This past spring, we had two solar arrays installed on the roof of our home and our garage. As the green geek that I am, having solar was always a dream of mine. I thought solar was beyond our financial reach and for the more hard-core environmentalists who are willing to pay a premium for sun-powered electricity versus coal-produced power. I was wrong! If you've ever wondered, "Can I save money with solar panels?" I'm here to tell you yes, you can!
How to Get Solar Panels for Your Home
My family signed up to be part of our county's solar co-op last fall to support the movement and learn more about solar energy. As part of the co-op, we were not able to shop around for different offerings or prices; instead, we were assigned to a company that has worked with the rest of our co-op. A consultant from the solar company performed a site evaluation and solar obstruction study on our roof. A week later he gave us a quote that really surprised us, and we took the plunge!
This was the right way to go for us because our co-op membership entitled us to a 20 percent discount on our purchase. If you're interested in installing solar panels, shop around different companies in your area, or consider joining a local co-op to see if they have a deal like this.
Now, we have twenty-seven panels on our home. The energy produced was expected to cover 89 percent of our electric usage, but to date has been over 100 percent. Most months we use less energy than we make, so we add power to the grid in exchange for a credit on our energy bill.
In the winter, you can expect the solar panels to continue producing energy even if they're covered in snow, though it's a good idea to remove snow or other debris to keep them as energy efficient as possible.
Most solar panels take a few days to install, and your system should come with a warranty. If you need a new roof, the company that installed your system should be able to remove your panels and reinstall them for a small fee.
The one caveat for us is that we do not have batteries or power storage to use our solar power when the sun is down, so we use grid energy in the evenings. Additionally, during a power outage, our system is shut down so that we are not feeding energy into the grid when workers are repairing nearby power lines; it's a safety precaution. These are things to consider when you're having your system installed.
Of course, cash is probably the bottom line to everyone's "Can I save money with solar panels?" question. We have a loan for our photovoltaics (PV), but the payment is almost exactly what our normal electric bill was to begin with.
We're expected to see over 350 percent return on investment, since this is a fixed cost and energy prices are on the incline. Most people don't know that loans are even available for solar power—it was a big deal-maker for our family.
Know Your Options
Track down your energy usage and what you are paying over a year or more. Know your monthly kilowatt usage and an average electric bill. Do you have south-facing roof? Does your community have zoning regarding solar or alternative energy? Calculate your expected costs and savings with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's PV watt calculator. You should also perform an energy audit to make sure you've maximized your energy efficiency, so nothing goes to waste.
Ask your local solar companies to take a look at your house. I really encourage you to shop around and obtain multiple quotes if you can. They will not obligate you to buy anything, but they will check out your roof, your attic, and do a shade study on your roof. They'll tell you what kind of solar panels they offer and how many will fit on your rooftop. Talk to these solar companies about who they do the financing through. Find out if there is a solar co-op in your area or if you might be able to start one!
What other PV questions do you have? Are you ready to take the solar plunge? Let us know on Twitter!
Image source: Pixabay | Maureen Wise
The views and opinions expressed in any guest post featured on our site are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of Tom's of Maine.
Why It’s Good
Solar power converts energy from the sun through photovoltaic panels. This electricity is a more sustainable, less polluting, and more renewable compared to coal-burning power plants, which are the primary power source in the United States.