When homeowners start to think seriously about the benefits of installing solar panels, one of the most common questions that comes up is how long do they last? Many homeowners are new to the process, not sure whether they’ll have high maintenance fees or if they’re at risk for additional replacement costs more often than they’d like. The truth is that homeowners can breathe a sigh of relief. Solar panels last a lot longer than you’d think.
How Long Can Solar Panels Last if Maintained?
The good news is after a solar installation, homeowners can look forward to your panels lasting in the range of 25 years. Think about that- in 25 years, your children will grow up happy and healthy, your baby sapling trees will grow large and your car will have been replaced for the latest and greatest model multiple times. 25 years is a very long time. It speaks to the durability of solar panels and their low maintenance. These panels face the brunt force of the elements- wind, rain, sunshine, snow, or even hurricanes or twisters. The good news is in California, we won’t have some of the most extreme weather and can enjoy some of the best weather. However, maintenance is still necessary.
The average rate of degradation of solar panels is about .4% per year. What this means is that even if they degrade over time, your new panels will be operating in the high 80’s to mid 90% over the years. With gentle maintenance, you’ll still be reaping the benefits of solar panels for years to come. A great solar power company can help you frame your expectations, teach you how to maintain your solar panels, and offer you support.
Tips For Extending the Life of Your Solar Panels
We can’t control the weather. Depending upon the weather, your panels can experience debris, high winds, beating down rain or hail, and more. This can wreak havoc on anything from your car to your motorcycle to even your home wherever you’re located. However, you can do the following steps to extend the life of your solar panels:
- Find an Exceptional Solar Power Company to Partner With. The best companies are all about customer service. Would you consider buying a new solar power system from someone who would abandon you completely? No. Do your homework and partner with an exceptional solar power company so you’re sure to receive the best customer service for installation and helpful hints throughout the life of your solar power system.
- Keep an Eye on Your Solar Panels. You should actively monitor your solar panels, whether that means clearing debris off of them after high winds, or cleaning up the results of what appears to be sick birds. It’s helpful to ensure your solar panels are not damaged, excessively dirty, or deteriorating from a lack of attention and maintenance.
Solar energy systems can potentially last you around 25 years. That could be 25 years of your family enjoying freedom from high energy bills, earning money from energy credits, and reaping the benefits of solar power. How long can your peace of mind last with clean, renewable energy?Read More
When homeowners hear solar savings, they have expectations that they’ll instantly be flush with extra cash. However, solar panels take time to acquire energy from the sun and produce energy for your home. This means that as more time goes on, homeowners will start to see more solar savings with reduced or completely eliminated electricity bills. Within months, you’ll begin to see your investment paying off and within years, a solar system can completely pay for itself. Consider the following ways in which you can determine your solar savings with a new solar system:
Use a Cost Calculator to Determine Solar Savings
A free cost calculator can help you to predict how much you will save by switching from electricity to solar power. Generally speaking, a solar cost calculator can take into account geographic data, shade homeowners experience and monthly electric bills. Using this data, a solar cost calculator will produce a general idea of what you can expect in solar savings. This is a great first step to determining whether a home is a good candidate for solar panels and it also provides a great benchmark for determining solar savings as time progresses.
Keep Close Track with Net Metering
Most homes that are solar powered are connected to the grid via net metering. This is a system of billing that keeps track of homes’ utility meter to determine the amount of energy produced. The electricity homeowners’ solar panels generates is recorded in net metering and the solar savings are reflected in monthly electric bills.
Generally, homeowners can generate enough electricity to avoid paying an electric bill. These savings can add up significantly for homeowners used to paying hundreds of dollars in electricity every month. If solar panels produce more energy than is actually used, then that energy is sold back to the grid and the electric company will reimburse homeowners for the extra power. A check every month can be a great way to keep track of the cost savings from switching to solar power.
The initial investment in a solar system can be daunting for some homeowners, but as they begin to see their solar savings for themselves it’s clear they made a smart investment. Becoming energy neutral and paying nothing to your electric company is a great feeling, but as time goes on, your solar panels will pay for themselves and that is an amazing feeling.Read More
At the beginning of the year, the U.S. imposed a number of tariffs, including on imported solar panels and solar cells. This tariff was set at 30%. Every indication is that the U.S. is working to lower these tariffs soon, but until then people are struggling to understand the impact. Understandably so, home owners have enjoyed lower energy bills since making the switch to solar power. Those are not going to significantly spike as the solar tariff will primarily affect manufacturers, not homeowners.
