Solar Panels for Home – the initial questions

by Andy Goldman on February 24, 2013

Is Solar right for you? Do you really have the money to invest in a solar panel for your home? Do you live in the right area to benefit from solar energy? These are just a few of the questions which need to be answered by homeowners who plan to install solar panels for their homes. It is a one thing to read about the benefits of solar panels for home and it is certainly another thing to install such a system on your home’s roof.

As we stated in the introduction before you actually purchase and install solar panels on the roof of your house you need to answer many questions, plan your actions, perform a study or assign someone to do a study for you and have a Net Present Value, NPV, analysis in your hands taking into account all costs involved and the expected income over the years so as to ensure that you will end up with a positive figure in your bank account. Let us try to answer some of the initial questions anyone who is interested in installing solar panels for home should answer. We will take the simplistic view with a different approach than the one analysed by Dino Green in his article Solar Panels for home.

Are Solar Panels right for you?

I believe this is the first question that you need to answer. We assume that you have entered in this quest either because of the financials involved or because you a renewable energy source fun and you want to contribute to the conversation of our environment and the reduction of pollution. The pros and cons of solar panels for home are presented in the corresponding article. This first question, if Solar panels are right for you, is broken down to many other sub-questions.

South-facing roof: In order to benefit from the sun and solar energy your house needs to have a south-facing roof. This is a must since it is the south side which will have the maximum solar exposure compared to the other sides. If you do not have a south-facing roof and you want to have solar panels then your alternative option is to install solar panels on the ground if you have the land.

Solar Insolation map: Once you have sorted out the issue of the south-facing location, roof or ground installation, your next action would be to check the sun hours map, the solar insolation map, and find out the number of full sun hours you get at your location. It is understood that the more sun hours you will have the more output you will have from your solar home panels.

US solar insolation map

Up-front Cost: Once you clear out that you have the south-facing solution the next big issue is the initial cost of the installation, the up-front cost. You need to make an investment in order to have a return. If you do not have the money you may get a loan but check the interest rates and make sure you include this parameter in your NPV analysis. Pay-back period for solar panel systems is between 7-8 years depending on the initial cost and cost of capital invested. It is important to consider all financing options and choose the best under the circumstances financial option.

In case you cannot secure the initial investment you may consider the leasing option offered by some companies. In these cases the solar panel companies install the solar panels at your home but they have most of the benefits while you enjoy some of the benefits such as free electricity.

Tax-Incentives: Tax-incentives in your city, county or state are a big plus when considering the installation of solar panels for your home or your shop or factory. The purpose of the incentives is to push home owners in the direction of renewable green energy sources which in the end reduces the dependency on fossil fuels and on the other hand helps to reduce pollution and promote a cleaner environment. There are states which offer rebates on renewable energy projects and for sure the installation of solar panels is a project which qualifies for such a rebate.

Decisions regarding the installation of solar panels for home

Once you have decided that solar panels are right for you, you need to take a number of decisions so as to complete the financial model of your project and obtain the necessary inputs in the NPV analysis. The NPV analysis is the analysis which will convince your Banker to provide you the loan and convince you that what you that the solar panel installation will indeed turn out to be a profitable investment.

Sizing of Solar Panels: In order to decide the size of the solar panel installation at your home you need to know your electricity consumption, maximum and average. Based on this yearly consumption a certified solar panel installer will quote you a complete solar panel system. Make sure you allow for extra capacity, if you can, because your needs may change and until your needs increase you will have the opportunity to sell extra electricity to the grid, if you are connected to the grid.

Solar Panel Prices: Once you have sized your project based on needs and consumption, present and future, you should get a quotation from certified and authorized solar panel installers. Prices should include all costs such as panel cost, installation, wiring, permits, connectivity to the grid and the cost of any other activity in your area. Quotations for solar panels are given in USD/Watt and these may vary from state to state. You need to be an educated home owner/consumer and thus you need to have an updated view of the solar panel cost in your area and country.

Further decisions and actions concerning Solar Panels for home

After answering the initial and basic questions, there are more issues to be addressed and more actions to be taken which have to do with the Solar panels themselves and their cost. What are the different types of solar panels? What is their efficiency?  Do I need batteries? If yes what size/capacity? Which Inverter do I need? Who will do the installation and maintenance? Do the panels need cleaning?

The questions are many and if you are going to be an educated home owner you need to make sure that you get as much information as possible and do the necessary comparisons. Installing solar panels for your home is a decision of almost equal importance as the purchase of the home itself. Solar Panels will be on your roof for 20 years and more and the right choice of every parameter involved will guarantee the success of the installation

About the Author

Andy Goldman

Andy Goldman is a 27-year veteran in the service industry with managerial, strategic, operational and consulting experience. Has managed teams of 5-45 people and has also managed several multidiscipline projects. He has worked in Europe and the USA and holds a BSc and MSc in Electrical Engineering and an MBA with a minor in Finance. For the past 5 years he has been an enthusiast of renewable technologies. Article by Andy Goldman You can connect with Andy Goldman at Google+

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