Steps to going solar

An online solar panel calculator is one of the most common tools nowadays for consumers looking to go solar. Online solar tools have become mainstream in countries like the USA, Australia, UK, etc. enabling many online users to make online decisions to go solar. For instance, EnergySage has one of the most popular online solar calculators in the States, and millions of people use this platform each year to research and shop for solar through their network of pre-screened, local installers.

However, not all consumers have access to online tools to help them make online solar decisions because such tools require a lot of investment to create them. For instance, most of these tools have been developed or informed from solar mapping research conducted using Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) technology. These tools can determine the specific solar potential for rooftop solar for both residential and commercial places. The cost for LIDAR remains high and it will perhaps take time before it can be reduced.

Many solar consumers in countries without site-specific solar data can still determine their solar potential manually by performing a few calculations although it can be time-consuming and tedious. As such, this blog attempts to capture the process or steps for how to determine whether solar is right for your house or business, manually without the use of online solar tools which we promote here.

1. Determine the electrical load for your household or business
A very straight forward way to determine the electrical load for your household or business is from your monthly utility bills. You can pick out the number of kilowatt-hours of electricity consumed in your household on a yearly basis and then get the average by dividing by 12 to get the monthly electricity consumption and then divide that figure by 30 to get the daily kWh usage.

To be more specific, you can list all your heavy electrical appliances such as your refrigerator, washing machine, etc. Determine their wattage and how many hours are used by them to determine the number of watt-hours.

Once you complete this step, this will give you a general estimate of your energy consumption. At this point, you can decide whether you need to do something with regards to lowering your energy consumption by implementing energy efficiency measures. For instance, one of the low hanging fruits can be changing all your incandescent bulbs to LEDs. LED bulbs use more than 75% less energy than incandescent lighting which means you can save a huge significant of energy by just switching to LEDs if you are currently using incandescent bulbs.

2. Solar Insolation
Solar insolation is the incident solar radiation onto some object or specifically the measure of the solar energy that is incident on a specified area over a set period. Solar insolation
can be expressed in two ways, that is:

  • Kilowatt-hours per square meter (kWh/m2) per day which represents the average amount of energy hitting an area each day.
  • Watts per square meter (W/m2) which represents the average amount of power hitting an area over an entire year.

The importance of knowing the values of solar insolation at certain positions on the Earth is to help determine the size and output of your Solar PV system. As such, based on the solar insolation of your location, these values will help to determine the expected output for your solar panels and determine whether your specific location will be good for solar power. There are other factors such as obstructions to your rooftop like trees or building design that will affect solar insolation for your PV system.

There are various ways to determine solar insolation for your building ranging from weather databases in your area. As early mentioned on this blog, today there are various tools that use the LIDAR technology that has simplified this process. However, these tools are country-specific, but some tools like Google Project Sunroof are aiming to have global coverage to have online users just plug their address into the tool to determine solar potential. Google Project Sunroof in addition to providing with your solar insolation calculates how much money a user can expect to save yearly by making use of solar power

Until, we have a resource that can provide online users with specific rooftop solar insolation like the Google Project Sunroof, online users without this specific information can use for instance the Global Solar Atlas
which was developed by the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) to support the scale-up of solar power around the world. The primary aim of this Global solar Atlas is to provide quick and easy access to solar resource and photovoltaic power potential data globally, at a click of a mouse.

The methodology for the Global Solar Atlas is location-specific that involves three main different models i.e. solar radiation model, air temperature model, and PV power simulation model. Solar radiation and air temperature modeling result in a series of pre-calculated data layers that can be retrieved at (almost) any location on the map. Additional information about a possible PV system type and configuration are used for the PV power simulation, which is calculated on-demand using Solargis internal algorithms and databases. For more information, see the details of the methodology of the Global Solar Atlas.

However, like every online tool, the Global Solar Atlas can only provide solar estimates and the figures you get are preliminary to provide you with an estimation about your solar potential. It is always advisable to obtain the final word of a licensed and experienced solar installer to make an actual assessment for your solar PV system. Online materials suggested on this platform only provide estimates. For instance, the objective of the Global Solar Atlas is to provide reliable introductory-level data to help policymakers, researchers, and commercial solar companies take better decisions. For project-specific analysis of large -power plants, the data available via the Global Solar Atlas is suitable only for preliminary analysis.

The Global Solar Atlas provides an opportunity to do site prospection and pre-evaluation of the potential of solar energy in different countries and areas. For instance, in our context, you can check the solar energy potential for a specific site for instance for your home or business. In this case, you can determine how much electricity will be generated and in what time. Also, analysis of the averaged solar radiation components for specific locations helps with planning and pre-evaluation of opportunities for solar energy projects.