How the Solar Tariff Impacts Home Owners
The solar tariff was the result of a fixed percentage on these goods. Over the course of only four years, the solar tariff will be in place. The good news to homeowners is that it will drop by 5% every year. This means that as you ring in the new year soon, the solar tariff will lower to only 25%. As you ring in the next year, your solar tariff will lower again and you’ll only have to pay a 20% tariff.
With the steady pace of newer and less expensive technology, solar panels and cells have been similarly declining. This means that homeowners will still be able to enjoy the benefits of lower energy bills and energy credits with carriers. New studies out of the Department of Energy is placing the costs per kilowatt hour of solar falling far behind those of coal and gas.
Californians Can Benefit from Solar Incentives
Particularly in California, where programs are so favorable to homeowners using solar power, the effects will be minimal at best. There are many solar incentives that can help offset any additional costs. The tariff may add a few hundred dollars up front on the installation end, but the benefits over time will significantly overshadow the solar tariff. If you sell energy credits to your local power provider, you could actually make money off of your solar power system.
If you’re considering the switch to solar power, contact us for a free evaluation. We can help you reduce your energy bills with this clean renewable source. Call us today at (951) 678-7733.Read More
While we’re all busy making merry this season, chances are we’re also all consuming a lot of energy. If you’ve already got your Christmas lights up, your tree plugged in, and the heating cranked up in preparation for hosting friends and family, you’re likely consuming a lot of energy. It may be the perfect time for an energy audit.
Why Do You Need An Energy Audit?
An energy audit can help tell you where you waste energy. If you find your electricity bills are consistently high, and not just through the holidays, you could be missing opportunities to lower your energy consumption and your energy bill.
While California’s 2020 mandate for solar energy is looming on the horizon, many homes across the state and nation are still wasting massive amounts of energy. This could be due to unnecessary electricity use from too many appliances being plugged in to insufficient insulation to poor heating and cooling efficiency. Whether you have a newer home or an older home, you should perform an energy audit.
Energy Audit Steps Towards Identifying Energy Waste
According to the Department of Energy, 48% of energy use is from heating and cooling systems and another 18% from water heaters. What this means is your energy audit should be examining the devices you use to heat and cool your home including:
- Checking heating and cooling appliances and replacing these with energy efficient units
- Performing an energy audit on hot water use
- Looking for spaces around doors and windows where you might be leaking air
- Installing low flow showerheads and energy efficient dishwashing and washing machines
Another culprit for energy waste is poor insulation and sealing. If you discover in your energy audit that your home is poorly insulated and sealed, you could be overpaying by thousands of dollars per year in energy bills. To perform an energy audit on insulation, try the following:
- Look for gaps and leaks in insulation and sealing from gaps in your doorways, floors, electrical outlets, faucets and other fixtures
- Check to see if you have adequate insulation in your attic or if there are gaps, especially around chimneys, windows, and ducts that could be filled in as a result of your energy audit
- Perform an energy audit on your floors to determine if you’ve got properly insulated crawl spaces to prevent heat loss in your floors
And finally, perform an energy audit on your electricity consumption. Are you leaving lights on all day when you’re not home? Do you have inefficient appliances? All of these could contribute to preventable energy waste. Try the following steps:
- Unplug appliances that don’t always need to be plugged in. You’re not using your toaster 99% of the time, so it’s safe to say appliances such as that can be unplugged
- Toss out appliances that no longer work but you keep plugged in anyways
- Use sleep functions on your computers, laptops, and televisions when they’re not in use or when you fall asleep before turning one of those items off
- Use energy efficient light bulbs
- Weigh the results of your energy audit against your ability to save with solar power
Explore Converting Your Home to Solar Power
Solar power is a clean, renewable source of energy that can significantly reduce energy waste and reduce your electricity bills. It can also be a great source of tax rebates and income from selling energy credits. To find out if you’re a good candidate for solar power, contact our experts today at (951) 678-7733 or try our handy cost calculator tool.Read More
The holidays are upon us and across the nation, temperatures are rising on the West Coast and dropping on the East Coast. What this means to home owners is that air conditioning and heating costs will soar as more electricity is being consumed. For home owners with solar panels, they won’t experience this energy suck and drain on their bank account. However, to keep up the savings and potential checks from the electric company for purchased energy credits, it’s imperative that homeowners know their peak sun hours and how to calculate them.
