To get affordable solar power for your home, you must first overcome its high initial cost. The significant upfront cost is solar's one big disadvantage in the minds of many of its critics. Keep reading to discover how this cost disadvantage can be overcome.
Powering the average home using energy from the sun requires a sizable
solar panel array covering most of the south facing roof of the house.
The cost of solar panels alone can easily run from $15,000 to $20,000,
then you must add the cost of installation, mounting hardware, wire, the
grid-tie inverter, and possibly a battery storage system if your hope
is to provide standby power or to go off grid.
After everything is totaled up, you could be looking at a solar energy investment of anywhere from $30,000 to $50,000, or possibly more. It hardly seems like affordable solar power...until you take a closer look.
Recent changes in solar technology and innovative financing by banks have made installing solar power increasingly affordable. And there are other ways you can save money with solar electricity besides your immediate energy savings.
You'll need to carefully compare your startup costs to the potential benefits and savings.
The upfront purchase of a residential solar power system isn't the only option. There are renewable energy grants, cost rebates, and sometimes special bank loans available that can offset part or all the initial setup expense, depending which country, province or state you reside in.
Grants and government tax rebates can definitely help to make the installation cost more affordable. Either tax deductions or direct payments are the usual methods of reimbursement.
Sometimes, the solar panel installers and manufacturers themselves will subsidize part of the cost by offering their own price discounts and rebates to homeowners when they install solar power during seasonal off times when business is slow.
For instance, some vendors advertise a "Winter Solar Panel Sale" and some will agree to match or beat a competitor's quote for a more affordable system installation. Like many products, it's often possible to negotiate a good deal, even on high quality products and installations.
Continued improvements in manufacturing methods help to lower production costs on solar products while increasing panel efficiency. Not only is there a wide variety of photovoltaic panels available to choose from, but there are quality power inverters, storage batteries, charge controllers, and other components being sold at lower prices, making affordable solar power within the reach of almost everyone.
Like any product in the marketplace, some companies do a better job of manufacturing than others, so it pays to shop around for quality and price.
Because so many factors go into installing an affordable solar power system, each house needs to be considered on a case by case basis to determine the real cost.
Your PV system might well cost much less than a neighbor's. The size of the roof, its steepness of pitch, and the direction it faces must be evaluated. Obviously, larger homes will require larger solar panel arrays to meet their power requirements. Household electricity usage varies too depending on people's lifestyles and needs.
But, if the home remains connected to the utility grid, the cost of a PV system would likely be lower because the grid can still be relied upon for a portion of the electricity required. Also, a significant portion of the overall installation cost can be saved by not needing a costly battery storage system.
Some properties might be better suited for a ground mount system. However, the location of bushes or shade trees or buildings that might block the sun's rays from reaching the photovoltaic panels throughout the daytime hours needs to be considered.
Also, the sunlight received in different locations can vary greatly. For example, according to Environment Canada statistics, residents in Calgary, Alberta yearly receive 2405.3 hours of bright sunshine. However, 4375 km to the east, residents in St. John's, Newfoundland yearly receive 1511.5 hours of bright sunshine -- a difference of 893.8 hours.
Therefore, a house located in Calgary might require fewer PV panels to generate the same amount of electricity as one located elsewhere, thereby lessening the overall cost of the home power system.
An accurate solar site evaluation is crucial for each setup to function at maximum efficiency levels and be cost-effective. Professional solar panel installers can provide accurate quotes for labor and materials to design an affordable solar power system customized to your individual site location.
Some solar users place great value on being totally off grid and completely independent of the local utility company. Power outages are a common occurrence in some rural areas. Transformers can blow, and wind storms can knock down trees and dead limbs onto the hydro wires causing an electrical outage.
Many components of electric power grids are decades old, and in today's tight economy there's too little money or incentive for small utility companies to upgrade. Having off-grid solar power available can offer a safe, convenient backup during times when the electricity is out.
In recent years, grid overload has become a major cause of brown outs and power outages, especially during periods of extreme cold or heat when heating systems and air conditioners are operating at their maximum. Again, generating your own electricity can make you a lot less vulnerable.
So why doesn't everybody go off grid? Because it's costly.
The payback time on a residential solar power system can be up to 15 years, or more. Some homeowners might consider the setup costs too high and opt to endure the occasional blackout. However, it might only take the prevented expense of a flooded basement resulting from an unpowered sump pump to narrow the payback.
The probability is that residential solar power systems will soon be considered valued assets to homes. The more energy costs rise, the greater awareness there is of the value of alternate energy systems, and solar specifically.
The homebuyer market is starting to view affordable solar power in a favorable light and that's reflected in the higher resale value of solar home listings.
If you can produce utility bills that show a history of significant electricity savings to a potential homebuyer, it can be a strong incentive for them to purchase your solar house over one that has higher energy costs.
However, today we live in a mobile society. Most people own their home for fewer than seven years. This affects the feasibility of installing an affordable PV system. Those who only expect to own their home for five to seven years are reluctant to invest another $40,000 (or possibly more) into it.
Adding a solar electric power system will increase the resale value of the home, but it rarely raises it enough to recoup the total installation cost. While that fact does need to be considered, you must also consider that part of the cost will be recovered through your regular energy savings in the long term.
You must take the reality of a long-term payback into account to have affordable solar power.
Here's another way you can offset installation costs. You might be able to sell the surplus power your solar panels generate back to the power company depending on where you live and which utility you're connected to.
Through what's called a Feed-in Tariff program, if your solar panels output more electricity than your home needs, the difference is fed back into the utility grid and you receive a rebate on your next bill. Some might have a zero balance depending on the power produced.
For instance, in the Province of Ontario (Canada), the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) has established the microFIT program for small PV installations up to 10 kW in size. The OPA will pay a rate guaranteed amount per kWh for all the solar electricity your PV panels can produce.
The Government of Ontario is encouraging homeowners, farmers, co-ops and other small-scale electricity producers to plug into the grid and make some money under its Green Energy Act. It's possible to generate an extra source of government guaranteed income for years to come.
But, even if your local government or power company doesn't offer a Feed-in Tariff program, your electric bills will still be reduced. Throughout the daylight hours when sunlight is hitting your PV panels, your appliances will be operating off your own solar power source instead of electricity from the grid. You might see a substantial decrease in your electric bills that could amount to significant savings in the long term.
As mentioned earlier, there are many variables to be considered when
deciding on solar. We all have different energy needs and points of
view. But, at some point in weighing all the factors, it can be
considered worth your while to install an affordable solar power system.
Once that decision is made, and if it's carried out properly, most are
glad they chose it.
If anything, you'll save money against rising energy prices. The cost of energy derived from fossil fuels is predicted to rise sky-high, and there appears to be no end in sight. Rising oil and natural gas prices, dwindling energy supply, heavier regulation of utility companies, the current decline of the nuclear power industry, and many other factors all contribute to higher energy prices.
Affordable solar power represents a real hedge against inflation. Residential PV systems are long lived, cost-effective, easy to maintain, and contribute to minimal pollution. Safe, clean, low-cost electricity. Isn't that what we all want? You not only help yourself to lower costs, but you get to help the environment too.
As you can see, no one answer fits all circumstances and like many things in life, implementing an affordable solar power system for your home will involve some trade offs. The bottom line is only you can decide whether it's good for your particular circumstance.
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