Okay, so you've heard it before... solar energy is clean and efficient. Planet Earth has a finite amount of resources and fossil fuels are corroding the planet. With global warming and other ecological disasters, it's becoming more and more evident that it's time to go solar.
Now that the "go green" guilt trip is over, let's talk about whether or not solar is the right move for you.
Is solar for you?
In 2016, average energy consumption for a US residence was around 10,766 Kilowatt-hours. According to US Energy Information Administration data from 2014, the average monthly electric bill in Phoenix, Arizona was $120.51 while the national average bill comes in around $114.11. There is understandably an increase in energy consumption for an area where air conditioning isn't just a luxury, but a necessity. Add to that, the State of Arizona has an average of 299 sunny days per year. You can see that for hot, sunny places like Phoenix or Las Vegas, it would be almost foolish to ignore the idea of using solar energy.
|City||% Sunshine||Hours of Sun||Clear Days|
|Las Vegas, Nevada||85||3825||210|
|Los Angeles, California||73||–||147|
|Oklahoma City, Oklahoma||68||3089||139|
|San Diego, California||68||3055||146|
|Salt Lake City, Utah||66||3029||125|
|San Francisco, California||66||–||160|
Factors to consider
There are three important factors when it comes to solar production.
- Size of the panel,
- Efficiency of the cells, and
- Amount of sunlight available.
The typical panel used in residential solar measures around 5.5' long by 3' wide. These panels usually hold around 60 cells which are linked by wires. The cells are where the sunlight is converted into electric energy. The wires then carry the electricity to a junction box where the panel joins with the rest of the panels in the array. Panel size is important because the more cells you have linked in tandem, the more efficient they are at creating electricity.
Though solar technology has been around for quite a long time, the size of the panels hasn't changed much, but their efficiency has increased. In 1954 a 5x3' panel was capable of producing around 20 watts of electricity-- enough energy to power one third of a 60 watt light bulb. Modern panels are now capable of producing as much as 320 watts and could power up to five and one third 60 watt light bulbs.
As mentioned above, if you live in a sunny climate, you're likely to benefit the most from having solar panels. We recommend having at least 4 hours of typical peak sunlight per day. Peak sunlight hours describes the intensity of sunlight directed on the panels, and is typically defined as an hour of sunlight that offers 1,000 watts of photovoltaic power per square meter.
Lowering or eliminating utility costs.
The move to solar is also increasingly more attractive as technologies advance and access to solar energy becomes more affordable.
There are three major cost benefits to solar usage to consider.
1) The typical warranty for solar panels is 25 years, but they generally have a life of 40-50 years.
2) The use of solar panels can eliminate a monthly utility bill. Any energy created by your solar panels is energy you don't have to purchase. If you could save the average electric bill of $114.11 a month in one year you'd be saving $1,369.32 annually. Multiplied by a couple of dozen years, and that's a significant cost savings.
3) Depending on your area, excess energy generated can be fed back into the main system and can even create a positive credit from your solar panels. Some customers get a check from their energy company.
Increased home value.
Solar panels and solar water heaters are great assets in the home and can increase resale value significantly. The home's value should increase by at least the cost of the solar system. With solar power increasing in popularity, having an existing system will also increase demand when you decide to sell your home.
Tax breaks and rebates.
Solar panels can seem costly when you first see the estimates, but when you think about the average savings, a good system will eventually pay for itself. So what about the initial cost? There are amazing tax incentives and rebates available to people who go green. Federal tax incentives can offset nearly one third of the purchase price of a solar system. The state of Arizona offers a flat $1,000 incentive as well.
Financing is also an option.
If federal and state incentives aren't enough to help with the initial cost to make solar an option, consider financing options. It's possible with proper financing to go solar with little initial cost. Many companies have financing options that could potentially be as low as or lower than your current utility costs for electricity. With the system in place and a low monthly payment, your system could be paid off as painlessly as paying your monthly electric bill.
How many panels will you need?
Sizing a system for your home's energy needs is easily done by looking at your utility bill over a year. Simply take the number of kilowatt-hours your house uses monthly and create an average for the year's usage. This number divided by the kWh that the panels you are considering are capable of producing and you've got your magic number. If a house used an average of 900 kWh then a 2 panel system could adequately cover the energy needs of the home. Of course there are other variables to consider, like heavy use of an air conditioner in the heat of summer, that can affect the energy needs of the home.
If math isn't really your thing, most solar companies can easily calculate the size of system your home will need. Most companies will even give you a free estimate to help you make the decision. So even if you're still on the fence about whether or not a solar system is right for your home, it's worth a call to get an estimate. Because cost is a concern for most households, you can also discuss tax credits and financing plans when gathering estimates.
The key is to get that first estimate. At Enlyten Energy, we provide free estimates to help you get the ball rolling. Let us help you take the next step; we think you'll find that solar technology today is much more affordable and efficient than you think.