Determining Peak Sun Hours
Many home owners mistakenly assume that while their solar panels are absorbing sun half or even most of the day, this translates into the most stored energy. This contributes to home owners’ energy, but it’s not the most accurate representation of how much energy solar panels are producing. Instead, it’s helpful to determine the hour or hours between which those sun panels are absorbing at least 1,000 watts per square meter.
Obviously, the sun changes positions in the sky depending on which coast a home owner is located on, how many hours of sun there is, and how intense the sun’s rays are. We all learned from Twilight that Forks, Oregon has the least amount of sunlight per year. This is an area that would be hard pressed to determine peak sun hours when the sun is out so rarely.
Consider the following elements that contribute to peak sun hours based on atmospheric conditions, location, position in the sky, time of day and more:
- Time of Day: Solar noon is often considered the peak of solar radiation and peak sun hours. This is because the sun is highest in the sky. In contrast to sunrise and sunset, the sun is positioned at a low angle, filtering more sunlight and less energy being absorbed by solar panels.
- Season: The hot months of summer and the higher position in the sky often increases peak sun hours.
- Geography: Communities closer to the equator gain more solar energy due to their proximity to the sun.
Calculating Peak Sun Hours the Easy Way
Within the continental United States, most home owners can expect to receive between 3 and 5 peak sun hours. This is based on location, seasonal sunlight, and the influence of atmospheric changes such as clouds and fog. Some communities experience more hours of sunlight such as the West Coast and desert states such as Arizona compared to areas like Maine or New Hampshire, which experience more seasons than the West Coast.
Home owners are able to Google insolation maps and charts for more information, but an easier way to calculate specific home owners’ peak sun hours is really through an insolation meter. An insolation meter is able to calculate temperature, light intensity and solar power supply to solar panels.
By determining peak sun hours, home owners are better able to make informed decisions on purchasing solar panels. Use Sunpro Solar’s handy cost calculator to determine how much you can save.Read More
Thanksgiving is nearly here, which means after the Black Friday crowds comes Small Business Saturday. Small Business Saturday started as a reaction to the large chain stores that offered big savings and often took business away from local stores. In an effort to support local small businesses, Small Business Saturday was born. Small Business Saturday isn’t just about shopping local retailers for stocking stuffers. It can also include deals on solar power. Local to the Inland Empire, Orange County and Los Angeles resides Sunpro Solar. If you’ve ever considered shopping for solar power, Small Business Saturday is your opportunity to save.
The Savings Add Up
When consumers make the switch to this renewable energy source, they find the savings really add up. Expensive electricity bills, costly air conditioning and heating are drastically reduced. Manufacturers are able to guarantee the best quality, offering consumers the ability to hang onto their solar panels for decades to come. Once they’ve drastically reduced their electric bills, consumers find that the cost of maintaining solar panels is extremely inexpensive and easier than continuing to pay excessive fees.
Shop Solar Power Locally
Households and businesses across Southern California have saved exponentially by shopping for their solar power locally. Whether it’s a first time home buyer or a large condominium or industrial complex, solar power is a huge energy saver and a source of renewable energy. By shopping for this source of green energy locally, consumers can help local businesses to thrive.
As good members of the community, solar power businesses such as Sunpro Solar contribute to a healthy environment and a better future for everyone. Those interested in finding an exceptional solar power business should schedule a free consultation today. Sunpro Solar is available to guide you through the process of converting to sustainable energy. Call us today for a free consultation at (951) 678-7733.
