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Is solar panel. Understanding Solar Power

Is solar panel. Understanding Solar Power

    Solar Cheat Sheet: Your Complete Guide to Getting Solar Panels at Home

    Here’s where you can find the answer to all your solar panel questions, even those you didn’t know you had.

    Andrew Blok has been an editor at CNET covering HVAC and home energy, with a FOCUS on solar, since October 2021. As an environmental journalist, he navigates the changing energy landscape to help people make Smart energy decisions. He’s a graduate of the Knight Center for Environmental Journalism at Michigan State and has written for several publications in the Great Lakes region, including Great Lakes Now and Environmental Health News, since 2019. You can find him in western Michigan watching birds.

    Stephen J. Bronner is a New York-based freelance writer, editor and reporter. Over his more than a decade in journalism, he has written about energy, local politics and schools, startup success tips, the packaged food industry, the science of work, personal finance and blockchain. His bylined work has appeared in Inverse, Kotaku, Entrepreneur, NextAdvisor and CNET, and op-eds written on behalf of his clients were published in Forbes, HR Dive, Fast Company, NASDAQ and MarketWatch. Stephen previously served as contributors editor and news editor for Entrepreneur.com, and was the VP, Content and Strategy, at Ditto PR. He enjoys video games and punk rock. See some of his work at stephenjbronner.com.

    Over the past few years, the stars (particularly that big one at the center of our solar system) have aligned to make residential solar panels increasingly appealing for meeting your home’s energy needs.

    The rising costs of energy across the US, along with falling for solar panels aided by federal tax incentives, have simply made the economics of solar power not only attainable but beneficial for homeowners in the long run.

    If you looked at solar just a few years ago, costs have continued to come down since then, said Ben Delman, communications director at Solar United Neighbors. It depends on your situation, but more and more homeowners and families are deciding that solar makes sense for them as a way to save money by taking control over where their electricity comes from.

    Can solar panels save you money?

    Interested in understanding the impact solar can have on your home? Enter some basic information below, and we’ll instantly provide a free estimate of your energy savings.

    Below, we’ve collected CNET’s expert advice to get you through the solar panel purchasing process.

    In this article

    • How do solar panels work?
    • Is there a solar panel option that works for me?
    • How much do solar panels cost?
    • How much money will solar panels save me?
    • Can I install solar panels myself?
    • Where should I shop for solar panels?
    • How do I maintain solar panels?
    • Does solar work where I live?
    • Do I need a backup battery?
    • Does solar increase the value of my home?
    • Are solar panels a scam?
    • What is net metering?
    • Should I go solar?

    What is Solar Energy?

    How do solar panels work?

    Buying a solar panel system means buying a lot of equipment the average person doesn’t have reason to know about. In the most basic terms, photons from the sun are absorbed by the solar panels and converted into direct current, or DC, electricity. For this energy to be used in American homes, it has to go through an inverter attached to the solar array to become alternating current, or AC, electricity.

    Can solar panels save you money?

    Interested in understanding the impact solar can have on your home? Enter some basic information below, and we’ll instantly provide a free estimate of your energy savings.

    Read up on what you’ll actually be buying with the stories linked below:

    • The Most Efficient Solar Panels
    • Solar Energy Basics: The Magic of Photovoltaic Panels
    • How Sand Becomes Solar Panels
    • Here’s How Solar Panels Turn Light Into Power
    • The Solar Panel Angle That’ll Generate the Most Energy Possible
    • Solar Panel Efficiency: What Is It and Why Is It Important?
    • What You Need to Know About Solar Inverters: Essential Solar Equipment
    • Solar Cell, Module, Panel and Array: What’s the Difference?
    • Bifacial Solar Panels Generate Electricity, but Not When You Put Them Here
    • What’s a Virtual Power Plant? Should You Join One?
    • How Much Energy Does a Solar Panel Produce?

    Is there a solar panel option that works for me?

    Fortunately for the solar-curious, many options exist for homeowners and even renters to get some or most of their electricity needs met with energy from the sun.

