Recently, the prices of solar panels have gone down dramatically and as a result more and more people have been switching to solar. For example, in the US, more than 1 million American homes had gone solar by February, 2016 compared to only 30,000 homes that had solar panels in 2006. A SunShot initiative study conducted in 2012 projected about 900,000 to 3.8 million homes will have gone solar by 2020.
Moreover, solar installation projects indicate that in the last decade, the efficiency of solar panels has been increasing with most solar panels having an efficiency of between 11–15%. This is good for increased solar adoption in general because it means the higher the efficiency; the less the space is required on the rooftop to go solar.
Currently, solar panels prices are going for about $1/watt or less depending on where the solar panels are purchased. The better the brand or the more efficient the solar panels, the higher the solar panel cost.
If you are considering going solar and you are not aware about where to start, below are four (4) things that we may want to consider to give you a head start in your decision making process:
1. Your current energy consumption
Conducting an energy assessment for your household or business will be a good starting point to determine your total energy consumption.
You can conduct this exercise manually or you could use online tools such as those created under the Green Button Initiative, which was launched by the government in 2012 to help over 60 million homes and businesses to securely access their own energy information in a standard format.
The Green Button Initiative also supports the use of online solar tools like theEnergySageor Geostellar to help online users determine their suitability to go solar. Many utilities and electricity suppliers in the US have signed on to this initiative and are part of it.
Once you have figured how much energy you are consuming, it is a best practice to conduct an energy audit to check areas where you could be losing or wasting energy. In most cases, you might need to implement energy efficiency measures as advised by the department of energy to reduce your energy usage/consumption. This step is crucial to help you reduce the amount of solar panels that you need/sizing your solar panels system and hence reduce your overall solar panels cost.
2.Your solar energy potential
In addition to knowing your current energy consumption, estimating how much solar power you can produce from your rooftop is the next step and is crucial because it will also enable you to size your solar panels system.
Depending on your geographical location and where your house or business is located you can estimate based on weather data and other data; the amount of sunshine that is hitting your roof. Until recently, determining your specific solar energy potential was unheard of; because online solar tools like the EnergySage and Pick My Solar were not in existence to help online users determine their household or business suitability to going solar.
The EnergySage or Pick My Solar online solar tools, which are also part of the Green Button Initiative, can provide you with estimates of your solar energy potential. Once you get your solar energy potential; you can get an estimate of the size of your solar panel system (how many solar panels do I need?) as well as your solar panel cost.
In addition, to getting an estimate of the size of the solar panels system you can install on your home or business; you can as well get an estimate on the percentage savings you can achieve with solar. This can be derived determining how much of your current energy consumption can be offset by going solar while implementing any of the energy efficiency measures identified.
Online solar tools like EnergySage and Pick My Solar that applies LIDAR technology can provide you with estimates of how much you can save with solar when you type in your address and your current energy consumption which can be easily obtained from your utility bill.
3. How will you finance your going solar?
Today the solar industry is experiencing a lot of growth mainly because of the models currently used to sell solar. Even though the price of solar panels continues to go down, the average solar panel cost of an average household can be anywhere from $15,000 to $25,000 even after applying tax credits.
As a result, many known companies such as SolarCity apply leasing and power purchase agreements to target solar customers that may not be able to finance upfront the solar panel cost. These models in most cases require little or zero money down and hence attractive to many consumers that are willing to go solar.
Cash and loan options are also applied by many solar companies to solar consumers that are willing to recover most of their energy costs through solar.
If you are interested in learning more about solar financing, the article “What solar panel financing options are available today?’ could be a good place to start. Also online solar tools like EnergySage and Geostellar are very useful tools to help you compare the various financing options available to you while factoring in different financing rates and making comparisons of with solar or without solar scenarios.
4. Who will install your solar panels?
This is a very crucial part of the whole process of going solar since you want to get quality and a durable system that will last for over 20 years that is the lifespan of a solar panel. In this regard, you may need a licensed and qualified solar installer or contractor to install your solar panels.
Referrals from your neighbors that have gone solar can be a good place to start as your neighbors will refer you to solar installers in your area if they had a great experience or were happy with the work conducted by their solar installer.
Another way is to research online and see whether you can obtain solar installers that have great reviews on their profiles. However, this might take much of your time and you might not have time to go through and compare the reviews presented to you.
That’s why online solar tools likeEnergySageand Pick My Solar come handy because their platforms have pre-screened solar installers in your local area. These online solar tools have a pool of pre-screened installers from over 40 states in the USA and give you an opportunity to compare solar quotes from multiple solar installers.
Get your solar quotes fromEnergySage or Pick My Solar or register for free with them to start making your reviews about going solar. When you register, you will be able to answer the following questions which form part of your decision making process of going solar:
An online solar platform for information about solar energy options, online solar applications, and sustainability. Find online solar calculators, solar apps, and information about solar PV solutions for different uses.
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