We’ve all heard about the 2020 mandate for solar panels in all newly constructed California homes, but what about homes that were built before 2020? Title 24’s mandate didn’t include upgrading older homes in the state. Many of these old homes can benefit from solar panels as well. Consider the following benefits for California home owners who switch to using solar panels:
Solar Panels Can Improve Our Air Quality
It’s not hard to see that as wild fires rage uncontained at the moment, that California’s air quality is not good. Even in times without crisis, our air in California is often described as smoggy. Smog alerts encourage children to stay indoors and off the playground because the air quality is often so bad. With solar panels, Californians can do their part to improve our air quality. Because solar energy is a renewable energy, it doesn’t pollute the air. Homes which are using solar panels to generate electricity and for heating and cooling don’t produce any harmful emissions. Instead, they harness the power of the sun, a clean renewable source of energy. Because panels are so affordable, homes in especially dense urban areas like Los Angeles, San Francisco, or even Orange County can do their part to improve air quality.
Increased Money in Your Bank Account
Homes can be extremely expensive, especially to heat and cool. Apartment dwellers may have it easy but for new home owners, the cost of electricity can be shocking. The larger your home, the more expensive it can get. Electricity in large homes is already expensive, but when the temperatures soar or dip dramatically, Californians’ electric bills can look like your paycheck from your first job out of school. Solar panels, in contrast, are affordable and easy to maintain, reducing your need to buy electricity and pay half of your paycheck for it. Keep more of your money where it belongs- in your bank account by switching to clean solar energy.
Low Maintenance Costs
Maintaining your solar panels is easy and cost effective. In fact, they are so sturdy that manufacturers generally offer 20 to 25 year warranties on their products. You won’t have to spend more money every year replacing equipment. No matter how much the elements beat at your panels, you’ll be able to enjoy the benefits of solar energy for decades. No other source of energy can claim to be so affordable for so long.
It’s clear that Californians need solar energy. For more information on how you can benefit from installing solar panels, contact us at (951) 678-7733.
July and early August 2018 boasted some of the hottest days on record in Southern California. Air conditioning units throughout the region ran 24-hours a day. The rest of the summer promises more of the same.
As grateful as we are for the air conditioning units that make these months bearable, we are markedly less pleased with the energy bills that arrive in the following weeks. That is, unless we have solar panels. Solar panel systems deliver homeowners significant savings over non-solar systems—typically several hundred dollars during the hottest months of the year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
And with more than 300 days of sunshine a year, very few states are as ideal as California to make the most of solar panel technology as a renewable and reliable energy source.
Add to that the fact that there has been a 53% drop in the price of solar panels over the last five years, according to figures from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), and it seems like every California home would have a raft of solar panels on its roof.
But that’s not the case: the SEIA says that while California continues to be a leading solar panel market in the United States with nearly 5.8 million homes powered by solar, there are 7.2* million households in the state that do not.
So why aren’t solar panels on every roof in California? It turns out there are valid reasons that not all California consumers have embraced the movement toward solar panel energy. Here are the top five:
1. Average Utility Bill is Manageable (for Now)
According to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), residential electric customers in California pay an average of 16 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh), among the highest rates in the nation. However, monthly average bills in the State are among the lowest in the United States at $90 per month. That’s because California homes use less energy on average than households in other states, due to a milder year-round temperature average of 70 °F.
But CPUC average findings aside, each household uses energy in different ways. Bills may range from as little as $40 to $800 a month or more. It depends on how the air conditioning is used, how many people are in the home, when the appliances are in use and many more factors.
The CPUC divides California into six into six regions based on climate: North Coast, Mountains, Central Valley, Central Coast, Desert, and South Coast/Inland. If you’re living in the North Coast, Mountains and Central Coast, for example, you’re less likely to use air conditioning during the summer months because you simply don’t need it thanks to cooler temperatures.
People in the Central Valley, Desert and South Coast/Inland areas are far more likely to be solar panel customers. In fact, in April Los Angeles mayor Gil Garcetti announced that Los Angeles—firmly situated in the South Coast/Inland region of California– as the most installed solar power of any city in America. And it’s been worth it: a 2018 study by Solar Reviews found that in the cities of Los Angeles, San Diego and Long Beach, the average monthly savings for an 1,8000-square-foot home with solar panels was around $128 per month.
It’s safe to assume that, even if a home’s energy bills are low without solar panels, public utilities will continue to raise rates just as they have been doing for years. Between 2006 and 2012, for example, residential electricity prices shot up 30%, adjusted for inflation, according to Energy Department figures. Experts say the price could jump an additional 47% over the next 15 years.
