Should you get solar panels on your roof?

The search for cost effective, renewable energy is one of mankind’s longest pursuits. A growing number of people think that solar energy has advanced to be one of the best options to replace our dependence on non-renewable, fossil fuels.

You have probably seen solar panels somewhere in your neighborhood and you have surely seen advertisements for companies that install home solar power systems. Solar power can be a very good way to supplement, or completely replace, your current energy systems.

Whether or not it is a good option for you depends on a few different factors. In this text we will discuss the particulars of implementing solar power into your daily life.


How Does Solar Power Work?

It is well known, and intuitive, that solar energy takes power provided by the sun and and uses a solar inverter to turn it into energy that is usable for consumers. Rather than diving into the technical jargon it will suffice to say that the solar panels have specialized types of solar pv cells within them that absorb the sun’s light and transforms it into usable energy.

It can help to think of solar pv cells like a small scale power plant that is present near, or on your house. Then, the inverter, converts the energy into the form that your house can use. These solar cells replace the work that large power plants conduct for traditional energy.


What are the Benefits of Solar Power for Consumers?

Solar has multiple benefits over traditional household energy that are both direct and indirect.

Indirectly, solar power is better for the environment. Solar cells do not deplete the supply of non-renewable fossil fuels as electricity, etc., does. It also does not produce the negative effects that burning fossil fuels creates.

Fossil fuel consumption can lead to:

  • Air pollution
  • Water Pollution
  • Ground pollution

This energy utilizes the sun’s rays, a source that will not deplete and does not produce any significant pollution.

Another benefit of solar power is it can decrease energy costs significantly. We will discuss this further in the next section.

Solar power also lessens your households dependent on the larger energy grid. When you use electric utility companies your power is tied into a larger grid. The drawback to this is that if something goes wrong, thousands of people can be affected.

Solar power brings the energy production to your property. It will not be effected by something tens or hundreds of miles away.


What are the Drawbacks of Solar Power?

One of the stated problems with solar power is that it is dependent on the sun. If the sun is not out for a few days it can affect your home’s available energy. This can be true but advancements in net metering have began to fix this problem.

Net metering is a system in which a solar power user can bank energy “credits” which they can then use when they need it (ie. during the night, extended cloudy days, etc.).


What are the Costs of Converting to Solar Power?

Solar systems require specialized equipment that must be installed by knowledgeable experts. There are a variety of companies throughout the country that offers solar panel system installations.

This equipment can be an upfront cost and does scare some people away. The system has to be designed as well as implemented by the company, with input from you.

However, it is important to consider the money that solar power systems can save you. The best way to illustrate this is to look into the payback times that solar energy averages throughout the country.

Payback Period

Payback times are the amount of time it will take a solar customer to save the amount of money that they put in to their solar system. The average solar payback period in the U.S is 6-8 years. That means that within that time frame the average person will have saved the amount that they paid for their system.

Solar incentives, Subsidies, and Federal Tax Credit

These factors also figure into the equation when considering your energy options. Solar systems can be looked at as an investment because, in the long run, they can save you money.

The Federal government provides incentive for people to switch to solar because it can decrease the national carbon footprint. They offer solar incentives, federal subsidies, and federal tax credits. These factors should be included when considering the cost of solar power in relation to the upfront cost.

Additionally solar users can use the feed-in tariff to recoup money. The feed-in tariff pays regular people who use solar power for the surplus energy that their system creates.


Where is the Best Place to Put Solar Panels?

The two main options for the placement of solar modules are the rooftop and the ground. Placement of solar panels can affect the quality and amount of the energy production from solar modules. The best place for you to put solar panels can vary according to your specific property.

Ground Mounted

There are a few advantages to having ground mounted solar panels. These include:

  • Easier cleaning and maintenance
  • Ground mounted systems are able to be larger than typical rooftop systems
  • Usually easier to position

There are also drawbacks to ground mounted systems as well:

  • They require more materials which can drive cost up
  • They will take up space on your land, unlike roof mounted
  • They may not look good with your homes aesthetics

Solar roof units are more common than ground units. The advantages of roof mounted solar units are:

  • They cost less to install
  • They are usually less noticeable than ground mounted panels
  • They do not take up space on your land

Some disadvantages of rooftop solar panels are:

  • More difficult to clean and repair
  • Require a very sturdy roof. This can necessitate roof repairs which drives up costs
  • Can effect the cosmetic look of your home


Utility-Scale Solar

Before we close it seems important to mention how solar power is used on a larger scale. Utility-scale solar is being used by utility companies to supplement their energy production. It is gaining popularity because it enables them to harness a a great amount of energy from the sun.

There is no one correct answer when considering where to place your solar panels. You must review these factors, and many more, and discuss what your best option is. A reputable installation professional can help you to find the best choices for your situation whether it is a solar roof mounted system or a ground mounted system.

Solar panels are a big investment but they are a proven way to reduce your carbon footprint and help the environment. Solar power is a relatively clean, renewable energy source.

They can also be a good investment that pays for itself in a relatively short period of time. The upfront cost is unattractive to many, but there are many ways to recoup that money quickly. These options include Federal tax credit, subsidies, etc.