You might not realize it, but alternative energy, and solar power, in particular, is more accessible than it has ever been. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, it has actually dropped in cost by almost 70% since 2014! Since then, thousands of Americans have started adding solar panel systems to their homes, and thousands more are expected to in the coming years.
If you’re not part of this group yet, perhaps you’ve at least looked into how you can make environmentally conscious changes to your home. Maybe you’ve considered solar power, but are on the fence about it. In that case, there are a few factors you should keep in mind – it could help you decide if you’re ready to take the leap.
1. Know-How Solar Panels Work
Understanding how solar panels work is a great way to get a clearer picture of why this technology is so helpful and efficient. It is actually both more straightforward and involved than you might have imagined. Basically, solar panels are composed of photovoltaic (or PV) cells. As the sun puts out solar radiation, the PV cells absorb the energy, which then creates electrical charges. Those charges move in a way that directs the flow of electrical energy. Sections of solar panels can also perform conversion of direct current to alternating current so it can more easily be used in a home.
What’s especially intriguing about this process is how some solar panels allow this energy that’s produced to be stored and used later – meaning, when there is no direct sunlight. Overall, the process of solar energy conversion has become very simple to replicate, and knowing how it works is one of the best ways to figure out whether it’s something you want to pursue in your home.
2. Understand the Benefits of Solar Panels
Given the involved process and long-term commitment that comes with installing solar panels, you probably want to have a better idea of the benefits solar power can offer. After all, there are several ways to be more environmentally conscious; is solar power really one of the most effective?
The answer is a resounding yes. Here are just a few of the many ways using solar power and solar panels can serve you and your lifestyle.
- Energy savings. Believe it or not, solar panels have reached a point where they actually help you save money on your energy usage – and even help you make money back after its higher upfront costs. Solar energy gives you the chance to power your home off the grid, which will ultimately save you money, and depending on where you live, potentially even get you credit on your utility bill.
- Improved home value. Several recent studies have shown that installing solar panels greatly increases property values. So even if you have plans to move at some point or in the near future, adding solar panels to your home can help you make money back on your investment.
- Lowering your carbon footprint. Because solar is a renewable energy source, using it does not result in the release of pollutants into the atmosphere, and it ultimately helps lower carbon emissions. Having this reduced environmental impact is really its own reward, and solar power has been proven to be the best way to get there.
3. Consider the Potential Drawbacks
Of course, despite the many upsides of solar, there are a few ways in which it isn’t right for everyone. A few of the potential drawbacks of solar to keep in mind include the following:
- It isn’t right for every rooftop. Because rooftop panels require a mounting system, older rooftops often can’t support them, nor can homes with certain roof additions (i.e. skylights, roof decks). This isn’t necessarily a barrier – ground-mounted solar panels are one potential alternative – but it can be a challenge not only to take stock of this but to work around it as well.
- Its upfront costs can be intimidating. It’s well known that, unfortunately, the initial out-of-pocket cost of switching to solar is high. Not everyone has the funds to make this investment from the outset, or without a solar loan. There are ways around this, including state-sponsored loan programs, but it’s important to know the costs of installing solar ahead of time to know whether you’re ready for them.
- It can be challenging to find a quality installer. Because solar is such a fast-growing industry, you might run into pushy sales reps with high-commitment contracts and have a hard time finding a helpful, high-quality installer. This can feel like an obstacle, but you should know that there are ways to make your search less stressful. Be proactive in seeking ratings and reviews online, for example, before responding to companies that come to you. That’s a great method that will let you compare quotes and comparison-shop before making any snap decisions.
4. Know-How to Plan Installation for Your Home
So you’ve weighed the pros and cons and decided to move forward with installing solar panels. Once you’ve determined how many solar panels you need, and where on your roof they would best fit, they can be installed professionally or on your own. When it comes to professional installation, the details will depend on who is supplying your system. There are some suppliers who can give you deals or references on installation, so make sure to ask questions about this before getting started.
Many people don’t realize that solar panels are both low-maintenance and long-lasting once their installation is complete. This is a huge perk that makes the work that goes into installation worthwhile. After solar panels are securely installed, they are typically guaranteed to work for 20 to 30 years and to be mostly maintenance-free. Your role will mostly be to keep them clear of any obstructing materials and debris.
Making Energy Efficiency Part of your Life
Investing in solar energy should be something that works for you and your lifestyle, so you can be satisfied with the system you install and the benefits that come from it. There are several online resources you can explore to learn more about these factors. Be sure to do as much research as you can, and when you’re ready, consult with experts who can help you take the next steps. With solid information under your belt, you’ll be ready to make the environmentally-minded changes that you want to make.