    The most common way to go solar for homeowners is the installation of panels on their roofs. These systems can be purchased directly through an installer (or assembled for the DIYers) as a large cash purchase or through relatively affordable financing (such as a 1.99% APR 15-year loan). There are also options for rooftop solar for those who may not have the capital to get a project started. These are solar leases, where a homeowner pays a fixed monthly cost to a company who retains ownership of a solar system; or a power purchase agreement, in which a homeowner pays for the electricity generated by solar panels rather than the system itself.

    Finally, both homeowners and renters in many places have access to community solar. This option allows people to opt in to a nearby solar farm to enjoy some energy savings.

    Compare Solar Companies

    Available in 50 states Has been in the industry since 1985 Provides its own monocrystalline solar panels

    Available in 23 states 25-year warranties for the product, labor, and inverter Power protection guarantee

    25-year workmanship and product warranty Perks for new construction homeowners Available in 20 states

    When Are Solar Panels Worth It?

    Transitioning to renewable energy helps to lower your electricity bills. reduce your carbon footprint. and boost your property value. However, your location, current energy rates, and local solar incentives can all impact whether such a big investment will be worthwhile for your home. We’ll take a closer look at these factors below.

    Energy Consumption and Rates

    Solar panels provide an economical alternative to fossil fuels. This equals energy savings for homeowners in areas with high electricity rates. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the average American household spends 122 per month on electricity bills. However, these rates vary throughout the country, with energy bills as high as 180 for some households. Below are the states with the highest electricity rates per kilowatt hour.

    Data provided by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

    Residents in areas with higher-than-average rates, such as California. will benefit more from a solar panel system than those in areas with a low cost of electricity.

    Energy consumption also affects how much a solar system will benefit your home. Homes with low energy consumption won’t receive long-term savings from going solar. Most reputable solar companies will review your average energy usage and estimate your potential savings from going solar. If your energy consumption or electricity rates are too low, a solar panel system won’t be recommended.

    Local, State, and Federal Tax Incentives

    Homeowners can use solar incentives. credits, and rebates to save money on their solar panel system. For example, the federal solar tax credit provides a tax reduction equal to 30% of your solar installation costs. Additional state tax credits and incentives may be available in your area. Your local utility company may also offer one-time rebates.

    Additionally, your state may have net-metering programs. These programs allow customers to sell extra energy back to the grid for credits on future electricity bills or payouts at the end of a calendar year. Alternatively, you can install a solar battery to store excess energy for use during a blackout, low sunlight days, or periods of high electricity rates.

    We recommend checking the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE) to find solar incentives and rebates in your area.

    Location

    Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems work best in areas with ample sunlight. Solar panels will work in inclement weather but won’t generate their maximum power levels. If you live in an area with year-round cloudy or rainy weather, your solar system may not reach its peak energy output, and your long-term savings will be reduced.

    Your home should also be free of any obstructions that could cast shadows on your panels, such as surrounding trees and nearby buildings. Blockage for even a few hours a day could reduce your panels’ energy output and lower your potential savings. Homes in the northern hemisphere that face south, southwest, or west receive the most direct sun exposure. resulting in optimal solar energy production.

    Property Value

    Any home improvement project can boost your home’s property value, including solar panel installation. The U.S. Department of Energy ’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) found that your home value increases by 20 for every 450 you save on your utility bills. If your solar panel system saves you 800 per year, that translates to an added 16,000 to your home value.

    Your increased property value may not necessarily result in additional property taxes. Several states have laws protecting homeowners from paying additional taxes for clean energy upgrades. These laws vary by state, so we recommend researching exemption laws in your area.

    solar, panel, understanding, power

    Roof Design

    Your home’s roof design and angle are crucial to your solar panel installation. You’ll need enough roof space to install an adequate number of solar panels. How many panels you need depends on your energy usage and which type of solar panels you select.

    High-quality solar panels are more efficient, so you’ll need less of them to power your home. These panels help to conserve space when additional roof obstructions, such as chimneys or skylights, reduce your available area. Choosing inexpensive solar panels with lower power output will require more panels and ample roof space.

    SOLAR POWER: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide / How To

    The Overall Cost of Solar Panels

    Your total solar system cost will include more than the panels themselves. You’ll also have to pay for labor and additional equipment, plus ongoing maintenance and servicing fees or add-ons such as a solar battery or electric vehicle (EV) charger.