3. Determine capacity of solar panels or how many solar panels you need
Once you have determined the solar insolation which is sometimes referred to as “peak sun hours” measured in kWh/m2 per day, it is easy to estimate the capacity of solar panels or how many solar panels are needed. The term “peak sun hours” refers to the solar insolation which a particular location would receive if the sun were shining at its maximum value for a certain number of hours. Each peak sun hour is defined as one hour when the intensity of sunlight (solar irradiance) reaches an average of 1,000 watts of energy per square meter (roughly 10.5 feet). Since the peak solar radiation is 1 kW/m2, the number of peak sun hours is numerically identical to the average daily solar insolation. For example, a location that receives 8 kWh/m2 per day can be said to have received 8 hours of sun per day at 1 kW/m2. Being able to calculate the peak sun hours is useful because PV modules are often rated at an input rating of 1kW/m2.

Also, there are various solar panels out there of different sizes ranging from 500-watt solar panels, 300-watt solar panels, 250-watt solar panels to 1watt solar panels, and so on. However, it is good to know what size of solar panels to pick depending on the size of your rooftop or anywhere that you want to place them to harvest solar energy.

Once you have estimated your average kWh used monthly in step one (1) above, it is easy to estimate the capacity of solar panels needed in your building. Let us say that you use an average of 1000kWh per month, to get the daily kWh usage divide 1000kWh by 30 to get about 34 kWh daily usage. Assuming you want to off-set the 34 kWh daily electricity usage with solar panels at 100%, using a 250-watt solar panel and your site location is getting 4 hours of sunlight per day that means 250W multiplied by 4 hours which is 1000 watt-hours per day or 1kWh a day.

Since you are consuming 34kWh daily, then you need 34 solar panels each with a 250-watt power rating. This is just a rough estimate and a lot of other factors such as cloud cover, system design, etc. will affect the sizing of your system. However, to help you make the decision to contact a solar installer in your local area, doing a preliminary feasibility study will help you to make a good decision on whether to pursue solar for your home or business. Other factors such as solar panel efficiency and whether your solar panels come with warranties are important while conducting your research.

Remember, the above example assumes you are going solar 100% however, considering you have a net-metering arrangement in your area, you can decide to off-set your current usage at 75%, 50%, 30%, and so on. For instance, if you decide to off-set your current electricity usage at 50%, this means 34kwh/day multiplied by 0.50 which is equal to 17kWh/day which means you will only need 17 solar panels each with a 250-watt power rating.  

Depending on the amount of electricity usage you want to offset using solar panels, you will probably need to invest in some additional equipment often referred to as balance-of-system
to condition the electricity, safely transmit the electricity to the load that will use it, and or store the electricity for future use. For off-grid systems or those not connected to the grid, you will need batteries and a charge controller to store excess power produced during the day and use it at night when there is no sunshine. Grid-connected PV systems you will need power conditioning equipment such as solar inverters to convert your DC generated power to AC to comply with your power provider’s grid connection requirements.

This article just provides the initial steps that can help you figure out how to go solar. To get specific information about solar panels and balance of system, please contact a solar installer in the local area. If you are in the USA, this solar calculator can help you locate a solar panel cost calculator and obtain multiple solar quotes from your local area. Learn more here.

Solar batteries for your-solar PV system

Why solar batteries?

solar batteryA battery is a device that stores chemical energy and converts it to electricity through the electrochemistry process. A battery can be made up of one or several electrochemical cells. Each electrochemical cell consists of two electrodes separated by an electrolyte allowing the flow of electrons between the two electrodes and electricity is produced. Generally, batteries store energy for later use and can have many applications such as powering equipment or gadgets not connected to the grid. Also, solar batteries are used to store power from solar panels for later use perhaps at night when there is no sunshine or during cloudy days when less power is generated by solar panels.

What are solar panel batteries?

Solar batteries are devices that are built using the electrochemistry technology and contain electrochemical cells that are connected in series with 2 electrodes immersed in the electrolyte solution and a circuit formed between the electrode and the electrolyte to produce an electrical current. The electrochemical cells are the ones that convert chemical energy into electrical energy.  There are several types of solar batteries that are used in connections to store electricity that is tapped from the solar system. However, the most common solar batteries include the lead-acid batteries and lithium-ion batteries.

  1. Lead-acid batteries generally used in motor vehicles and are low-cost compared to all other types. They are generally bulky but have a relatively large power due to their ability to supply high surge currents considering their volume and relative weight.
  2. Lithium-ion batteries are known for their best energy density and a very slow loss of charge when not in use and commonly used for portable electronics such as cellphones and electric vehicles. A popular example is Tesla Powerwall.

solar batteryWhen are solar panel batteries needed?

Solar batteries are useful to store excess electricity for your solar photovoltaic system in cases where:

  1. You want to supplement power from the grid with your solar power to reduce electricity costs.
  2. You are completely not connected to the grid and you use solar panel batteries’ to store electricity for later use.
1. Supplementing your grid-connected solar power system with batteries:

Through net-metering, a solar power system can be connected to the grid to help feed excess electricity to the grid or draw it to supplement your energy demand. Feeding excess electricity to the grid through net-metering comes with incentives such as reduced utility bills. However, in areas where net metering policies either don’t exist or are limited, adopting solar batteries can help to store excess electricity and use it when it is much economical to do so.

electric gridAlso, depending on the type of electricity rate structure including time-of-use (TOU) rates as well as demand charges, solar batteries can be used to store electricity to reduce these utility charges. As such, solar batteries will be useful to help to reduce your electricity bill when you understand your TOU and demand charges. TOU rates approach allows utility companies to charge different rates for electricity, where the cost of energy varies based on the time of day it is consumed.

