Installing a solar system on your home is a great way to claim your energy independence and slash your electricity bills for decades. As solar energy grows in popularity, many homeowners are wondering if they are good candidates for solar power. Before installing solar panels, consider these three factors.
Cut Home Energy Use
Before you install a home solar energy system, it is important to consider energy efficiency. Reducing your household electricity consumption can reduce a number of panels you need, saving money.
Using an electricity usage monitor is a great way to get started. These devices (priced around $20 and up) are especially helpful in detecting vampire loads.
Entertainment centers and office equipment are notorious for sucking power continuously, even when the unit is turned off. Using smart power strips or unplugging devices is a way to avoid this phenomenon. Using energy efficient light bulbs is also really important, especially for fixtures that are on for multiple hours a day.
It is also helpful to examine your major appliances. If your refrigerator is more than ten years old, upgrading it to a more efficient model might result in big utility savings.
If you have multiple refrigerators or freezers running, determine if you can turn some of them off for part of the year or locate them in a cooler place, such as a basement. Air conditioners are also a common culprit in high energy bills. Thus, make sure they are in good working order with regular tuneups and preventative maintenance.
Maximize your solar exposure
Is your roof well suited for solar panels? If you live in the northern hemisphere, it is ideal to point your solar panels to the south. Otherwise, your panels can also point east or west, but this will moderately lower the energy production of the system.
It is important to examine your solar window and how much sunshine you will get throughout the year. Do you have trees and other obstructions that block the sun that falls on your roof or property? Midday sunshine is the most crucial for overall energy production.
Keep in mind that the angle of the sun changes throughout the year. A tree might shade your panels in the winter when the sun is lower in the sky may not shade your system the rest of the year. Solar installers have devices they can use to calculate the shading on your roof if this is a concern. In some cases, merely trimming back a tree could make all the difference in electricity generation. In other cases, it might be best to mount your panels on the ground or garage roof if there is ample space.
Thankfully, advances in solar equipment help increase solar energy production when the array is partially shaded. Microinverters and power optimizers help eliminate the Christmas tree effect, where shade on one panel disproportionately impacts the entire array.
Know Your Solar Incentives
Understanding the available solar incentives is an important ingredient in calculating your return on investment. Local solar installers can be a great source of information for your local area.
Although Canada doesn’t offer a federal tax credit, there are some incentives that make going solar far more lucrative.
Feed-in-tariffs allow homeowners to get compensated for excess solar electricity fed to the utility grid. The rate at which solar homeowners are compensated varies widely, with Ontario having one of the highest rates, resulting in a solar boom in the province. Incentives vary by the province or territory, so conduct some research to know what your options.
It is also important to consider your electrical rate because your solar system will be offsetting your home electricity use. The more you pay for electricity, the sooner the solar system will pay for itself in savings. The national average rate for electricity is 12.2 cents per kilowatt hour with a national average electricity consumption of 13,300 kWh per household annually.
Because solar panels and components have plummeted in cost, now is a good time to go solar in most provinces, especially if you have an electric rate at or above the national average. Once you’ve considered energy efficiency, your solar exposure, and available incentives, call local solar installers to get ballpark pricing for going solar.