2. You Rent Your Home
Unfortunately, people who rent their homes—46.2% here in California, according to the US Census Bureau—usually aren’t candidates for solar. However, just because you don’t own your home there are ways to reap its benefits.
If you’re paying your own utilities, even as little as the $90 a month average referenced above, you may want to consider approaching your landlord about installing solar panels.
After all, both you and your landlord want to save money. A landlord may consider leasing a system at, for example, $75 a month, and charge that amount to the tenant. The tenant ends up saving money, the landlord has his or her costs covered on solar panel installation, and it is a win-win for both.
If you aren’t comfortable about approaching your landlord or you’re part of a large apartment community without much of a relationship with the property management firm, you still can access solar energy.
In California, many cities are experimenting with “community solar,” a group of people in the same community or neighborhood, going in on solar together, usually in what is referred to as a solar garden. The community group can take advantage of the cost savings and environmental benefits of solar without having to put the panels on their own roof. You don’t need to be a homeowner to do it, either. A quick Google search can tell you if there is a community solar program near you.
3. Some People Don’t Qualify
Another reason that solar panels are not ubiquitous throughout California is that not all would-be customers qualify for financing for solar panel payments. Experian lists the average credit score in California as 687, ranking 30th out of 50 states. But while that score is on the lower end of average, it doesn’t mean that someone with that credit score can’t buy a solar panel system.
Solar panel systems can range upwards of $15,000 – $30,000, before tax credits and incentives. That’s a big number and there are different ways to make it happen for you.
Basically, there are two types of solar financing. The most popular kind of financing is a solar panel-specific loan through the solar panel manufacturer. An applicant needs a minimum 650 credit score to qualify. These loans are specific to solar because of the federal solar tax credit, also known as the investment tax credit (ITC), which allows you to deduct 30 percent of the cost of installing a solar energy system from your federal taxes.
In this case, the solar panel manufacturer receives the 30% tax credit, and deducts that amount from the principle of the loan. For example, the solar system has a price tag of $15,000. The tax credit is $5,000. You agree to pay that $5,000 tax credit to the solar panel manufacturer and the solar panel manufacturer provides you with a loan with payments based on $10,000.
Typically, such loans are 18-months, interest free. According to EnergySage, these loans are generally available for 10 to 20-year terms, with interest rates ranging from 3 percent to 8 percent if you have a FICO credit score of 640 or above. You own the panels outright and are responsible for maintenance, but since the majority of solar panel systems come with 20-year-warranties, that isn’t as much of an impact as it might otherwise be.
One thing to keep in mind with loans, however, is If you don’t send in the $5,000 tax credit from the IRS, then your payment will go up. It will now reflect a $15,000 loan. So if your original payment as $75 a month, it will go up to $106 a month if the tax refund is not sent to the lender—a 42% increase.
Customers can also lease their solar panels from the solar panel provider. Leasing can bring instant cost-savings benefits with little or no money down. The power you produce will lower your monthly utility bill. The solar company owns the panels and is responsible for maintenance. In order to lease, however, the customer must have a higher credit score, around 700.
The typical lease period for solar panels is 20 years. At the end of the lease, you have the option of buying the panels outright for fair market value or having the solar panel company remove the system from the house. It’s up to you. Leasing may be a good option for people who want to keep their options open.
If the idea of financing through the solar panel manufacturer or leasing panels isn’t appealing, another option is to get a traditional loan from your bank or financial institution. The monthly payment may be slightly higher, and the credit score requirement may be different, but the 30% tax credit can be used to pay down your principle.
4. Some Roofs Don’t Have Enough Useable Space
The fact of the matter is that some homes aren’t candidates for a solar system. Their “footprint” isn’t large enough to accommodate the system that the home needs to produce the most solar energy. Covering every available inch of a roof is simply not practical, especially given that fire code requires three feet of clear space from all ridges. Solar panels are rectangular; a roof with many varying levels can preclude any installation.
While solar panels can be installed on the ground on a separate structure, that isn’t always a practical solution. You’d need to add trenching, conduit, concrete and steel framing, which generally will add 20- 30% more in costs to your solar panel system.