On the other hand, the demand charge is set based upon your maximum hourly power requirement and hence the best way to decrease your electric bill when energy demand is factored in is to decrease your electric bill all at once. As such, utilizing solar batteries will help to lower your overall energy demand thus reducing your energy demand charges as well as high TOU rates. For instance, you can use electricity stored in the solar batteries during high TOU rates and consequently reduce your utility bill.

2. Areas not connected to the grid.

Areas not connected to the grid can benefit a lot from solar power. However, since there is no sunshine at night, you will need solar batteries to store excess electricity produced during the day for later use at night when it is extremely needed for lighting and other uses. About 1.1 billion people around the world still lack electricity and solar-powered mini-grids are well-suited in remote areas as it is much affordable and faster to electrify these areas using renewables than extending the main grid. As such, solar batteries will be needed to help store excess power produced by solar panels during the day and use it at night when it is needed.

How much do solar batteries cost

Just like solar panels, upfront costs of solar batteries depend on the make and model and there are various types and models of solar batteries in the market today. According to EnergySage, solar batteries’ cost before installation range between $5,000 to $7,000 or from $400 dollars per kilowatt-hour (kWh) to $750/kWh. This cost does not include the cost of the installation which is done by a licensed electrician. For instance, the 13.5-kilowatt-hour (kWh) Tesla Powerwall 2.0 is priced at $6,700 but has a built-in inverter while the LG’s 9.3kWh Chem RESU battery does not have a built-in inverter and cost about $6,000 to $7,000. However, as mentioned before will vary based on how many solar batteries are needed, the make, and the model of the solar battery. At EnergySage, you can get solar battery quotes from different vendors and compare their different prices.

The EnergySage Solar Batteries Buyer’s Guidesolar batteries

The EnergySage has developed a comprehensive classification system where users can browse and compare several solar batteries’ to evaluate their quality ratings based on their most important aspects such as cost, capacity, power, round-trip efficiency, degradation rate, and warranty.

This classification system captures various battery technical specifications such as performance, durability, warranty, and overall quality, and using this system, the EnergySage has grouped different solar batteries into five different classifications i.e. Poor, Fair, Good, Very Good and Excellent. EnergySage solar batteries buyer’s guide has captured several solar batteries from different top manufacturers and you can get price quotes here.

The EnergySage platform is a good starting point to assist you with your solar buying decision, however, it will take a licensed solar installer to make a good assessment of your household or business. In particular, a solar installer will assess your power project requirements, your energy requirements to help you decide on your solar panel and battery requirements.

Get started with a solar panel cost calculator from the EnergySage to estimate your solar panel requirements and get more advice about your battery requirements based on your energy profile or consumption.

How to check whether solar is right for you instantly?

Why solar energy?

solar panel calculator

Solar energy helps to reduce your energy costs anywhere from 20% to 100% depending on how many solar panels you decide to install on your roof. Sometimes, you want a power source that always runs your systems. But without going solar, you will have to dig deep in your pockets and pay.

With solar power, you have the opportunity to reduce your power bill. The current online market places have made the process of going solar a quicker method of owning one for your home. EnergySage has been as one of the best in providing users with a solar panel calculator for online users to determine the following: –

  • The payback period that your PV solar system will need
  • How to finance your solar panel options (that will include loans, cash, and use of solar PPA)
  • You can also do 20-year savings
  • Receiving solar quotes from different installers from your area

How to go solar using the solar panel calculator

If you want to go solar, a solar panel calculator offers a faster to do so without having to do the solar calculations yourself. Careful thought about going solar is more comfortable and provided for using a solar calculator so that you make informed decisions.

Some things need to be considered first if you want to make the right choice for once and for all. That is why it is going to be advisable for you to conduct an initial analysis of solar panels. At the juncture, you need a solar panel cost calculator to help you get informed before you make that right decision to estimate costs and savings. Thus, you can determine if it is going to be worthy of installing solar systems in your rooftop.

The process that you will go through is just a simple one; you don’t have to go through one that is tedious. Firstly, you need to know how much energy you need at home by you analyzing the quantity of solar power you need.

solar panel calculator

Secondly, you may need to see the number of solar panels that would fit on your rooftop, and the kind of savings you will get after using solar energy. As a result, you should answer whether it is worthy of going solar by the use of a solar panel calculator.

