Is Solar Power Right for You? Part Two

In part one, we left you with this cliffhanger: A cost-benefit analysis is only one factor for finding out if solar power is right for you. If you want to know for sure, there are still a few more things you’ll want to consider.”

We know you’re waiting with bated breath, so we’ll get right into the good stuff this time. (Did you knowBated’ is a shortened version of ‘abated,’ which means ‘to bring down, lower or depress’? So, if you’re waiting with “bated” breath, your breathing is shallow and you’re so anxious to find out “what’s going to happen next,” you can hardly breathe. Interesting, huh?)

…alright, we’re serious this time. Here are some things you should consider before installing solar panels on your home:

Are solar panels worth it if you don’t get a lot of sunlight?

Yes! You don’t have to live in a sunny state to enjoy solar savings! Truth is, the list of states who have installed the most solar in the country includes many from the Northeastern US (including New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts). Why? Because those states often have high electricity costs and better local incentives, so solar makes sense for them.

Solar panels are efficient enough that they don’t need constant sunlight to operate effectively. You can probably benefit from solar panels, even if you feel like your home doesn’t get much sun.

Will my trees affect how effective my solar panels will perform?

Yes! Solar panels need direct sunlight. If your trees block sunlight from hitting your panels, then your panels won’t produce as much electricity. The less sunlight your panels receive, the less power they’ll generate and the less money they’ll save you.

Don’t cut down all those trees just yet! The big, shady trees in your yard probably do a great job of keeping your home cool. The shade and coolness they produce help save you money on your energy bills, too. Instead of completely cutting down your trees, think about judicially trimming a branch or two instead. That way, you could get the best of both worlds: enough sunlight and enough shade.

Is your home already energy efficient?

It should be. If it isn’t, we recommend against installing solar panels… at least, for now. Adding solar panels to a house that has poor insulation or leaky windows doesn’t make much sense. It’s probably a better idea to correct those energy wasting problems before you add solar panels.

If your home is energy-efficient, you’ll also need fewer solar panels for your energy needs. If you really want your solar panels to work well, make your home energy-efficient before you install them.

Does your roof need work?

If so, fix it now. It costs a lot of money to remove solar panels from a roof. You’d have to eat that pointless cost if you had to repair your roof after installing solar panels. Solar panels are already expensive, so paying to remove them after paying to put them on feels terrible. To avoid that embarrassing expense, repair your roof before you install panels. It just makes sense.

Do I need any special permissions to install solar panels?

Maybe. First of all, you should definitely check with your Home Owner’s Association. You know those people love to wield their powers to make sure you’re following the rules. Some HOAs could argue that solar panels change the planned aesthetics of the neighborhood, or even lower home values. They could even restrict some parts of your solar installation.

Before you get into a potentially contentious argument, you should also know your rights. At least 24 states have “solar access rights” that limit homeowner associations from banning solar panels. Check your local laws.

Do solar panels add value to your home?

That depends. Leased panels don’t add value to your home, because they’re not part of the home. If you do own the panels, they will usually add some value. How much value they actually add is somewhat complicated to figure out. If you paid $18,000 for your solar panels, your home isn’t worth an additional $18,000, unfortunately. Instead, you calculate the value by figuring out how much money the panels will save on utilities. For example, if there are 10 years left on the warranty and the panels save $80 a month in electricity, the system could add $8,000 to a home appraisal.

In other words, solar panels may be right for you, even if you’re planning on moving out soon. They could even substantially increase your home’s resale value.

Isn’t solar power considerably better for the environment than conventional electrical power?

Yes, but the answer’s more complicated than you might think. By investing in solar energy, you can help reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. Solar energy is (obviously) of one of the most abundant, consistent sources of energy we have available.

On the other hand, solar panels are far from perfect. Solar power technologies are expensive, It costs about four times as much to produce electricity with solar panels than it does with coal. Huge solar arrays in the desert take up a lot of open land and require miles of powerlines. Solar panels also contain heavy metals including chromium, cadmium, and lead. With improper disposal, these minerals can lead to environmental distress.

The average photovoltaic cell lasts for 20 or more years. With the average home using 23-34 solar panels, you’re looking at a possible 78 million tons of waste by 2050. Most of this e-waste also includes small amounts of the metals mentioned above. As of today, there are few recycling programs to handle this waste. So while solar panels may help reduce reliance on fossil fuels, they aren’t perfect.

NOTE: While we were doing research, we found information that pushes the idea solar power is great AND information that brought up all the negatives. What we found obviously depended on the agenda of the organization publishing the articles. As with anything as monumentally game-changing solar power, a lot of money is at stake here. Be careful when researching whether solar power is right for you. Consider the source of the information you’re reading and why they might want to steer you in one direction or another.

Obviously, there’s a lot to consider when it comes to installing solar panels. It’s a big decision, and probably not something you can afford to take lightly (get it)? But that’s ok! If you do your research and consider your options, you can come to a decision you’ll be happy with. No matter what that decision is, we’d love to help.

If you have any electrical-related questions or want some help deciding whether solar power is right for you, call Early Bird any time. We’re always happy to help make sure you’re happy with your home’s electricity. Good luck with your decision making!