
No matter how much land you have, your roof is the best structured apparatus for installing solar panels. It requires the least amount of wiring. Panels can be racked to the correct placement if your roof isn’t at the most optimal orientation or pitch. These adjustments do add to your installation expense.
Other options for installing panels would be found mounted and pole mounted, which both would be more costly. Advanced pole systems can actually move to track the sun for better absorption throughout the day. You can even be more creative if you have a chicken coop, car port or pergola you want panels on.
Systems mounted on your roof come with flashing which prevents leaks. Make sure any system you have installed is guaranteed and warranted not to leak.
Consider these INCENTIVES
If having your own free power isn’t good enough, there is even more. Your financial incentives don’t stop there..
Aside from NEM, some utility companies have their own incentive programs that buy your energy regardless of whether you use it or if it goes to the grid.
Also, homeowners using solar power may take 30% of the cost of their system cost off their federal income tax return. That would mean, a $30,000 system could end up costing $21,000 after taxes. Moreover, some states even offer a no sales tax on parts and installation costs.
A solar PV system will add value to your home which will be a huge benefit when it comes time to sell. Some homes last year were increased in value up to $24,000 when compared to home that did not have solar power systems.
Any PUSHBACKS coming?
Some people think that solar energy could become a victim of its own success. Some utility companies have begun to push back against NEM lately, particularly in the Sun Belt states.
California politicians and other sunny state legislators are feeling pressured from utility companies and their lobbyists to revamp incentive programs. These utility companies want renewable energy customers to share the costs of energy distribution and transmission. Environmentalists state the conventional utility business models are under threat.
These legal battles will be fought in the Sun Belt states before they head outward. However, most companies will not stand in the way of renewable energy. It is the direction that their customers are headed.