The kind of solar panel cost calculators that will help you go solar

We’ve always asked ourselves the big first question: are solar panels worth it? Although what solar calculators are great to help us answer this question? Now, let’s make it simpler for you. The type of solar panel cost calculators that are popular today or widely used include: –

  • EnergySage solar panel calculator
  • Pick My solar calculator
  • Google Project sunroof solar calculator

1. EnergySage solar panel cost calculator

This is one of the solar panel calculators rated to provide users with more accurate information. Because of the use of LIDAR technology applied in this calculator, your calculations are precise near. You can use it to switch your world into solar PV technology. EnergySage has been developed using the latest LiDAR technology. That means that you will get actual data, for instance, the solar irradiation data (this is the amount of sunlight that heats your rooftop)

EnergySage is an online market place designed with wealth solar panels reviews and also a network of solar providers, installers and even manufacturers. That means that you can connect to whoever you need to accomplish your job for you. It is one source that you cannot miss if you have any solar needs out there.

2. Pick My Solar

Pick My Solar designed with the ability to estimate by address and try to give you those precise answers to the various kind of questions that you might be having. The best part about this solar panel calculator is that it is not limited to a location like the others as it has mapped the whole country. That means when you type in your address, it will be easier for it to locate the type of address. From there, it can calculate the solar costs and savings basing its finding on how much sunlight will be hitting your rooftop.

3. Google Project Sunroof

Google Project Sunroof is another solar panel calculator that has been developed by google that requires you to type in your address. It has a global view and focuses on rolling out to other countries after its pilot in the USA. At the moment, it just estimates the solar potential of some parts in the USA and Germany.

The use of data explorer in the Beta version also keeps it ahead with technology. It means that users will now have the ability to determine the amount of solar potential that is in the communities.

Factors to consider before buying a solar panel?

solar panel cost calculator

  • You need to check your rooftop where solar panels are installed.

If your roof has a pitch of 30-degrees and there is no obstruction on the way, it also becomes an ideal place that you can do your solar installations. You also need to determine if your roof is in a shadow, or if it or has growing trees around it, as this will affect solar performance.

You also need to figure out whether your roof is big enough to handle your solar needs. You can get help with this by using the Google Project Sunroof. It uses images that it takes from google earth maps to give you that perfect calculated answer.

  • Climatic conditions

Most people have misconceptions that it is a must that you live in areas that have a warm and sunny climate for you to get the best solar power energy. But according to researchers, it has been found that solar energy increases when the temperatures are colder. The primary reason is that the efficiency of energy that is produced by solar panels will decline as the temperatures rise from 87 to 91 degrees. If you have a photovoltaic solar panel, that means that it is going to work best during such conditions. But if you live in a cold place that does not receive even a ton of sunlight, this will affect your solar power potential.

  • How much have you done to improve the efficiency of energy?

The amount of solar energy that you need at your home always depends on your usage. That means that you need to trim down your usage as much as possible so that you can reduce the number of solar panels installed. You need to look at energy audits and the efficiency upgrades.

  • Which is the best solar panel for you (type)?

The dominant technologies that exist in the world that are formidable are photovoltaic and also thermal. Photovoltaic uses arrays of cells to give it the power to turn sunlight into electricity. On the other hand, thermal uses sunlight to heat water that is going used inside.

  • How to connect to the grid

Details that you need to handle such a connection differs and depends on your location. But the primary principle behind them is that anytime that you make a connection with a utility, you must first of all sort some logistics so that you are hooked up.

  • How trustworthy is your installer?

Installers are always people that rehired to come to your home to do some electrical installations. For solar installation, you are going to combine the logistics of a home improvement project and also the risks that will come by due to electrical work. EnergySage connects you with prescreened and licensed solar installers.

  • Do you want to lease or you want to buy it?

It will depend on your pocket and to get started; you can use a solar panel calculator from EnergySage to determine your solar economics.

How to select the best solar panels

best solar panelsWhether you are a homeowner or business owner, you want to get value for your money to get the best solar panels that you can be able to afford. However, finding the best solar panels for your solar project can be a daunting challenge, because there are so many solar panels brands available today in the market.

If you are a first-time buyer of solar panels, the process of buying them can be a challenging one because you are perhaps not familiar with the process. You may start researching online or call a solar provider to get a quote and perhaps learn the process as you progress. However, getting familiar with the process from the very start of your project will help you save you time and money, and avoid shoddy deals.

What is the process of selecting the best solar panels?

Firstly, for first-timers, you want to familiarize yourself with the technical jargon used in the solar panels industry to help you understand your equipment very well. Becoming knowledgeable with your solar Photovoltaics (PV) technology is not only useful in the buying process but also helps you plan your project while saving money in the process. We have tackled some of this technical jargon for your review in most of our blogs. You can peruse this particular blog to learn about the different types of solar panels, including but not limited to:

best solar panelsSecondly, it is not easy to visit various websites selling solar panels online and compare them one by one as this will be a very tedious process and you might spend a lot of time trying to compare the various solar PV technology in the market. There are thousands of brands for solar panels and contrasting these solar panels based on pricing, quality, aesthetics, and performance will be time-consuming and tedious.

What we call ” the best solar panels” will vary from person to person based on what one can afford and how the solar panels perform once installed. Affordability is what one can afford to get solar panels that will be able to meet their electricity and heating needs without breaking the bank.