    The good news is that solar panel have dropped by 60% over the last 10 years. according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). An average solar energy system now costs around 20,000, though pricing varies based on your system size. local rates, and your chosen solar installer.

    Your final price also depends on your selected financing option. Homeowners who pay for a solar system up-front will see a higher return on investment because you’ll avoid interest rates and get access to solar incentives. You’ll also qualify for solar incentives if you choose a solar loan. However, the interest rates will add to your total cost over time.

    Additional options, such as a solar lease or power purchase agreement ( PPA ), allow homeowners to lease their system rather than committing to ownership. These options cost less up-front but disqualify you from incentives and won’t increase your property value.

    Our Recommendation

    Solar panels aren’t beneficial for everyone. Several factors, including local weather conditions, available incentives. and electricity rates. impact whether a solar system will be worth it for your home. In ideal conditions, a solar system offers long-term energy savings and increased home value. Homeowners installing solar panels should select the right financing options and take advantage of state and federal tax credits to maximize their return on investment.

    Available in 50 states Has been in the industry since 1985 Provides its own monocrystalline solar panels

    Here’s How Many Solar Panels You Need to Power Your House

    Find out how many solar panels are needed to meet 100% of your home’s energy demand by using this formula.

    Jackie Lam is a contributor for CNET Money. A personal finance writer for over 8 years, she covers money management, insurance, investing, banking and personal stories. An AFC® accredited financial coach, she is passionate about helping freelance creatives design money systems on irregular income, gain greater awareness of their money narratives and overcome mental and emotional blocks. She is the 2022 recipient of Money Management International’s Financial Literacy and Education in Communities (FLEC) Award and a two-time Plutus Awards nominee for Best Freelancer in Personal Finance Media. She lives in Los Angeles where she spends her free time swimming, drumming and daydreaming about stickers.

    • She is the 2022 recipient of Money Management International’s Financial Literacy and Education in Communities (FLEC) Award and a two-time Plutus Awards nominee for Best Freelancer in Personal Finance Media.

    Taylor Freitas is a freelance writer and has contributed to publications including LA Weekly, Safety.com, and Hospitality Technology. She holds a B.A. in Print and Digital Journalism from the University of Southern California.

    A recent graduate of the University of Minnesota, Nina started at CNET writing breaking news stories before shifting to covering Security Security and other government benefit programs. In her spare time, she’s in her kitchen, trying a new baking recipe.

    Chi Odogwu is a digital consultant, professor, and writer with over a decade of experience in finance and management consulting. He has a strong background in the private equity sector, having worked as a consultant at PwC and a research analyst at Renaissance Capital. Additionally, he has bylines in well-known publications, including Entrepreneur, Forbes, NextAdvisor, and CNET. He has also leveraged his writing talent to create educational email courses for his clients and ghostwritten op-eds published in top-tier publications such as Forbes, CoinDesk, CoinTelegraph, Insider, Decrypt, and Blockworks. In addition to his writing, education, and business pursuits, Chi hosts the top-rated Bulletproof Entrepreneur Podcast. Through this podcast, he engages in insightful conversations with talented individuals from various fields, allowing him to share a wealth of knowledge and inspiration with his listeners.

    High inflation, power outages and the soaring costs of power bills can make powering your home with solar energy quite appealing. And if the allure of going green and saving money has you wanting to go solar, you’ll need to figure a few things before the installer swings by. For one, the number of solar panels to adequately meet your home energy needs.

    A common misconception is to gauge how much bang for your buck you’re getting purely based on wattage, says Courtney Corda, co-founder of the California-based solar company Corda Solar. Knowing how many panels you need isn’t just about wattage, but the costs involved in installing, panel performance, location and your usage needs, Corda explains.

    Another misconception? What many first-time solar users don’t realize is that most people finance their solar systems, rather than purchasing outright, Nate Coleman, chief products officer at SunPower, said in an email to CNET.

    Can solar panels save you money?

    Interested in understanding the impact solar can have on your home? Enter some basic information below, and we’ll instantly provide a free estimate of your energy savings.