Another problem homeowner sometimes encounter is an overabundance of trees and shade. If the shade only cover the solar panels a portion of the day, it is possible that they still absorb enough sun. Or, if the problem can be addressed through a good tree trimming, then by all means a solar system can work. The important thing is taking shade issues into consideration before installing panels to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth.
5. Some People are Skeptical
Throughout history, the introduction of technology has given some people pause. A 1933 New Yorker article recalled what it was like when telephones were first for sale: “People admitted that telephones were ingenious contraptions and wondered just how they worked, but they no more thought of getting one of their own than the average man now thinks of getting an airplane. As a matter of fact, for a long time they were of little use in a home. Since almost nobody had them, there was no one to talk to.”
Solar panels are a little like that. When they first debuted 20 years ago, they had their share of naysayers. Even now, some people are skeptical. And many have good reason: they may have encountered a fly-by-night solar company or been subjected to an annoying “hard sell.” They may have had friends who installed solar panels, only to find that the company they used overcharged them or did not customize a solar panel system that worked best for their home.
Sadly, when solar panels did appear on the scene, there were disreputable companies who took advantage of people’s trust. One company, since gone out of business, would require an 80% down payment, deliver a few pieces of racking, but never come back to install the system. Another company, also now defunct, would form an alliance with another company to fix prices. In the Wild West days of the early solar panel industry, things sometimes got out of control.
Now, twenty years into it, companies take pride in providing customized, cost-efficient systems that provide energy savings for years. Yet people still may not believe that a solar system is right for them.
Some say that they’ve been watching the prices for solar panels come down over the years and they are waiting for the costs to drop further. At first glance, this seems reasonable: after all, solar panel systems have dropped significantly in the last five years. But now the prices have stabilized and are not expected to drop further. Plus, depending on what part of California you are in, local incentives may be phased out. The federal tax credit, currently 30% of the price of your system, will be changing.
The Department of Energy says that the 30% tax credit is for systems installed by 12/31/2019, After that, the tax credit drops to 26%. After 2021, the tax credit drops to 22%. Given this information, it’s better to buy or lease a solar system before the tax credit changes.
Another reason that some may not believe a system is for them is that they haven’t done their own research on the right solar system for them. They may have a friend with a different sized home and a different number of people in their household, from whom they got their information, and decided solar panels weren’t for them based on someone else’s energy needs. It’s important to have a qualified solar professional make an in-person assessment of your home so that the information you have is the most recent and most accurately reflects your needs—and your eventual savings.
Find Out More about Solar
The best time for solar companies is the month after a spell of hot weather when folks open up their energy bills. That said, Sunpro Solar, one of Orange County’s top solar panel companies doesn’t want people to buy solar panels because they’re motivated by a big bill. They want them to make the investment before the hot weather ever hits so that they can access the savings all year ‘round.
*California Department of Housing and Community Development, January 2017
Sunpro Solar is Southern California’s premier solar panel installation company. The Sunpro team is passionate about the Solar Revolution and offers the newest in solar module technology. Every solar system Sunpro Solar installs is custom designed in-house by Sunpro Solar engineers. Sunpro is not a subcontractor and does not subcontract. Whether your project is residential or commercial, Sunpro Solar handles all of the permitting and construction. Find out more at www.sunpro-solar.com.Read More
Determining how many solar panels you’ll need for your home means first knowing what your goals are. Do you want to minimize your carbon footprint? Maximize your return on your investment? Save as much money as possible? Most people want to save money while minimizing their environmental impact.
To calculate how many solar panels you need, you need to know the following: how much energy your household uses; your roof’s usable surface area; the climate and peak sunlight in your area; the wattage and relative efficiency of the photovoltaic (PV) panels you’re considering; and whether net metering is available.
1. How much solar power will you need?
To determine your home’s average energy requirements look at past utility bills. You can calculate how many solar panels you need by multiplying your household’s hourly energy requirement by the peak sunlight hours for your area and dividing that by a panel’s wattage. Use a low-wattage (150W) and high-wattage (370W) example to establish a range (ex: 17-42 panels to generate 11,000 kWh/year). Note that how much sunlight your roof gets and factors such as roof size and battery storage will figure in as well.
