Solar Power for Your Home :: Consider Living Off the Grid

What once was cost prohibitive and unrealistic for the average homeowner is no longer so—solar power for your home is more affordable than ever before, and with other natural resources rising in price and shrinking in supply, now's a fine time to consider your solar options.

solar power cityWhy is solar power for your home worth considering? The sun is our planet’s cleanest and most renewable energy source, and once you have the means to harness its power, the power itself is free; free and efficient. According to the Department of Energy, employing solar energy over traditional power can drastically reduce your energy costs over time—by 50% or more in some cases. A solar water heater, for example, can lighten the electric load of your water heater by 2,500 kilowatt hours annually, which prevents 4,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere. That’s equal to not driving your car for four months. Solar energy has always been attractive for its minimal environmental effects, but now it’s also attractively affordable. Residential systems installed between Jan 1, 2009 and Dec 31, 2016 are eligible for federal, state, and local tax credits equal to 30% of the system’s cost. If you haven’t considered your solar options before, there’s no better time than now.

Be realistic when considering solar power for your home. Solar power is clearly an environmentally responsible and highly efficient option, but it’s not the right option for everyone. An important factor in determining if solar power is right for your home is your home’s location. Photovoltaic (PV) systems (systems that convert solar energy into electricity) are only worth installing if they’ll have exposure to direct sunlight for at least five hours a day, the more the better. *To estimate the energy production and cost of a PV system for your home, check out the U.S. Department of Energy’s NREL PVWatts Caluculator.

Your costs vs. potential savings is something else to consider when deciding whether to spring for solar power for your home. In an ideal situation, with tax incentives that cut the initial cost, plentiful sunshine for the panels, and high local utility rates, you could stand to benefit greatly from installing a solar power system so find the best and largest solar companies in california for your sweat home or the business purposes. Under such circumstances, a PV system could pay for itself within about five years. However, if you live in an area with little sunshine, consistent cloud cover, and local utility rates that aren’t too terribly high, you stand to gain very little from such a system. In any case, it’s smart to first take little steps to improve your home’s energy efficiency before resorting to solar panels—a tube of caulk and a few rolls of fiberglass insulation cost a whole lot less, and installing solar panels is no small endeavor. When traveling, you would be taking a FAA approved car seat on a plane.

solar diagramThink solar power’s right for your home? Know your options.

  • Solar PV panels – Though pricey upfront, if you live in a sunny climate, especially a cold and sunny climate, solar panels offer savings on utility bills that are well worth it. You have the option of either a standalone system or a grid-tied system. Though more costly upfront, a standalone system is likely a more cost-effective option for more remote homes that are far from power lines and would therefore be difficult  to tie into the power grid. Grid-tied systems are best for older homes that don’t offer many opportunities for making energy efficient design changes, and they are also more likely to receive federal rebates.
  • Indoor solar lighting – Using large windows and skylights to bring sunlight into your home is a great way to save on daytime energy costs. With proper placement, indoor solar lighting can eliminate your need for electric lighting during the day.
  • Outdoor solar lighting – Using outdoor solar cells to convert sunlight into electricity to be stored in batteries for use at night works well in conjunction with indoor solar lighting.
  • Solar water heaters – Solar-thermal energy is a cheaper alternative to PV energy and can drastically lower the average household’s water-heating costs. Also, solar water heaters have a life expectancy of 20 years or more, double that of conventional storage tank water heaters.

Solar power could be GREAT for your home, but it’s not great for everyone. When considering solar power, be realistic—know the limits of your location and your budget, and consult a professional before making your final decision (you can find certified PV installation professionals in your area here). If in the end it looks like living "off the grid" is a viable option, now's the time to go for it.