Here Comes the Sun: Home Electric Energy Independence
Each year more and more homeowners are entertaining the idea of making the switch to solar energy for their homes, with many even making it a must-have requirement for new homes. Thanks to many advancements in solar technology and new government financial programs, solar electric power has never been more inviting to homeowners. In fact, for many homeowners now is a great time to consider making the switch or incorporating solar energy into an existing or new home.
Here’s everything you need to know about solar energy to help you understand why it makes sense and determine what are the best options for you.
Stunning tall windows allow plenty of natural sunlight inside this 2-story, 3-bedroom contemporary style Vacation home plan, but it’s the large expanse of roof structure (facing the correct direction) that makes this a good candidate for solar electric panels (House Plan #158-1255).
But First: What Exactly is Home Solar Electric Power?
Simply put, solar electric energy systems allow you to install special panels that gather sunlight (in the form of tiny particles called photons) and convert them to electrical energy so that you can power your home. The panels collect the sunlight during the day, powering your home immediately and sending the excess power either to batteries stored at the home or sending it back into the power grid as part of an exchange program with local utilities. Many homes are being built with passive solar energy systems already installed, though the process of adding these panels to an existing home is relatively straightforward.
These illustrations show how solar panels (left on house) capture energy from the sun and turn it into electricity, passing it through a controller and storing it in batteries. When the electricity passes through an inverter, it is changed into a form that can be used by the appliances in the building.
What are the Benefits of Switching to Solar Power?
There is a plethora of benefits you can experience by switching to solar energy, including:
1. Major Financial Savings
Installing solar panels in your home can save you thousands of dollars on your energy bills in the long run, often through net metering. Here, excess energy is fed back into the power grid so that you can receive a credit from your local utilities for essentially “selling” the power to them.
In this diagram, one of the most significant advantages of solar eletric power in the home – net metering – is effectively explained and described.
2. Great for the Environment
Solar energy is one of the cleanest and least damaging sources of energy available, as it results in little to no pollution and causes virtually no harm to the environment.
3. Sustainable and Renewable
As the power comes from the sun and not any finite natural resources (such as coal or oil), there is no worry about depleting the energy source. This also means that there is no fear of unexpected price increases or shortages.
Why This May Be the Perfect Time to Switch to Solar Electric
After learning about some of the benefits of solar energy, you’ve probably got more than a few questions about the practical aspects of installing solar panels in your home. The fact of the matter is that there has never been a better time to switch to solar energy than now, thanks to some significant improvements across the board.
Eye-catching and energy-efficient: A 1-story home in Sacramento, California, is not just an amazing sight, it also makes a statement with its use of solar energy. In addition to the solar panels that capture sunlight, the house features lots of glass windows that allow natural light into the home.
4.Major Advancements in the Technology
Solar panels are now more efficient and resilient than previous models, meaning that you can collect more sunlight to create more energy with less effort. Today’s solar panels are also much stronger than older models, meaning you will only need to clean them a few times a year and aren’t going to have to worry about much maintenance. The size of panels for a given power output is also decreasing, making them more feasible for smaller homes that have less available roof space.
5. Large Network of Retailers and Professional Installers
Even as recently as a few years ago, if you wanted to install solar panels in your home you would have to track down a specialty company and pay them a premium to even conduct a home inspection. Now, many of the major home-improvement chains offer in-store experts that are ready and willing to walk you through the entire process at your convenience. These retailers can not only help you purchase panels and all the necessary equipment for an installation, but help you connect with licensed solar power experts who can complete the process for you.
6. Government Subsidies and Programs Available to You
In case you were afraid that converting your home to solar energy was too expensive, there are dozens of programs in place nationwide to help reduce the upfront costs. Some states also offer special subsidies to help you save on the entire process, while others offer special loans specifically designed to help you purchase solar panels. You can find more details about your state’s policies through the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency website.
What Are the Installation Requirements?
Even with all of the benefits of solar energy there are still a few important requirements that your home must meet before you can install a home solar electric system.
Photovoltaic panels can go on any roof, even tile roofs like this one. Just make sure the panels face primarily in a southerly direction for maximum solar exposure.
• Available Solar Resource at Your Home
Because your home is going to draw its energy from the sun, you must make sure that you have a large, unobstructed view of the sun for the majority of the day. Roofs blocked or covered by large trees – or homes in areas that are overcast and cloudy for much of the year – may not be able to receive enough light to actually generate the necessary power for your home.
• Check for Local Permits and Restrictions
As with any home-improvement project, you will also need to apply for and receive the appropriate permits for installing solar panels. This may include passing a building inspection to ensure that your electrical system can sustain power from solar energy or ensuring that you live in an area that can connect solar panels to the local power grid.
• Appropriate Home Size for Panels
Along with having enough access to sunlight, your home needs to be big enough for the solar panels to fit on the roof safely. Small homes may not have enough open roof space for solar panels, or they might not be able to withstand the weight of the panels. The ideal homes have large areas of open roofing that is not broken up by gables or dormers, such as ranch style houses. While it may be possible to make modifications to your home to qualify for solar panels, these changes can end up costing more than you would potentially save in the long run.
Welcome, solar energy: The roof of this 3-bedroom, 2-bath Ranch style home plan has the perfect open space for solar panels to fit safely (House Plan #176-1012).
The advances in technology – plus the lower costs today – make now a great time to look into solar energy for your home. Have you added solar power to your home already? We’d love to hear about your experience!
Footnote: The lead image in this article is a traditional style home with new-technology thin-film solar panels on the roof. For more details, click here.