    About 85% of residential solar systems today are financed through leases or power purchase agreements, according to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Many companies, including SunPower, Coleman noted, offer qualified customers loans with

    How to calculate how many solar panels you will need

    To get a realistic estimate of how many solar panels a home might need, we turned to Jake Edie, an adjunct professor at the University of Illinois Chicago. Edie provided us with a straightforward calculation method.

    If you’re curious about how many solar panels your home might require, here’s how you can figure it out, Edie said. Let’s say your household uses 1,500 kWh of electricity each month. Here are the steps to calculate the solar panels you’ll need.

    Step 1. Review your monthly electric bill: It’s important to determine how many kilowatt-hours of electricity you consume monthly. In this example, this particular home uses 1,500 kWh every month.

    Step 2. Convert monthly energy use to daily use: Given 1,500 kWh is consumed per month, to ascertain the daily usage, we need to divide this figure by the average number of days in a month, which is roughly 30.42 days (365 days divided by 12 months).

    Hence, the average daily use = 1,500 kWh / 30.42, approximating 49.3 kWh daily.

    Step 3. Determine peak sunlight hours: This factor varies based on location and climate. For this example, let’s assume that this home receives an average of about five peak sunlight hours per day.

    To calculate the total daily energy production required, divide the daily energy consumption by the number of peak sunlight hours. This gives the amount of energy your solar panels need to produce per day.

    Energy production required = 49.3 kWh per day / 5 hours, which equals 9.86 kW.

    Step 4. Calculate the number of panels: Lastly, you’ll need to determine the wattage of the solar panels you plan to install. The average solar panel in the US is rated between 250 and 400 watts. For this example, we’ll assume the selected solar panel has a rating of 350 watts.

    By dividing 350 by 1,000, we can convert this to kilowatts or kW. Therefore, 350 watts equals 0.35 kW.

    To determine the required number of solar panels, we must divide the daily energy production needed by the solar panel’s power output.

    Number of solar panels required = 9.86 kW / 0.35 kW per panel, which equals 28.17 panels.

    This homeowner will need approximately 29 solar panels to generate enough electricity to match their current usage from the municipal electric company. While this calculation may seem straightforward, there are many factors that can affect the effectiveness of solar panels, such as shading, roof orientation and seasonal variations in peak sunlight.

    It is highly recommended that you seek the guidance of a professional solar installer who can assess your circumstances and provide a tailored solution to meet your needs.They should be certified from the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners, which is the solar industry standard. CNET also has a well-researched list of best solar companies.

    down payment. Plus, the Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act made a 30% tax credit available for qualified customers who purchase solar as well as battery storage. With these tax credits available, it’s never been a better time to opt for solar.

    Here’s how to figure out how many panels can support your energy needs and what other factors can interfere in your production goals.

    solar, panel, understanding, power

    Can solar panels save you money?

    Interested in understanding the impact solar can have on your home? Enter some basic information below, and we’ll instantly provide a free estimate of your energy savings.

    Other factors that affect how many solar panels you need

    There are a variety of factors to take into consideration that will help you and an installer determine how many solar panels you need to power your home. Here is a breakdown:

    Solar panel wattage

    One big part of a solar panel’s performance is its wattage, and it will affect how many panels you need. The higher the wattage, the more power a panel can generate.

    Most residential solar panels have ratings of 250 to 400 watts. The most efficient solar panels on the market are 370- to 445-watt models. The higher the wattage rating, the higher the output. In turn, the fewer panels you might need.

    For example, you might buy a solar panel with a listed output of 440 watts. You’ll need to multiply the panel‘s wattage by how many hours of sun you get every day to understand how much energy it will produce.

    If you don’t have much space, you might want to invest in solar panels with higher efficiency and wattage ratings since they’re equipped to generate more energy per panel. But they’re also more expensive, so bear that in mind if the solar budget for your home is tight.

    Output efficiency

    If your roof has limited space for panels, you’re going to want to get the most performance per square inch of panel that you can, Corda explains.

    solar, panel, understanding, power

    Scientists and technical developers of solar panels have been working hard for decades to try to make each solar cell on the panel able to convert more of the sun’s light to electricity than before, or to make them more efficient, Corda said.

