Is Your Home Eligible for the Benefits of Solar Energy?
Solar energy is appealing to many homeowners thanks to its ability to lower electricity bills with a renewable resource, but that fact is, not all homes are ideally suited to going solar. That doesn’t mean that if you live a rainy climate like the Pacific Northwest that you’re automatically disqualified – in fact, many homes in wet Seattle are successfully solar powered – but your location, the direction your home faces, and even the materials your roof is made from can influence how well solar energy will work for your needs.
Although only a trained solar panel installation professional can tell you for sure if your home is suitable for solar panels, here are some of the things that make a home the perfect candidate:
High Energy Bills
The fact that solar energy can significantly reduce monthly electric bills is one of the most common reasons that homeowners opt to install panels. However, in order to actually see measurable savings from this form of power, your monthly bill should be an average of at least $75 or more. Any less than that, the cost of installing and maintaining the solar panels isn’t likely to offset the savings. A lower than average electric bill doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t get solar panels for other reasons, but it does mean that you won’t see the same level of cost savings as other solar users.
Again, just because you live in an area that isn’t exactly known for its sunshine doesn’t mean that you aren’t a candidate for solar panels. A lot goes into determining whether solar power will meet the needs of your family, including the direction your home faces, the size of your roof, the weather patterns in your area, the number of trees and buildings surrounding the home, and more. That means that a south-facing home with a large roof and no trees in Minnesota could potentially produce more solar energy than a smaller north facing home surrounded by trees in Florida.
One way to get an idea of your home’s suitability for solar power is to enter your address into Google’s Project Sunroof. Using GPS technology, 3D modeling, and weather data, the project will give you a quick estimate of how much space you have for solar panels, the number of hours of usable sunlight your roof receives each year, and the possible savings you’ll see from switching to solar. Again, it’s just an estimate, but you’ll get a good idea of your home’s suitability and the benefits you might see. If your address isn’t in Project Sunroof, you can do some research on your own by going outside at various intervals throughout the day to see how much sun your roof is getting, and which areas become shaded and when. You can also check a solar map from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to see if your area gets enough sun to make solar a practical option.
Keep in mind that solar panels collect energy regardless of temperature, so even homeowners in northern climes can see the benefits of solar energy. However, if you live in an area prone to severe weather (i.e., hurricanes, tornados, etc.) purchase and installation costs may be a bit higher due to the need to install more durable panels. That being said, if the only option for installing solar panels is on a north facing roof, or if you are in shade most of the day, then solar power isn‘t likely to be an option for you.
Size, Age and Makeup of Your Roof
Generally speaking, solar panels are best suited to roofs made from durable materials, such as certain kinds of metal, concrete tile or shingles (either asphalt or composite.) Other materials, such a clay tile or composite metal, will allow for solar panel installation, but require an installer experienced in working with these materials to ensure proper installation.
The age and condition of your roof is also important. Because solar panels generally have a useful life expectancy of 20-40 years, it’s best to install them on a roof that has been recently replaced so as to avoid having to remove the panels in order to complete that work in the future.
Finally, your roof should be large enough to fit enough solar panels to produce enough electricity to power your home. Even with a small roof, you can still supplement your electricity with solar panels, but you may not see the same level of savings. Consider that on average, a solar panel is about 17 square feet, and produces about 265 watts of electricity under direct sunlight each day. Using your electric bill and the size of your roof, you can determine how many panels you would need to power your home, and whether they will fit. Be sure to get an expert opinion from a solar professional, but these basic calculations can give you an idea of whether your home is eligible for solar.
One factor that could affect your dream of going solar is restrictions from your Home Owner’s Association or other city ordinances that prohibit homeowners from installing solar panels. Some HOA’s may prohibit solar panels entirely or have strict approval requirements that
residents must complete before installation can begin, such as getting approval from neighbors. However, because solar panels are a source of energy, and not, say, a swing set or basketball hoop, some states have implemented “solar rights provisions” that prevent HOAs from restricting or limiting access to solar power. If you live in a community with an HOA, you’ll need to check the covenant as well as state and local laws to determine your solar options.
Most homeowners have considered solar power at some point. Perhaps in the future all homes will be built with the ability run on the power of the sun, but for now, only those homes that meet certain criteria are eligible. If you aren’t sure, or if you want to learn more about your individual solar options, get in touch with Fusion Power for a professional evaluation.