Solar energy is clean, renewable and accessible on a mass scale. Is your home the ideal place for solar? Let’s find out.
Naysayers put too much emphasis on the impact of climate on solar energy. As a resident of New York or New Jersey, you may think the climate here doesn’t lend itself to high solar energy production, but a solar panel on a home in sunny Sacramento produces only 1% more electricity than one installed on a foggy San Francisco-area home. Consider too that Germany – a country known far more for its beer and brats than for having a sunny climate – is the world leader in solar panel use.
By installing a properly sized solar panel on your New York home, you could save about $130 per month. As it turns out, solar panel positioning is far more important than the climate you live in.
The roof is clearly the best place to install residential solar panels. In order to accommodate a solar panel, your roof needs to be in good condition. If the roof is damaged, your installer will insist you have it replaced before the solar array goes up. Fixing damaged shingles now is much easier than having to remove the solar installation a few years down the road. Of course, roof repair or replacement adds to the cost of going solar.
It’s also important to understand that solar panels won’t cause your roof to leak or collapse. In fact, the panels actually protect and preserve your roof from damage. The panels themselves are attached mounted rails.
The ideal size of a PV array directly correlates to the home’s energy consumption. Larger homes have larger energy needs, but also larger roofs on which to mount solar panels.
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Roof orientation and pitch
Living in New York or New Jersey means the sun is always to the south. As a result, the most efficient solar panels are south-facing. If your roof doesn’t have good southern exposure, a west- or possibly east-facing installation could be feasible.
Along with having good southern exposure, your roof is also ideal if the pitch is somewhere between 30 and 50 degrees. Mounts can usually accommodate a more ideal angle if your roof has a unique pitch.
Tracking systems provide efficiency gains by following the sun’s path through the sky from morning until later afternoon. However, the additional mechanisms required increase solar installation costs, space requirements and the need for repairs, so most homeowners skip tracking systems.
Many times, homeowners plant trees to strategically shade windows and parts of the roof during the hottest time of day. While this creates a cooling effect and lowers the air conditioning load, it could drastically decrease solar panel efficiency.
When assessing your roof for a solar panel installation, check it between noon and 2 p.m., the time of day when solar electricity production reaches its peak in New York and New Jersey. If the south-facing section of your roof is shaded by trees or surrounding structures, it’s not the ideal place to install a solar array.
Do the numbers add up?
The cost of solar panel installations is the final consideration when deciding if solar is right for you. Fortunately, you have three options:
- Purchasing Solar Panels: You can purchase the solar energy system directly and own it from day one. Ownership provides the greatest total savings, but the investment is cost prohibitive for many.
- Leasing Solar Panels: You can lease the system, gaining access to solar hardware for a low monthly payment. Leasing is a step in the right direction for the environment and you end up paying less than you currently do on utility bills.
- Solar Loan: You own your solar and pay for it with a loan. Over time, you repay the loan amount on a monthly basis. For many customers, the combination of the loan payment and remaining power bill is less than their previous electric bill.
The bottom line is if you want to save on your electric bill, you should seriously consider going solar. Even if your home doesn’t meet the ideal conditions, don’t rule out solar just yet! Special roof mounts, ground installations and other options could still allow you to gain full benefits from a PV array.