During the energy crisis of the U.S. in the 1970s, the federal government started to make solar power for homes more affordable for the public. The government reinforced this move after the University of Delaware built its first solar powered building, Solar One.
This technology dates back to the 1800s and has been used for several causes. Even NASA has been using it since the 1960s to power their satellites.
Although this revolutionary energy source has been around for some time, it was only in the last ten years that solar energy has become an option for citizens. In 2001, Home Depot saw the public’s interest in using solar energy, so they started stocking solar panels then.
Despite the promising benefits of using solar panels, getting people to use them for their homes is a bit of a challenge. Active solar power uses photovoltaic cells arrays in converting solar energy to electrical power. Naturally, this technology is expensive, making the public put the solar option at the bottom of their list.
Benefits of solar powered home
One thing that makes solar power for homes appealing to homeowners would be its benefits:
- Solar power is renewable energy because it comes from the sun.
- Solar power uses clean energy that does not emit greenhouse gases.
- Solar power is economical in the long run.
However, there are still factors that you should consider if you want to use solar power for your residence. Using solar energy may be a big step towards going green. Still, it is not as effortless as having fossil fuels power your home.
Factors to consider when using solar power for your home:
Do you have what it takes to go up to your roof and clean your solar panels regularly? If you cannot do this, maybe you should think twice about having solar panels.
Indeed, solar panels require more maintenance than grid power. However, not by much. Since solar panels are stationary, there is only a minimal chance of them being damaged. All you need to do is clean it regularly to ensure that it can get the perfect amount of sunlight.
When cleaning the solar panels, make sure to get rid of bird poop and dust. This dirt may reduce the amount of electricity produced by your solar system by up to 7 percent.
Preferably, it would be best if you clean your panels once a week. Then, you may hose down the panels once or up to four times a year.
When cleaning, you do not have to climb the roof every time. You may use a nozzle and hose from down below and splash the water from there. If there are construction sites in your neighborhood, you may have to do extra work cleaning the panels to get rid of construction dust buildup.
In short, make cleaning a habit if you want to receive a constant amount of energy.
In addition to cleaning maintenance, you may have to do occasional check-ups on your solar panel parts. You may even have to replace the inverter, but this is usually done once in ten years. Don’t worry much about maintenance expenses, though, as solar panels’ long-term insurance will cover them.
The area where your home is built affects the efficiency of your solar panels. Since solar panels require sunlight, you may have a problem if you live in an area with trees and buildings that could cast a shadow on your panels.
Different solar panels react to shade differently. For example, a poly-crystalline solar panel only reduces electrical output. In contrast, a mono-crystalline panel stops producing electrical power if no sunlight hits the panel.
When building a solar powered home, make sure that no shadow is cast on your solar panels, especially during the sunniest part of the day (around 10 am to 2 pm). Ensuring constant sun exposure would produce greater power efficiency.
This factor may even make you consider cutting nearby trees or constantly trimming them. But if taller buildings surround you, then it would be a greater problem.
- Insolation Rating
Insolation measures how much solar radiation reaches the ground in any particular area for a certain period. An ideal location for a solar powered-home is a location where the insolation rating is high. Higher insolation means few panels; lower insolation means more panels.
However, this does not mean that you should build your home to a place with a higher insolation rating if your chosen property has a low insolation rating. This only tells that using solar panels in a low insolation rating area might be less efficient than you think.
- Coverage Area
If you want to build a mansion, this does not mean that your whole roof will be covered with solar panels. The number of panels you need does not depend on the size of the house. Instead, it depends on insolation and the amount of power that you need.
To know how big your solar system would be, you may look back to your past electric bills and estimate how many kWh you consume per day. In the U.S, an average home consumes around 30 kWh per day.
Once you get that data, multiply it by 0.25. This will result in having 7.5. Thus we need a system with 7.5 kW.
A single solar panel produces up to 0.12kW in a day. And based on the math, you will need around 62 panels for your 7.5-kW solar system. Moreover, an average solar panel measures 142×64 cm. So if you need a total of 62 panels, your solar system would measure about 700 square feet.
Even though you already know how to compute for your coverage area, there are still things that you need to consider. These would be the peak sunlight hours, insolation, and the adjustments required for the storage system. So, it is best if you consult professional solar panel installers in your area.
Last but not least, you have to consider expenses. Unlike before, solar panels are more affordable now. Most of the time, solar arrays are priced at $7-$10 per watt. The lower price would be for DIY installers, but the higher price usually comes with professionals assisting the installment.
Take, for example, the 7.5kW unit that you need earlier; you will have to shell out $50,000-$75,000. Of course, if you need less electricity, this price goes down.
But do not be pessimistic about the price right away because some tax credits may save you thousands of bucks. For example, in New Jersey, if you buy a $50,000 solar system, you will get an $11,000 federal rebate on top of a $12,500 state tax. This will save you almost half the price since you will only have to pay $26,500!
Of course, you can always have the option to let partial solar powered home. You can invest $10,000 for a solar system, then supplement it with traditional energy.
You also have the option to rent the solar panels from companies, along with maintenance. This will reduce costs if you cannot afford to spend tens of thousands of bucks in one billing.
Solar power for home: is it a good investment?
If you are all about clean energy and cheaper energy costs in the long run, then maybe solar power for home is an excellent investment. As mentioned, you may also get cashback upon installation.