    As she explains, currently, the most efficient panels on the market have anywhere from 18% to 22.8% efficiency, with most panels hovering around 20% efficiency. So the higher the efficiency, the fewer solar panels you might need.

    In reality, a more efficient solar panel will require fewer panels overall for your home, assuming all other factors are equal.

    Production ratios

    A production ratio for solar panels helps you determine how much energy you can get from a panel. The production ratio, or performance ratio, is an important measure of the effectiveness and efficiency of a solar system. It compares the actual output of the system to the output it would produce under ideal conditions. This ratio takes into account factors that reduce output, such as temperature, dust, snow, shade, aging of the panels and inefficiencies in the inverter.

    The performance ratio is expressed as a percentage, with a higher ratio indicating that the PV system is producing a greater percentage of its theoretical output. For example, a performance ratio of 80% means that the system is producing 80% of its rated output in real-world conditions. The higher the production ratios, the fewer panels you might need.

    Panel size

    There are three main sizes for solar panels: 60-cell, 72-cell and 96-cell. The 60- and 72-cell panels are more common for residential installations are generally about 3 by 5 feet, or 15 square feet.

    Where you live and hours of sunlight

    The more hours of sunlight your roof is exposed to, the fewer panels you’ll probably need to install. This is based on the direction, pitch and orientation of your roof, the weather, and how much shade covers the roof. It also depends on the time of year and where you live.

    In the winter [the solar panel] produces less than in the summer. So your energy production from solar will change throughout the year and then the usage within your home will change depending on what appliances are using electricity, said Justin Draplin, CEO of Eclipse Cottages, a sustainable home technology and development company.

    So if you live in a really hot climate, then during the summer months, your electrical bill is going to be a lot higher to cool your home versus if you’re in a cold environment, your electrical bills are going to be a lot higher in the winter, he said.

    How much shade your roof gets always plays a factor in how many solar panels you’ll need for your home, Corda says. If your roof is covered by large oak trees or a chimney and gets a lot of shade, this will bump down solar panel output. In turn, you might need more panels to power your home. But if your roof doesn’t get much shade, your solar output will be higher for the same space.

    Another thing to consider is whether your state or city incentivizes solar energy, Coleman says.

    Is it worth it to maximize your solar production to quicken your payback period thanks to the value of solar energy you’re able to produce? Coleman said. Certain states, like California, are altering their net metering programs, fundamentally changing the amount of credit a homeowner receives for their solar panels. This historical net metering program brings new considerations for how many panels and what size system you should consider, and how storage factors in, Coleman said.

    Solar panel FAQs

    Can I run my house on solar power only?

    The simple answer is: Yes, you can power a house entirely on solar power. To meet your energy ends, you’ll want to factor in a handful of variables: the size, pitch and orientation of your roof, the size of panels you’d like to install, the amount of shade, output efficiency, and wattage. Plus, you want to figure out current and future usage needs and whether you want your entire home to be powered on solar energy or just part of it.

    Can a House Run on Solar Power Alone?

    Practically, it is not often possible. This is because solar only works when the sun is shining—when it is cloudy or nighttime, they do not generate electricity. There are some battery solutions to provide power during these times, but they still tend to be quite expensive. Most homes with solar panels still rely on the grid from time to time.

    Depending on where you live, it is possible that the system can pay itself back and more over time. This is because you won’t be spending as much money buying electricity from your utility. If net metering is in place, you could reduce your bills even further.

    How Much Does a Solar Panel Cost?

    have been coming down steadily over the years. The total cost will depend on how many kilowatts of power your array will generate. According to consumer reports, after solar tax credits are accounted for, the cost for a solar panel system on an average-sized house in the U.S. in 2021 ranges from 11,000 to 15,000.

    Depending on where you live and the size of your system it can take, on average, anywhere from 10 to 20 years to break even on a solar installation.

    The Bottom Line

    Determining whether to install a PV solar system may seem like a daunting task, but it is important to remember that such a system is a long-term investment. In many locations, solar power is a good choice from a financial perspective.

    Even if the cost of solar power is found to be marginally more expensive than electricity purchased from a utility, homeowners may wish to install solar power to avoid future potential fluctuations in energy costs, or may simply wish to look beyond their personal financial motivations and use solar for green living.

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