Have you noticed all of those solar homes popping up around your neighborhood? We sure have, and it got us to thinking about whether going solar was something we should consider. While the law of supply and demand catches up with green practices, we’re often forced to pay more money to support the causes we feel are important. i.e. Fair-Trade coffee is often more expensive than regular coffee; organic cotton is often more expensive than regular cotton. But going solar is one of the pleasurable decisions that can be made from both a moral and an economic basis.
If you own a home, and you’re beginning to wonder whether solar is right for you, consider these factors:
1. Survey your home: Are you living in the woods, surrounded by redwood trees and babbling brooks? Good for you! That sounds pleasant. But given that you are living in a shaded area, solar power is probably not going to do you a lot of good. How much sun hits your rooftop? Are there trees that would have to be cut down, either in your yard or your neighbor’s? Be a good citizen and discuss your thoughts with the neighbors before you show up at their house with a saw. Lots of sun and no obvious obstructions? Your home sounds like a good candidate for solar power!
2. Cost: Obviously the biggest factor in considering solar is the cost. Obviously it’s not cheap. But…if you’ve never looked into it, it’s probably not as expensive as you fear. Plus, after you pay off the cost of installing a solar power system (which is offset by the cost savings of your electricity bill) your system will essentially be earning you money, money that you won’t have to pay out to the power company.
A few additional notes on cost: Power companies such as PG&E provide rebates for installing solar power to your houses. Let’s do a bit of math: Solar panels + work: $20,000; PG&E rebate: – $5,000; Annual electricity bill: $2,000. In this situation it would take you 7.5 years to pay off your solar panels and start making money from the energy you create. Obviously if you don’t plan on being in your home that long, it might not make sense (though real estate data suggests that homes with solar power bring top dollar which is a definite plus in this buyer’s market). If you DO plan on staying in your house long-term, solar power might make good financial sense in your situation.
3. Ease-of-use: Solar power systems are virtually maintenance free once they are installed. Most come with excellent warranties. Look for a company that provides at minimum a twenty year warranty, which shouldn’t be difficult to find.
4. The (cooler) attic of your dreams: If you have an attic that is difficult to make use of during the summer months due to the heat, solar panels can actually help you out. Solar panels provide shade for your roof which results in a cooler attic. So you are effectively increasing the square footage of your house.
5. What’s the weather like up there? If you live in a climate that is primarily cloudy, be aware that your solar system will not produce any electricity during those times. So if this is your area’s normal state of being, solar is most likely not for you.
6. Do you need a new roof? If so, you should take care of that before going solar. When replacing your roof you will have to remove your solar panels and related hardware which then means you will have to hire a qualified electrician to reinstall and reconnect your solar panels. New roof = additional cost.
7. Weather conditions: Because your solar panel is on the roof, open to the elements, it’s important to consider your climate’s weather and how the panels will withstand. If you live in an area that has frequent hail storms and heavy snow, ensure that you investigate the company you are considering working with. Check their references and ask other homeowners who use their product, whether they are sattisfied and if the system has been able to withstand the weather conditions.
8. Check into your home insurance: Are your solar panels covered in case of a fire? Like any big investment you want to ensure that the cost is covered should anything unexpected happen to your home.
Choosing to go solar is a big decision that could potentially reap great rewards for both the environment and your budget. To get more information about going solar, check out Home Power Magazine.