If you work with Sunpro, our solar experts will handle all these calculations for you. But to give you some idea of how many solar panels are needed for the average home (or for your home in particular), here is a sample set of questions that a solar professional might use to figure it out:
2. How many watts do you currently use?
Look at your electricity bill for average usage. Look for “Kilowatt Hours (or kWh) Used” or something similar, and then note the time period represented (usually 30 days). If your bill doesn’t show kilowatt hours used, look for beginning and ending meter readings and subtract the previous reading from the most recent one.
You want daily and hourly usage for our calculations, though, so if your bill doesn’t show a daily average, just divide the monthly or annual average by 30 or 365 days, respectively, and then divide again by 24 to determine your hourly average electricity usage. Your answer will be in kilowatt-hours (kWh). (And just in case you are wondering, a kilowatt-hour is how much power you are using at any given time multiplied by the total time the power is being used.)
A small home in a temperate climate might use something like 200 kwh per month, and a larger home in the south where air conditioners account for the largest portion of home energy usage might use 2,000 kWh or more. The average U.S. home uses about 900 kWh per month. So that’s 30 kWh per day or 1.25 kWh per hour.
Your average daily energy usage is your target daily average for to calculate your solar needs. That’s the number of kilowatt-hours you need your solar system to produce if you want to cover 100 percent of your energy needs.
It’s important to note that solar panels don’t operate at maximum efficiency at all times. (See Solar 101: How Does Solar Energy Work?). Weather conditions, for example, can temporarily reduce your system’s efficiency. Therefore, experts recommend adding a 25 percent “cushion” to your target daily average to ensure you can generate all the clean energy you need.
3. How many hours of sunlight can you expect in your area?
The peak sunlight hours for your particular location will have a direct impact on the energy you can expect your home solar system to produce. For example, if you live in Phoenix you can expect to have a greater number of peak sunlight hours than if you lived in Seattle. That doesn’t mean a Seattle homeowner can’t go solar; it just means the homeowner would need more solar panels.
The Renewable Resource Data Center provides sunlight information by state and for major cities.
Now multiply your hourly usage (see question No. 1) by 1,000 to convert your hourly power generation need to watts. Divide your average hourly wattage requirement by the number of daily peak sunlight hours for your area. This gives you the amount of energy your panels need to produce every hour. So the average U.S. home (900 kWh/month) in an area that gets five peak sunlight hours per day would need 6,250 watts.
4. What affects solar panel output efficiency?
Here’s where solar panel quality makes a difference. Not all solar panels are alike. Photovoltaic (PV) solar panels (most commonly used in residential installations) come in wattages ranging from about 150 watts to 370 watts per panel, depending on the panel size and efficiency (how well a panel is able to convert sunlight into energy), and on the cell technology.
For example, solar cells with no grid lines on the front (like SunPower ® Maxeon cells) absorb more sunlight than conventional cells and do not suffer from issues such as delamination (peeling). The construction of our cells make them stronger and more resistant to cracking or corrosion. And a microinverter on each panel can optimize power conversion at the source, in contrast to one large inverter mounted on the side of the house.
Because of these wide variations in quality and efficiency, it’s difficult to make generalizations about which solar panels are right for you or how many solar panels you’ll need for your home. The main takeaway is that, the more efficient the panels are, the more wattage they can produce, and the fewer you will need on your roof to get the same energy output. Conventional solar panels usually produce about 250 watts per panel, with varying levels of efficiency. In contrast, SunPower panels are known to be the most efficient solar panels on the market.
To figure out how many solar panels you need, divide your home’s hourly wattage requirement (see question No. 3) by the solar panels’ wattage to calculate the total number of panels you need.
So that average U.S. home in Dallas, Texas, would need about 25 conventional (250W) solar panels or 17 SunPower (370W) panels.
5. What is the effect of solar panel size?
If you have a small or unusually shaped roof, solar panel size and numbers are important considerations. With a large usable roof area, perhaps you can sacrifice some efficiency and buy more larger solar panels (at a lower cost per panel) to get to your target energy output. But if your usable roof area is limited, or if it’s partially shaded, being able to use fewer smaller high efficiency solar panels may be the best way to make the most possible power over the long term, ultimately saving you more money.
Typical residential solar panel dimensions today are about 65 inches by 39 inches, or 5.4 feet by 3.25 feet, with some variation among manufacturers. SunPower solar panels are 61.3 inches by 41.2 inches.
