How to Plan Your Home Solar Power System

Solar panels and energy systems are becoming increasingly accessible, as both commercial solar and residential solar electric systems become more

Solar panels and energy systems are becoming increasingly accessible, as both commercial solar and residential solar electric systems become more wide-spread. And now, people who install solar panels can become eligible for the Solar Investment Tax Credit, which offers a 30% federal tax credit on any solar electric system through 2022.

If you’re eager to become energy independent, a residential solar electric system is the best way to do it. To plan your shift from using the power grid to total energy sustainability, follow these steps.

1. Learn About Your Home’s Current Energy Efficiency

Before you can begin powering your home with residential solar, you need to investigate your current energy use and consider possible efficiency upgrades. You’ll need to know your total electricity usage and think about any low-cost, easy changes you could make to improve your home’s energy efficiency.

2. Determine Your Solar Potential

Before you can determine the best ways to utilize solar energy in your home, you should assess the potential solar energy that can be generated in your geographic section. PV technologies use direct sunlight and scattered sunlight to produce electricity, so the solar resources across the U.S. are usually very promising for home solar power systems.

That being said, the amount of energy you can generate through solar panels at your particular address will depend on how much of the sun’s energy can reach your rooftop, and how much room you have for solar panels.

There are mapping services and tools available to help discover your solar power potential. Some services even offer additional information, such as the ideal estimated system size for you, potential savings and costs, and reputable contractors in your area.

Tools like these make for excellent starting points, as they can tell you whether you should really pursue residential solar for your home or if the idea probably won’t work for you. Even if it turns out that your home isn’t quite suited for solar power, they will likely offer suggestions for how you can maximize energy efficiency and achieve some of the benefits of residential solar power.

However, as helpful as these tools and services are, they don’t take all possible variables into account. That’s why the next step you need to take is to speak with a solar installer. He can provide a truly accurate assessment of your home’s potential for solar power, and provide detailed recommendations and estimates.

3. Determine Your Solar Electricity Needs

To help your solar installer provide the best recommendations possible, you’ll need to gather relevant information about your home’s electricity usage. Besides your current average usage, you’ll want to take into account any planned changes for the future. For example, if you want to buy an electric car someday or if you’re planning an addition to your home, your power needs will likely increase.

4. Get Bids and Assessments from Solar Installers

As with any other kind of contractor, the best way to find a good one is to ask friends and family for their recommendations. If no one you know in your area has gone solar, this might not be an option, but you should be able to find reviews and references online for local solar installers.

Before even considering a contractor, you’ll want to make sure they are fully insured, and that they have the proper certification. A certification from the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners is particularly important.

As you’re interviewing contractors, get assessments and bids from at least three of them before making a decision.

5. Cooperate with the Installer and Your Utility

Finally, once you decide on a contractor and a plan, the installer will be able to help you complete all necessary permitting and other steps.

In this stage, the contractor will define the right size for your solar electricity system. Besides being based on your personal energy needs, it will take into account things like available sunlight and roof space.

Your contractor will also make sure that all of your equipment is installed properly, and oriented in just the right way to take full advantage of your daily and seasonal sunlight availability.

You’ll also want to be sure you understand how billing and net metering will be managed, along with any utility fees you might need to pay, as you become your own full or partial energy source.

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