Whereas, solar PV system performance is the capability of the PV system to last long (durability), to have a great solar panel’s efficiency ( that is, the ability to convert sunlight into electricity) and the ability of a solar panel to have an excellent temperature coefficient. According to EnergySage, a solar panel’s temperature coefficient is a measure of how much or little a panel’s production lowered in hot temperatures.

Another aspect of solar panels for checking, especially the quality of solar panels is whether a particular brand is offering excellent warranties for the solar panels. Solar panels generally come with an output warranty covering the energy production of the PV technology, and a materials warranty protecting you against undue wear and tear on your equipment.

According to EnergySage, a solar panel’s performance warranty will typically guarantee 90% production at ten (10) years and 80% at 25 years. An equipment warranty will usually guarantee 10-12 years without failing. Therefore, if you find a solar brand offering such warranties for their solar panels, it will be one of the aspects of guaranteeing high quality for their product.

Compare solar panels online and save more money.

best solar panelsTo help the online shopper find their best solar panels, the EnergySage has created a new online tool that enables online shoppers to make informed solar decisions efficiently.

The EnergySage makes it easy for online shoppers to make online comparisons of solar equipment based on solar panels’ pricing, PV product performance, warranty specifications, solar panel aesthetics, solar panel type, and physical characteristics and product certifications.

The manufacturer’s data sheet or spec sheet is also included to help you select the best solar panel brand based on your desired specifications. EnergySage Solar Buyer’s guide lets users search, sort, filter, and compare today’s most popular solar panel models in the market. You can get started today to select your best solar panels using this new EnergySage tool.

Why go solar using this platform?

The 2019 Launch of the New EnergySage Solar Buyer’s Guide

The online solar marketplace, EnergySage has launched a new online tool that enables online shoppers to make informed solar decisions efficiently. It now makes it easy for online shoppers to make online comparisons of solar equipment based on quality rating, aesthetics, performance, and pricing for not only solar panels but also for, solar batteries and solar inverters.

With this new launch, the EnergySage will help online users compare solar equipment in a one-stop platform to help online shoppers better understand the solar energy equipment (solar panels, solar batteries, and solar inverters) offered to them by most popular solar brands in the market.

solar panels The EnergySage Platform is particularly handy for the first time solar buyers that have no prior solar buying experience and would like to understand their equipment before buying. In a nutshell, the EnergySage solar Buyer’s guide lets users search, sort, filter, and compare today’s most popular solar panel models in the market.

The new EnergySage Solar Buyer’s guide included over one year’s worth of work, with data and analysis from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and leveraging the industry and technical expertise from NREL to develop all scoring criteria.

The new solar guide is in addition to the Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) system developed by the EnergySage in collaboration with the Department of Energy that allows homeowners, businesses, or nonprofit organizations to estimate their energy savings from solar, and connects them with prescreened installers who can provide solar quotes specific to the user’s address.

What should you expect with the new EnergySage buyer’s guide?

solar panels

1. It provides a great rating system that enables online shoppers to browse through thousands of solar panels from popular solar brands in the market while giving a great rating system that captures some of the essential aspects to consider when selecting solar panels such as type, cost, wattage, efficiency and warranty offering necessary in each solar panels’ quality rating.

2. With the LIDAR powered system provided by EnergySage –it is an added advantage for the online shopper as the cost of a solar panel installation varies with location, property type which LIDAR helps to capture to give near accurate information. As a result, with the solar panels information obtained in the EnergySage Solar Buyer’s guide, the LIDAR powered solar panel cost calculator from the EnergySage also takes into account how much sunlight you’ll get, local electricity rates, as well as any state and federal solar incentives like rebates and tax credits helping to save more money in the process.

3. The EnergySage Solar buyer’s guide tool now provides new additions to the solar panels guide, which is a solar battery guide and solar inverters guide, giving you more information needed to make a more informed purchase.

a) The EnergySage solar battery guide: With very many solar batteries available in the market today, it is not easy to make a quick, informed decision. The EnergySage provides a solar battery quality rating system for each solar battery that captures the essential aspects of a solar battery, including but not limited to cost, capacity, power, round-trip efficiency, degradation rate, and warranty.

b) The EnergySage solar inverter guide: Also, with very many solar inverters available in the market today – making it hard to reach a more informed decision. The EnergySage provides a quality rating system capturing the wattage, and warranty of a solar inverter to help you decide which one is great for your solar power system.

This article is just a summary of the new EnergySage that was launched recently, to learn more about this new tool, you can visit the EnergySage Solar buyers and also get solar quotes online from some of the most popular solar brands in the market.

Can solar panels meet your household heating needs?

energy efficiency

Solar Photovoltaic (PV) is a technology that works well to provide solar electricity suitable for running most of your electrical needs such as air conditioning, lighting, refrigeration, water pumping, etc. However, when it comes to thermal or heating needs, solar PV is not well suited. 

Solar PV can provide thermal energy, but it will require many solar panels than usual making it expensive.

For cost-effectiveness purposes, solar electricity (PV) is a great supplemental source of electricity and when connected to the grid, it can help to reduce your energy costs for on-grid PV systems.

