Sustainable Living & Sustainable Lifestyle

Solar panels can help make your home more energy efficient, but it’s important to approach the process with these steps in mind.

Steps to Install Solar Panels On Your Home

Solar panels can help make your home more energy efficient, but it’s important to approach the process with these steps in mind.

You have concerns about climate change and want to do your part by taking steps to reduce your carbon footprint. You also know that deciding to install solar panels in your home is a way to accomplish that goal. However, you may need help in knowing where to start.

While it’s certainly a big project, it’s one accomplished by many people every day around the world. In the United State alone, about 4 percent of all single-family homes already have solar panels installed. The following looks at the steps involved in joining them – or determining whether it’s a move that you can make.

Step 1: Home Energy Efficiency

There’s no need to invest in solar panels without first looking at less expensive ways to make your home more sustainable. Some of the most common steps include using LED light bulbs that are more efficient than traditional bulbs and installing energy efficient appliances. Weatherizing a home can also cut down on heating and cooling use.

Step 2: The Level of Solar Energy in Your Area

Because solar panels can use both direct and scattered sunlight, every place in the United States can benefit from solar panels. However, the amount of power generated can differ depending on availability of sunlight. A large shade tree in the yard can make solar panels far less efficient. The U.S. government provides detailed information on assessing the solar potential of your home.

There are other issues to consider, as well. If you have an older roof you plan to replace in the next few years, it’s typically best to wait until after you do that before installing solar panels. Smaller roofs may simply not have the space needed to install panels. Also, some neighborhoods restrict the use of solar panels.

Step 3: Choose a Solar Panel Option

If you decide to proceed with installing solar panels, you have a variety of options.

  • Buy a solar panel system. The average cost is between $15,000 and $25,000.
  • Buy into community or shared solar. This can involve solar power-generating systems either on-site or off-site. People within a community pool their resources to buy solar energy at the levels they need for their homes.
  • Lease a solar panel system. A popular choice for those who do not want to pay large amounts to purchase a system.
  • Solarize programs. This involves a community of people, including businesses, who pool their resources and contract with a single company to do solar panel installations in their area at a reduced rate. Essentially, they leverage their “bulk purchasing” power, allowing solar panel installers to offer a lower price for each customer in the group.

Step 4: Determine Your Power Needs

Review your electricity bills and see how many kilowatt hours you typically use, making sure to check out usage for both hot and cold weather months. Also, factor in any changes you plan to make to a home, such as adding an additional room. These details allow contractors to make more accurate estimates.

Step 5: Obtain Bids From Qualified Contractors

Only speak with contractors who have all the proper licensing and experience in installing solar panels in your area. Make sure they understand the local permitting requirements to install solar panels, as well as the interconnection process. As with any business you hire, check for any past legal issues and read online reviews.

Step 6: Consider Financial Options

By purchasing a solar system, you are eligible for a 30 percent tax credit (so a $15,000 installation would result in a $4,500 tax credit). That makes buying a solar system beneficial to you, especially since long-term maintenance costs are fairly low with solar panels, according to NerdWallet. But it’s also important to know your home’s solar potential and whether solar can provide all your energy needs.

Step 7: Install the System

Contractors should help you obtain the proper permits to do the installation. The size of the system will depend on the availability of sunlight as well as your power needs. Qualified installers will also calibrate the location and tilt of the panels to ensure maximum exposure to sunlight throughout the year.

By using solar panels, you can cut down, and in some cases completely eliminate, your need for fossil fuels. But it’s important to go through these steps to install solar panels to ensure it’s the right move for you to make at this time.


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