Updated: Feb 13
Here comes the sun! Solar power is a popular way to go green, but there are a few things you should consider before making the decision to install photovoltaic (PV) panels on your property. Check out what you should do — and not do — before signing on the dotted line.
Gather your bills
To correctly size a solar system for your home, you'll need to determine how much energy you use. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, an average American home uses about 870 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity each month, but your home's total usage may be higher or lower. Without this vital information, solar contractors won't be able to give you an accurate cost estimate.
Examine your placement area
Determine if your roof has adequate sun exposure during the day and is prepared to handle PV panels. South-facing roofs are best, but panels can be installed to capture the sun if your roof faces another direction. If your roof is in need of repair, it may be best to take on that project first, so you won't have to remove the panels to replace your roof in a few years. If you are planning a ground installation, make sure there are no trees, buildings or other structures that will shade the panels and reduce output.
Consider going beyond PV
Solar energy can do more than just generate electricity; solar-powered hot water systems can be a cost-effective way to generate hot water for your home. They're fossil fuel-free, cheaper, and can be used in any climate — unlike some other water heating systems. Ask your contractor if your roof can accommodate both solar PV panels and a water heating system.
Ignore potential efficiency improvements
Before sizing your solar system based on your home's energy needs, call our office to visit with one of our energy advisors to discuss energy-efficiency measures and strategies that might help you save money on your energy bills.
Just choose the cheapest contractor
The average national solar panel cost is just over $3 per watt, including installation and additional necessary equipment. For an average 6-kilowatt (kW) system, installation would cost about $18,000. Smaller contractors typically offer lower prices, but that doesn't mean they're the best option. Get multiple quotes from reputable contractors before making a decision. Don’t be swayed by exaggerated claims from contractors with smooth sales pitches. Call our office and we can offer guidance on choosing a trusted installer.
Expect to go off-grid
Though it's technically feasible to go off the grid by installing a solar-plus-storage system that saves unused energy in a battery for when you need it later, it's not often a cost-effective option.
Research kilowatt-hour costs, credits, available rebates and our co-op’s policies regarding member-owned generation. Installing solar is a long-term investment, and it's important to make sure you know what's going into it and what you'll get in return. Our cooperative is your trusted energy partner and we want to help you make the best decision for your home or business.