For off-grid PV systems, hybrid solar PV systems such as solar PV /solar thermal with geothermal heat pumps, or with wind power systems or with solar power generators can offer solutions to meet all your energy solutions. 

Solar PV on its own can be an expensive energy option because you still need batteries to store excess power needed at night when there is no sunshine.

However, grid-connected PV systems can eliminate the battery cost. As such, during the day when your solar panels are generating power, it can be fed into the grid causing your meter to run backward helping to reduce your overall energy bill.

At night, this power can be drawn from the grid to power your household. At the end of the month, you can receive credit helping to reduce your energy bill. 

Technological options to supplement your solar PV for thermal or heating needs. 

During the day solar electricity can be used to run your air conditioning (in summer), refrigeration, lighting or water pumping for your pond, swimming pool, etc.

In winter, you might need to supplement your solar PV for heating or thermal needs. Thermal needs come in various forms, energy for cooking, energy for bath or energy for space heating, etc.

As such, the following energy options could be explored based on their cost, efficiency, and application:  

  1. Net metering: Grid-connected solar PV is a great solution to supplement your solar PV for the thermal energy needs that your system may not be able to meet. This is one option that is cost-effective and widely applied in many homes in the USA.  
  2. Geothermal Heat Pump for your home space heating or cooling: This is a renewable energy technology that has started to be applied for home space heating or cooling. It can be used to heat your home in winter and cool it during summer based on the fact that depending on latitude, ground temperatures range from 45°F (7°C) to 75°F (21°C).  As such, the geothermal heat pump takes advantage of this by exchanging heat with the earth through a ground heat exchanger since this ground temperature is warmer than the air above it during the winter and cooler than the air in the summer. However, this technology is still being developed and the cost might be prohibitive for some people, but with tax credits and other financial incentives from the government, it might work based on your budget and energy requirements. 
  3. All solar PV and solar thermal (heating): Rural areas that may be very far away from the utility grid might want to consider going all solar and using battery systems for storage to store excess energy produced during the day and using it at night. You might want to consider other renewable options such as geothermal energy or wind to supplement solar. All these options will depend on what technology is applicable in your situation and whether it is cost-effective or affordable.  Solar thermal (heating) in homes is mostly used to heat water used for showering, laundry, and other household use. 

All of the above options may or may not be feasible for your specific case and today with the advancement of software technology, you can use simple online tools like a solar panel cost calculator from the EnergySage to estimate for example, how many solar panels you need to power home and using their platform you can be guided when it comes to other energy options suitable for your specific case.  

What are solar financing options for buying solar panels?

best solar panels

One of the main barriers to buying your best solar panels has always been the high initial cost of solar panels. With the high solar panel cost for your PV system depending on system size, location, system performance and the cost of finance; a few flexible solar financing solutions have been developed with the customer in mind. 

The first option is a solar power purchase agreement (solar PPA) that allows a homeowner or a business owner to enter into an agreement with a solar provider with a no money down option and with a slightly reduced rate from their current energy bill. This allows the solar provider to install and own the system, but the host (solar buyer) agrees to buy solar electricity at a specific rate and for a specified period of time. 

Solar PPAs can be short as 5 years or longer as over 20 years depending on the payback period of the solar PV system. A great place to determine whether this option can work for you is by use of a solar power calculator that is specific to your energy needs. Using such as solar calculator is a great starting point to determine how much you can save using such a solar financing option. 

The second flexible solar financing option is solar leasing which allows you to lease solar panels for a specified rate and time. The host might decide to lease for some time and when is able to afford to purchase the solar panels depending on what is the agreement.  This option is also flexible for solar customers that are not able to pay upfront for the solar panels.

The third and the fourth solar financing options are cash and loan respectively which work depending on the price or the cost of finance etc.  Once you research and obtain a good price for your solar panels, you could either decide to pay them for cash or obtain a low-cost loan from a financial institution. 

Although, there is a lot of information on the Internet and you might be overwhelmed by the amount of information you need to digest and draw conclusions.  As a result, online solar marketplaces come in handy to help you shop for solar easier and faster. EnergySage are some of the well-known online solar marketplaces that can help you speed up the process of shopping for your solar PV system. 

What are flexible solar financing solutions? 

There are various financing options that you could obtain from banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions, however, such options may lack the flexibility needed based on the solar PV system that could be designed for you based on your energy requirements. You need flexible solar financing solutions that are unique to your situation and the type of solar panels you end up installing which might require you to work with a solar expert that can negotiate a better offer from a solar manufacturer or solar installer. 

EnergySage for example offers flexible or simple financing programs that make it easier for individuals to purchase the solar system they need. These solutions offer, for instance, homeowners the chance to manage the initial costs of a solar install, and are specifically designed for those with and without equity in their home, helping to further ensure that the system needed is within reach. You can learn more at EnergySage. 

You can also read more about solar financing options here for more details and how to go about the process of shopping for your best solar panels. 

