5 Ways to Determine if Solar Energy is Right for You
Recent reports indicate that 2014 was one of the hottest years on record. Unfortunately, this global rise in temperature creates serious problems for populations around the world. In an effort to protect the environment and decrease ecological impacts, more and more consumers are “going green” and seeking out alternative energy sources. Among the renewable energy sources available, solar power is an increasingly popular choice, as it offers a significant reduction in carbon emissions and substantial savings. For many, choosing alternative energy isn’t just good global citizenship—it’s a smart financial investment too.
Governments, organizations, businesses, and homeowners are adopting solar energy at an exponential rate. Every year, new residential solar companies spring up to meet the demand of the expanding market. Regardless of the popularity and availability, solar energy is not a good fit for everyone, but it may be the right fit for you. Here are five important factors to consider when deciding if solar makes sense:
- Location - Residential solar is available in every state, but in some states, switching to solar just makes more sense. Solar panels require direct sunlight, so if you live in an area with significant cloud cover, making the switch may not be a wise decision. Homes located in southwestern states, like California and Arizona, are great candidates for solar power. Even states you might not expect, like Massachusetts and New Jersey, are among the top contenders for solar energy consumption. There are many resources available online to help consumers review their state’s solar situation.
- Energy habits - If your utility bills cost you hundreds of dollars each month, solar energy offers big potential savings. Solar is a great solution for homes that consume a lot of power because the savings outweigh the investment. Keep in mind that energy generation typically corresponds with need. During summer afternoons when the sun is brightest, energy needs rise (think fans and air conditioners), while solar energy generation increases.
- Roof style - To maximize solar exposure, roof panels need to meet specific requirements. Many contractors will not install on a roof that will need replacing within 15 years. Additionally, steep pitches, flat roofs, and trees that cast a shadow on your house can all limit sun exposure and reduce the system’s efficacy. Conditions are best when the roof faces south and is made of composite shingles or concrete tile. Speaking with a professional installer or solar expert can help you determine if your roof meets the requirements.
- Your “green” status - If you already try to make eco-friendly choices, deciding on solar may be a great next step. Solar consumers make a real difference by addressing one of the largest contributors to carbon emissions — residential homes. A 2013 study from UC Berkeley examined CO2 emissions reductions from residential solar. Researchers analyzed 113,533 homes with solar power and found that together, they avoided 696,544 metric tons of CO2 emissions. That is equivalent to the average annual output of 146,641 cars, or 1,619,870 barrels of oil.
- Your wallet - Depending on how you decide to purchase and install your solar panels, there are several financial incentives to help alleviate any costs. State tax breaks and other government rebates provide incentive for many. Some solar companies even offer free installation with term agreements to make solar energy systems more affordable. In addition to these immediate savings, consumers who choose solar enjoy lower utility bills and increased home values. Over a 20-year period, the average solar customer is expected to save $20,080. A study over an 8-year period found that homes with solar energy not only sold at a higher price, but also had a better rate of sale than those without.
Solar technology and innovation are increasingly more available and affordable. For many homeowners, residential solar energy can be a practical and cost-effective approach to self-reliant and smart energy consumption. Regardless of whether you’re ready for solar panels, choose to be a conscientious consumer, making small and simple changes to decrease your energy consumption.
Bryan Phelps is a solar energy analyst at Vivint Solar.
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