Adding solar panels to your home can help to reduce your electricity bills and lower your energy footprint – it’s an excellent investment for both your family’s future and the future of the planet. If you’re thinking about how to add solar energy to your home, follow this step by step guide that can help you determine what solar system is perfect for you.
Optimize your Energy Efficiency
The first step in solar home planning is to figure out what sort of energy efficiency your house currently has. By becoming aware of what your total electricity usage is, you’re better able to define your solar goals, as well as determine if there are any low-cost, easy-to-implement measures you could take to immediately make a difference in your homes energy efficiency before investing in solar power.
Start by taking an audit of your energy use – a home energy audit helps determine if your home is losing energy (for example poorly sealed windows might be raising your heating bill), and what you can do about it. Consider swapping out appliances and electronics – newer kitchen appliances, for example, are often drastically more energy-efficient than older models. Switching to LED light bulbs is another easy change you can make to optimize your energy use before determining how much solar power you’ll need to keep your home running.
Assess Your Solar Potential
Once you know how much energy you’ll need, it’s time to figure out how easy it will be to get it. Every address has a different solar potential – both due to the climate and weather typical to your area, as well as the way your property receives sunlight.
Even if your home doesn’t receive much direct sunlight, you still might be able to power your home on solar. There are two types of solar collections systems – direct sunlight, and scattered sunlight, so it’s possible that you still might be able to power your solar system even in a less sunny region.
Understand Your Options
There are quite a few options for going solar available today – you might not even have to purchase your own solar system to make the change (great news for home renters).
Check with your local installers and utility companies to see if they offer any Community or Shared Solar or solar leases you could opt for.
Estimate Your Solar Needs
By now, you’ve got a pretty good idea of what sort of energy you use to power your home; as well as the potential your home has to produce solar, and what type of solar systems interest you. Now it’s time to make some decisions about how much of your energy use you’re hoping to pass over to solar, both in the immediate and in the long-term future.
When you’re estimating your solar needs, you need to think about the bigger picture. First off, make sure you account for usage differences throughout the year – such as in the summer, when you’ve got your AC blasting; then take into consideration any longer-term changes that you might have on the horizon, such as the purchase of an electric car or that addition you’re hoping to build in the next five years.
Gathering all this information greatly helps your contractor to provide you with accurate information as to the type and size of solar system that will be able to support your home’s electricity use.
Get a Bid
Now that you’ve got your solar system needs set, it’s time to find someone to help turn your dreams into a reality. When researching installers, look for qualified, insured professionals with proper certification. You might look online, or even ask friends or family for references. Make sure you get at least three bids from different solar installers so you can compare the potential cost of installing your system. Don’t forget the cost of permitting, sales tax and what sort of warranty the company will provide you when making your comparison and check for any tax credits that you might be eligible for before purchase.
Going solar may require an upfront investment; however, it’s one that will create returns for a lifetime. By following the above steps, you’ll be able to dial-in your energy use and find a solar system that perfectly matches your home’s needs.