Are you considering installing a solar electric system in your home? Adding solar could be a great decision for you. It can lower your monthly electric bills, raise your home value and help lower your impact on the environment. However, installing solar does require extensive planning.

First, it’s important to determine how feasible it is to install solar in your location. The following questions can help:

  • Do you receive enough sunlight? Solar electric systems have been successfully installed in nearly every climate. However, you must have a site for your panels that receives full sun most of the day, throughout the year.
  • Do you have enough room for solar collectors? If your roof doesn’t have space for them, is there a sunny spot in your yard big enough to mount solar panels?
  • Is installing solar an economically viable decision for you? Answering this question may require some number crunching. You will need to factor in the cost of electricity in your area, your energy usage, the cost of installing the system, and any available renewable energy grants or incentives.

Determining whether solar is a good financial decision for you can also involve another planning decision: whether to connect your solar electric system to the grid, or install a stand-alone (off-grid) system. Going off-grid requires installing a battery bank, which can increase the cost considerably. However, it can be a good choice for remote properties. Most homeowners choose to grid-tie. In locations where net metering is available, this will allow you to sell excess power back to the utilities, and can help offset the cost of the system.

Your reason for wanting solar may also affect your decision: if your primary concern is saving money you may have a lower budget threshold than if your biggest goal is to reduce your carbon footprint.

  • Are there local ordinances or covenants that may affect your plans? Permits are required to install a solar electric system in many communities. The process can sometimes be costly in time and/or money — especially if local officials are unfamiliar with the technology. Find out from your contractor if the price they quote you includes permitting.

Also, some neighborhoods and HOAs are unfriendly to solar. Not every state has laws protecting a homeowner’s right to install solar. It’s best to find out in advance. Visit the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE) website for more information on solar access laws.

As you can see, planning a solar electric system is no simple matter. You can get more in-depth information on the topic at Energy.gov. Or, give us a call. We have helped hundreds of homeowners through the process of deciding whether and how to install their solar electric systems. We would be happy to do the same for you. Schedule your free solar assessment here.