Is it Time to Install Solar Panels on Your Roof?

Despite the last winter being one of the worst recorded in the northeast, nothing deterred US homeowners from redesigning their homes with energy efficient technology. To combat snowy winds and power shortage, solar paneling has become a worthy investment. In fact a recent report by Solar Energy Industries Association stated that 66, 440 new solar systems were installed in the beginning of this year, setting a new 2015 record. Solar power accounts for 700,000 households in the US shifting towards alternative routes to promote sustainable energy inputs.

According to Tom Kimbis, SEIA’s vice president of external affairs, “We aren’t dealing with solar enthusiasts anymore but practitioners.” He stated that a large number of households preferred solar power for its easy installation and cost effective measure. There are several driving factors that promote solar paneling in domestic and industrial sectors. The principle behind working a residential solar panel is not just based upon a simple conversion of photonic energy into kilowatts. With improved technologies and a liberal tax credit that’s drawing close to 2016, households have started adopting the environmental friendly concept.

Step 1: Early Installation

how solar panels work

It isn’t a new notion that mankind has always utilized natural resources like the sunlight to heat water, dry clothes and perform household tasks easily. A solar panel which produces electric power in the photovoltaic cell originated around the 1950s. Since then technology has advanced greatly introducing panels that are designed to maximize energy efficiency. A racking system attaches the panels that are composed of cells to the rooftop. Orientation of the rack is incredibly important such that it receives the maximum sunlight possible. In case orientation on your roof isn’t possible, the modules can be installed in a yard using a ground mounted system.

With years of experience and firsthand knowledge, installers have engineered their skills to perform efficient mounting of solar panels.

A process that would take days can now be completed within a few hours due to experts in the field. According to Kimbis every household should get quotes from multiple installers before making a final choice.

Based on statistics every solar company should offer an estimate of the magnitude of power that can be produced from a grid. This simplifies the decision making it easier for consumers to understand important factors like – annual weather condition, angle of roof, original orientation, etc. It gives a better analysis of the electricity that can be produced, says Kimbis.

Step 2: Capturing Sunlight

As Kimbis says, “One thing that consumers notice about solar paneling is that it produces no noise and silently operates.” While the racking system and the panels make up for most of the system, the inverter is the final component which is essential for capturing heat rays.

The light energy captured by the inverter converts direct current (DC) into alternating current (AC). The power system of every household consists of an electrical grid that operates on AC since it is a standardized unit that allows current to flow for miles without shedding power along the way. DC is a storage unit that doesn’t offer mobility but storage hence is used in car batteries. Soon homes will be storing and circulating solar power using refined solar panel technology. CEO of Tesla Elon Musk announced in February that the company will endorse home batteries by the next summer. Mercedes Benz is also pulling an initiative by selling home batteries which can preserve solar energy.

To draw extra energy and to transport excess energy back to the power grid, AC setup will still be required. Therefore the inverter is an essential attribute that can convert DC to AC whenever the needed.

The inverters are generally installed outside the breaker box which gives access to a household to utilize power first and if electrical demand is high, more can be generated from the grid. If the household is creating more solar power than what is required, the power can be sent back to the grid where it is converted into DC and stored within batteries. There are places which market extra solar power, an activity which is referred to as “net metering” that will soon become a potential source of income for solar friendly customers.

Step 3: Check Your Bills

Understanding how solar panels work and gaining insight on its internal mechanisms will shed light on your expenses. Currently there are three methods for adding solar energy in the house:

  1. You can simply purchase an array and have it installed to your property.
  2. You can lease a solar array and pay for installation from a company that regularly maintains it.
  3. You can opt for a Power Purchase Agreement that transmits standard magnitude of solar power to homeowners through a third party share.

Each method consists of useful parameters and variables so you can’t really decide which the best is since every household will have its specific needs. Purchasing a solar panel can definitely be a huge investment with several financial merits that involves increase in energy efficiency and decrease in electrical expenses.

Homeowners who buy their own system can obtain a federal investment tax credit of 30% if calculated is around $15,000 out of which $4500 will be applied as a credit. Maintenance of a nicely sized system can be ensured if the system comes with a 25 year warranty with a working span of around 30 years.

Leasing doesn’t require the homeowners to worry about equipment and installation costs. You will be subjected to a long term deal where monthly reimbursements are the fundamental aspect. Since a company technically owns the solar panels therefore you won’t receive the federal tax credit benefits. If you do share partnership with the firm you can reap a commission from the 30% tax credit, only if the company permits.

Power Purchase Agreements work on the basis of a third party, similar to paying your electrical bills. Customers are charged for the kilowatt – hours of solar power they utilize. To save on transaction costs, a few companies will only send a single bill that convenes solar billing charges. This can be an attractive proposition for homeowners living within a centralized society.

A lot of people prefer leasing or opt for Power Purchase Agreements (PPA’s) because it’s a more economical strategy than buying your own equipment, says Kimbis. Irrespective of the kind of solar paneling setup you opt for, it completely depends upon the kind of home you’re living in.

Even if two homes obtain the same equipment from the same company, a variety of factors like shadows, rack orientation, and geography can produce different yields. This leads to a differentiation in terms of electrical usage and billing.

Figuring out if solar paneling is right for you depends on how much you’re currently spending on electricity. There are certain situations where solar power might not be the answer and that typical involves people who live in coal country or near hydro-electric dams. Typically those areas already save on electric costs due to their proximity. But for the rest of us, solar power is most likely a good cost saver over the long term.

“Solar energy is a clean energy source that is both reliable and affordable so the question is no longer about the technology – that part is proven,” says Kimbis as he explains the benefits of solar paneling.