Owning and installing a home solar power grid system is becoming more affordable as new technologies come onto the market and materials are easier to come by and mass-produced. Before you begin, find out if local and state laws permit home solar panel installations, determine your power needs, get detailed information on local (city, county, and state) building codes and laws, identify which system suits your needs, and decide if you should do it yourself or hire professionals. Finally, find all state rebates, tax breaks, and other incentives and what requirements you need to get.
How to Determine Power Needs
To determine if a solar energy system feasible, calculate your daily energy usage. To do this you will need to gather energy bills for 12 months or have your energy provider send this data. Then, use this information to calculate your daily energy usage over a given year by following this formula below.
First, you add all the kilowatt-hours (KWH) from each of the 12 months together. Then divide it by 365 to get your daily average. For example, if you use 10,800 KWH per year, divide this by 365 days of the year to get 29.5 KWH on average per day. You will need to purchase panels that supply you with 29.5 KWH of power per sunlight hours per day. You will need enough panels to provide more energy than this and batteries to store this power for night time usage IF you are planning to go 100% off the power grid.
Second, you will need to calculate how many watts you use per day. Determine how much sunlight your geographical region receives per day and if any large trees or buildings may block the panels for any time-period during the day. You should invest in a solar insulation map to make this calculation. Once you have your average sunlight hours, you will need to go back to your KWH figures, divide it by the daily sunlight hours, and then multiply this figure by 1.25 to take into account energy lost through the wiring, inverter/converter, and battery.
So, for example, 10,800 KWH per year / 356 days = 29.5k / 6hrs x 1.25 = 6.145 kw or 6145 watts of power. Your solar panels will need to produce at least 6145 watts of power per sunlight hours per day on average. The average cost of solar panels in the United States is $4.90 per watt. Therefore, it will cost you roughly $30,110 to install solar power onto your house. Additional costs include permits, battery backup, wiring, charge controllers, inverters, electrician costs, inspectors and labor.
Dealing with Local Building Codes
Before purchasing your equipment and supplies, you will also need to take into account local and state building codes. Currently, the federal government does not manage the building codes that apply to the installation of solar electric systems. Every state, county, and then city has its own unique set of regulations, and you will need to talk to your city inspectors who may have their own set of guidelines to approve permits and pass final inspections. Local and state building codes and inspections ensure that the structure is sound enough to hold the respective weight load of the home solar panel installation. Improperly and illegally installed solar power systems can affect your ability in selling the property, negate insurance claims, and be forcibly removed if reported.
If you do decide to install it yourself, seek out a local company who installs solar panels in your area and get their advice. Then head over to the city planning commission to find out which building permits you will need from start to finish. Next, research your states building codes for weight load, distance from other buildings, and even if it is allowed near power lines or in view of the street. Finally, have your house inspected by both the city inspector and by your insurance company. They will need to inspect the trusses of the roof and foundation as well as your electrical system.
After all the permits are obtained, all the inspections are cleared, and all the paperwork is properly signed, go see which state rebates and tax credits you qualify for. Many states offer green energy incentives that may cut property taxes, reduce interest rates, and qualify you for a bigger tax rebate.
Components Needed for a Solar Energy System
You have several types of systems to choose from, and choices are conditional upon the size of the roof, the house, the region, energy needs, and state laws.
- Glass solar panels – these look like boxes, rest above a roof or ground on top of brackets, may or may not have an electronic system attached that track the suns movements.
- Thin sheets of photovoltaic material – these are usually soft and pliable like rubber and mounted with special tape, brackets, or glue and rest directly on the roof tiles.
- Solar roof tiles – these resemble roofing material and are installed like roofing tiles.
- Photovoltaic paint – this is applied via a roller, brush or sprayer.
- Individual solar energy systems for each room. These come in 45 watt, 60 watt, 80 watt, and systems like the SolarPlex MG 100 kit and expansion kit.
The remaining components you will need depend on the types and size of panels you choose and if you decide to go off the power grid, opt for a combination of solar and grid power, or if you plan on selling energy back to the power company.
- Tools: such as screwdrivers, hacksaws, electrical wire cutters and pliers, ladders, ropes, and more if you plan to install it yourself.
- Mounting supplies, which include mounting racks and hardware to fasten the panels to the roof or support platform.
- Wiring supplies: such as electrical wire, clamps, electrical connectors, clamps, electrical ties, cable ties, circuit breakers, electrical tape, electrical tubing, plug-ins, wire ducts, and wire fasteners.
- Other supplies include: a power converter/inverter, storage battery, disconnect box, and generator.
A power converter takes the straight current the solar system provides and converts it into an alternating current. All household electrical devices run on an alternating current and solar panels only provide a direct current. A storage battery is especially important if you plan to power your home on cloudy days and at night. A disconnect box allows you to turn the solar power off at night and switch over to battery, generator, or grid power. A generator generates electricity using an alternate fuel source on cloudy days and at night.