Energy-saving options

solar panel cost calculator

Going solar is a great long-term solution to saving energy, reducing your energy bill, and for sustainability. However, how you maximize solar savings depends on how you shop for solar and the guidance you get as you plan to go solar. 

The process starts by wanting to know whether going solar is for you. Today with the onset of online solar panel calculators, it is easy to determine whether your rooftop receives enough sunlight to generate clean solar power. Using a solar panel calculator, not only gives you an indication as to whether you can create your solar energy but also, estimates how much it would cost plus the savings. 

Once you have estimated the costs and savings for going solar, the next step would be to determine possible ways to obtain the full benefit of solar power. Getting the full advantage of solar power means reducing your solar panel cost significantly and save more money in the long-term. These options include energy efficiency, the use of online solar marketplaces, exploring tax incentives available, and the use of a solar panel cost calculator. 

1. Explore energy efficiency options for your home or business.  

Conducting an energy audit by a professional energy rater certified under an accredited home energy rating system (HERS)would help to determine some quick energy efficiency measures that could be implemented to reduce your energy demand and hence help you to save you the number of solar panels required to power your home or business.  

By conducting an energy audit, you may find out that you need to switch to more energy-efficient appliances that are ENERGY STAR certified. ENERGY STAR rated, means that they consume less energy than their traditional home appliances. Implementing such measures has a high upfront cost, but in the long-term is a cost-effective option. The department of power is a good starting point to point you in the direction of how to finance your home energy efficiency projects

Conducting an energy audit by a professional energy rater certified under an accredited home energy rating system (HERS) would help to determine some quick energy efficiency measures that could be implemented to reduce your energy demand and hence save you the number of solar panels required to power your home or business.  

2. Explore online solar marketplaces to find out who has the best solar panel deals 

Online solar markets can aggregate different solar panel quotes from different solar installers hence helping to reduce your overall solar panel cost.  

An online solar marketplace like the EnergySage provides prospective solar photovoltaic (PV) customers with a platform to obtain and compare quotes from multiple competing installers.  It is an excellent tool for solar customers to get more quotes, and the competition between drivers may allow customers to receive lower prices in a platform like the EnergySage. 

 

solar panel cost calculator

(Source: The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL))

For instance, recent, NREL research studies have shown that solar panel prices from online solar marketplaces are about $0.20/W to $0.40/W lower on such platforms compared to market-wide prices. 

According to NREL, these price differences are robust after controlling for the various market- and system-level characteristics (e.g., system size, module efficiency). For instance, a typical residential solar PV system, the price differences equate to about $1,000 to $2,000 in savings.

3.  Additional ways of getting the full benefit of solar panels 

Reducing the cost of solar panels by exploring further about some of the available rebates and tax credits available from your state or Federal government, respectively. You can also explore different grants or low-cost financing options that are available in the market to help lower your initial solar panel cost. 

A great place to start and get the link up to all these offers and ways of getting the full benefit of solar power is through the use of a solar panel cost calculator. Get started today to get the full benefit of your solar panels. 

Solar tax credits, solar cash rebates and other solar incentives to help reduce the cost of going solar.

solar incentivesIn addition to the Federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) that offers up to 30% to reduce your overall solar PV cost; many states have solar rebate or incentive programs that are targeted to encourage uptake of commercial and residential solar PV.

Also, many states use regulatory mechanisms such as net metering, solar renewable energy credits (SREC), renewable energy portfolio standards (RPS) to increase solar installations.

Solar financial incentives such as state rebates and local utility incentive programs are also part of the policy and regulatory support to encourage wider adoption of solar PV.

Many states in the USA provide solar incentives to reduce the cost of going solar and encourage wider use of solar energy for individuals and businesses interested in going solar.

Solar Rebates

What are the common solar incentives offered by states that help to significantly lower your solar panel cost?

1. Solar Tax Credits

Arizona is one of the states that enjoy a very high solar potential and ranks in the top ten solar states in the U.S. In addition, it has one of the best solar incentives for promoting wider solar applications. The state of Arizona has developed, solar incentives, rebates and tax credits to help reduce the cost of going solar.

For instance, in addition to the 30% Federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC), many states like Arizona have developed additional tax credits that deduct a portion of the cost of the solar PV system.

This allows solar PV buyers to deduct a certain percentage of their PV cost from their taxes like the federal ITC.  For instance, Arizona in addition to the 30% federal investment tax credit (ITC), it offers 25% residential solar energy credit, solar system sales tax exemption, and property tax exemption on added home value from solar system. Applying the above federal and state tax credits, Arizona has some of the lowest cost of solar panels in the country.

According to EnergySage, a 3kW PV system would cost $6,694.00 Nationally with Federal Tax Credit applied, but would only cost $4,907 in Arizona after applying federal and state tax credit etc. EnergySage is  a well-known online solar marketplace that provide multiple free solar quotes to over a million customers annually.

2. Solar Cash Rebates

Additional incentives such as cash rebates are offered to further reduce the PV cost anywhere from 10 to 20 percent. These cash rebates are offered from the state, local utilities or energy cooperatives. Cash rebates are set for a limited time and end once a certain amount of solar has been installed.