These dimensions have remained more or less unchanged for decades, but the efficiency and output from that same footprint have changed dramatically for the better. In addition, SunPower designs entire systems to have virtually no gaps between panels and uses invisible framing and mounting hardware to keep the rooftop footprint as tight, efficient and attractive as possible.
Knowing the answers to the above questions will give you an idea of the ideal number of solar panels for your electricity generation needs — or at least a realistic range. Next, a professional installer needs to assess your roof architecture, angle to the sun and other factors to see if and how you’d be able to physically arrange the right number of panels on your roof to achieve your daily energy production goals.
You should also consider net metering as you’re considering figuring out your ROI for your solar system. Net metering is how your utility company credits you for producing excess solar energy when the sun is shining and then lets you draw from those credits when you’re using conventional power grid at night, if you don’t have a solar battery storage system.
To get started, check out our solar calculator, which can help you figure out how much you might save going solar.Read More
“Don’t solar panels need a lot of maintenance?”
Sunpro gets this question from homeowners regularly, and it’s understandable given that no one wants to worry about climbing up on a roof to care for their solar panels.
Since SunPower’s panels are the most efficient on the market, they’ll make more energy than competing panels in a variety of low-light situations, but any panels covered with too much dirt or debris will produce less power.
In most cases, the loss of power isn’t significant — maybe 1 to 4.7 percent. But one study found that long-term dirt buildup can reduce a solar panel’s electricity production by as much as 20 percent.
How to Clean Your Solar Panels
Typically, we say to stay off your panels – they clean themselves: The good news is that seasonal rain usually washes off any dirt or animal droppings that may have accumulated. But if your area receives very little precipitation and has dusty, windy weather, you may need to occasionally clean your panels. Some homeowners are able to do this themselves or they may choose to have them professionally cleaned.
For example, in Riverside area, where we install Sunpower solar systems, it doesn’t rain much between spring and the wintertime, making regular monthly or bimonthly cleanings a good idea. Because the desert is dry, a lot of dust or ash (from California wildfires) can rest on the panels.
Fortunately, cleaning solar panels is easy for ground-mounted systems, or for rooftop solar systems. We recommend homeowners use a soft-bristle brush with an extended handle, like the type used to clean off an RV. And don’t forget to choose an environmentally friendly soap.
If the solar panels are hard to access, such those on a two-story home, buying a high-pressure hose nozzle with an attachment that holds soap typically does the trick. These can be found at any home maintenance store. Find a safe place to stand, spray soapy water on the panels and then quickly rinse them off.
Yes. It’s really that simple.
But you Do-it-yourselfers should keep some other things in mind:
- As a rule, stay on the ground. Never get up on your roof without a secure ladder and proper fall-protection equipment.
- Turn off your system before start you cleaning. Consult your SunPower® solar manual to see how you turn off your system to protect it. If you’re unsure, ask your SunPower dealer for help.
- As a rule, avoid using hard, or mineral rich, water. It can damage panels over time. If your area only has hard tap water, you can buy an inexpensive water-softening hose attachment to filter out minerals. Otherwise, you can use distilled or de-ionized water.
- Use soft brushes and squeegees. Don’t use abrasive brushes, pads or powders.
- Clean your solar panels early in the morning or in the evening when the solar panels are cool. During the heat of the day, water and soap can evaporate quickly, which risks smearing the soap and dirt.
- When using a high-pressure water nozzle, don’t get close to the panels. While they’re extremely durable, you don’t want to damage them.
Still nervous to do it yourself? In many cities there are businesses that specialize in solar panel cleaning, but it’s also a service that many window washing companies now offer. They typically only charge about $2-4 per panel, depending on how accessible and dirty they are. Better yet, the process is quick: 15 to 30 minutes.
Still, here are some other tips:
- Do a monthly visual inspection to look for any dust buildup. Also, you can watch your bill for any noticeable drop in efficiency. Only then should you worry about cleaning. Even then, in most cases, nature is going to clean them for you.
- Don’t expose yourself to any risk. If you have any doubts about your ability to safely clean your panels, hire a professional.
Now that you can see that having solar panels is not a high-maintenance commitment, visit our solar calculator to see how much you might save going solar.Read More