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Homeowner’s Guide to Going Solar

Hundreds of thousands of solar panels have popped up across the country as an increasing number of people choose to power their daily lives with the sun’s energy. Thanks in part to the Energy Efficiency Tax Incentive, and the healthy return on investment the cost of going solar becomes more affordable every year. 

You may be considering the option of adding a solar energy system to your home’s roof or finding another way to harness the sun’s energy. While there’s no one-size-fits-all solar solution, here are some resources that can help you figure out what’s best for you. 

Consider these questions before you go solar.

How does solar work?

There are two primary technologies that can harness the sun’s power and turn it into electricity. The first is the one you’re likely most familiar with – photovoltaics, or PV. These are the panels you’ve seen on rooftops or in fields. When the sun shines onto a solar panel, photons from the sunlight are absorbed by the cells in the panel, which creates an electric field across the layers and causes electricity to flow.

The second technology is concentrating solar power, or CSP. It is used primarily in very large power plants and is not appropriate for residential use. This technology uses mirrors to reflect and concentrate sunlight onto receivers that collect solar energy and convert it to heat, which can then be used to produce electricity. 

Is my home suitable for solar panels?

Solar panels are built to work in all climates, but in some cases, rooftops may not be suitable for solar systems due to age or tree cover. If there are trees near your home that create excessive shade on your roof, rooftop panels may not be the most ideal option. The size, shape, and slope of your roof are also important factors to consider. 

Typically, solar panels perform best on south-facing roofs with a slope between 15 and 40 degrees, though other roofs may be suitable too. You should also consider the age of your roof and how long until it will need replacement.

If a solar professional determines that your roof is not suitable for solar, or you don’t own your home, you can still benefit from solar energy. Community solar allows multiple people to benefit from a single, shared solar array that can be installed on- or off-site. Costs associated with purchasing and installing a solar energy system are divided among all of the participants, who are able to buy into the shared system at a level that best fits their budget. 

How do I start the process of going solar?

There are a number of ways Spinnacle Power can help you determine if your roof is suitable for solar and will provide you with quotes. Here’s a guide that will help you observe the process flow of engagement.

Can I install solar myself?

Right now, the best way to install solar is through a qualified professional such as Spinnacle Power who holds a certification to do so and works with high-quality solar panels. The industry-standard certification is awarded through The Association of Energy Engineers

In the future, though, you may likely be able to install solar yourself. You’re welcome to contact Albert vd Westhuizen who is an AEE Certified Energy Professional for a consult on how best you can go about it.

How much power can I generate with solar?

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory developed a tool called PVWatts for this purpose. It estimates the energy production and cost of energy of grid-connected PV energy systems for any address in the world. It allows homeowners, small building owners, installers, and manufacturers to easily develop estimates of the performance of potential PV installations, and can even compare solar’s cost to utility bills. These tools are great for getting started, but make sure to work with Albert from Spinnacle Power for a custom estimate of how much power your solar energy system is likely to generate.

Will I save money by going solar?

The amount of money you can save with solar depends upon how much electricity you consume, the size of your solar energy system, if you choose to buy or lease your system, and how much power it is able to generate given the direction your roof faces and how much sunlight hits it. Your savings also depend on the electricity rates set by your utility and how much the utility will compensate you for the excess solar energy you send back to the grid. 

However, the cost of going solar has dropped every year since 2009, a trend researchers expect to continue. Not only are the prices of panels dropping, so are the costs associated with installation, such as permitting and inspection, also known as soft costs. 

Also note that energy efficiency upgrades complement solar energy economically. By using green appliances and other products in your home, you’ll need less solar energy to power your home.

Can I get financing for solar?

Consumers have different financial options to select from when deciding to go solar. In general, a purchased solar system can be installed at a lower total cost than a system installed using a solar loan, lease, or power purchase agreement (PPA).

If you prefer to buy your solar energy system, solar loans can lower the up-front costs of the system. In most cases, monthly loan payments are smaller than a typical energy bill, which will help you save money from the start. Solar loans function the same way as home improvement loans, and some jurisdictions will offer subsidized solar energy loans with below-market interest rates, making solar even more affordable. 

New homeowners can add solar as part of their mortgage with loans available which allow borrowers to include financing for home improvements in the home’s purchase price. Buying a solar energy system makes you eligible for the Energy Efficiency Tax Incentive

Solar leases and PPAs allow consumers to host solar energy systems that are owned by solar companies and purchase back the electricity generated. Consumers enter into agreements that allow them to have lower electricity bills without monthly loan payments. In many cases, that means putting no money down to go solar. 

Solar leases entail fixed monthly payments that are calculated using the estimated amount of electricity the system will produce. With a solar PPA, consumers agree to purchase the power generated by the system at a set price per kilowatt-hour of electricity produced. With both of these options, though, you are not entitled to tax benefits since you don’t own the solar energy system.

Navigating the landscape of solar financing can be difficult and it’s best to talk to financial institutions who specialise in this.

How will solar impact the resale value of my home?

Buying a solar energy system will likely increase your home’s value. Studies found that solar panels are viewed as upgrades, just like a renovated kitchen or a finished basement, and home buyers across the country have been willing to pay a premium on a home with an average-sized solar array. Additionally, there is evidence homes with solar panels sell faster than those without. 

Is solar safe?

Absolutely! All solar panels meet international inspection and testing standards, and Spinnacle Power will install them to meet local building, fire, and electrical codes. Also, your solar energy system will undergo a thorough inspection from a certified electrician as part of the installation process. 

What are the environmental benefits of solar?

Using solar power instead of conventional forms of energy reduces the amount of carbon and other pollutants that are emitted into the environment. Reducing the amount of carbon in our atmosphere translates into less pollution and cleaner air and water.