For instance, in the state of Georgia, the Jackson EMC residential members can get up to $4500 off their solar installation.  Jackson EMC offers these cash rebates at $450 per kW installed, with a 10kW maximum.

Jackson Electric Membership Corporation (Jackson EMC) is one of 39 not for profit membership-owned electric cooperatives located in the U.S. stateof Georgia with service in the North-East metropolitan Atlanta area.

Jackson EMC coverage includes a ten-county area stretching from metro Atlanta, north to Gainesville and east to Athens and has district offices in Gainesville, Jefferson, Lawrenceville and Neese. Hence, Jackson EMC members in these areas can combine the Jackson EMC solar rebate with the 30% federal investment tax credit (ITC) to lower the cost of going solar. However, cash rebates are designed in a way to only assist solar buyers that meet a certain criteria. For instance, for a solar buyer to qualify for the Jackson EMC cash rebate, they must meet a few of the following requirements.

  • A solar buyer must be a Jackson EMC member
  • Rebates are not payable to entities that own solar panels or that leases them to members
  • EMC members must own the solar systems
  • It must be a residential application for a property owned by the EMC member etc

The above are just some of the solar incentives applied by states or entities found in the states such as energy cooperatives, local utility companies etc.  Every state is different and some states like Arizona offer very good incentives to significantly reduce the cost of going solar.

Hence, depending on the state that you live in, it is worthwhile to determine to what extent you can reduce the cost of going solar with tax credits, cash rebates, net metering, solar renewable energy credits (SREC), renewable energy portfolio standards (RPS)and so on.

We have partnered with organizations such as EnergySage that have smart online tools like a solar panel calculator or a solar panel cost calculator that is able to determine how much solar incentives are in your local state or area by just typing in your address. These tools will consolidate all the state tax credits and rebates that are available to help reduce your cost of going solar.

solar estimates

Four (4) reasons for using a solar panel cost calculator.

solar panel cost calculator

Today the process of going solar has been simplified with the onset of various online solar panel cost calculators that make it easy to compare and contrast between different solar PV systems in the market while comparing solar quotes from different solar installers.

With this development, it makes shopping for solar as easy and efficient as booking an air flight ticket at the comfort of your home where you compare different flights, hotel or even taxi rates. Similarly, you don’t need a tedious process to go solar where you have to conduct all calculations by yourself, but you can depend on reliable and good online solar marketplaces that make the process simple and efficient at the same time.

With an online solar panel cost calculator it is possible to determine the aspects of going solar that many customers will tend to ask themselves, including but not limited to:

  1. How many solar panels do I need?
  2. How much does it cost to go solar?
  3. What are the benefits of going solar?
  4. How many incentives do I qualify for from the government when I decide to go solar?

Here are four (4) reasons for using an online solar panel cost calculator at the comfort of your home:

  1. A solar panel cost calculator is built with the customer in mind and will enable you to determine your specific location and has the necessary measurements of your roof that makes it possible to obtain the right number of solar panels that would be needed in your specific case. All that is required is to input your address or location and your average monthly energy bill. Hence, this type of a solar panel cost calculator is specific as it gets your own rooftop through geographical location data collected using the LIDAR technology.
  2. How much does it cost to go solar?  Since different solar customers need different sizes of solar PV systems, the cost of going solar is a big variable that has to be captured. Every home or business is different because of different energy requirements and roofing sizes, hence you need a solar panel cost calculator that can capture this data and provide a PV cost that captures your unique design parameters. The size of your PV system is unique to your site parameters, including but not limited to your roof size, energy requirements and other added parameters such as the type of PV system needed by the customer.
  3. What are the benefits of going solar? Going solar has unique benefits depending on your location and site-specific parameters. For instance, depending on which state you are come from, your solar benefits could be significant or minimal, especially when it comes to how much you can save with solar. Although generally, going solar is beneficial depending on your unique motivation for going solar. Some people are motivated to going solar for environmental reasons to reduce their carbon footprint while others such as businesses are motivated to reduce their energy costs etc.  Hence, a solar panel cost calculator is a great tool to help you determine these benefits without a hassle. Depending on what state you are in, going solar may prove to be a cost-saving idea if you are in a state that has expensive power or it may not if you are in a state that has cheap power. Expensive power means a high Internal Rate of Return (IRR), low payback period (PBP) and a high return on investment (ROI). You should connect with a solar expert today to get more information.
  4. How many incentives do I qualify for from the government when I decide to go solar? Your overall PV system cost can be significantly reduced if you have access to great incentives from both the Federal government and your state. The Federal government offers 26% Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for investing in solar PV— it allows you to deduct 30 percent of the cost of installing a solar energy system from your federal taxes. Also, many states have different state rebates for encouraging people to go solar. In addition, you can claim Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs) if you live in areas with SREC markets. Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs) are a solar incentive that allows homeowners to sell certificates to their utility. A homeowner will earn one SREC for every 1000 kilowatt-hours (kWhs) produced by their solar panel system. An SREC can be worth as much as $300 in certain markets.