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Everything You Should Know About Solar Power Systems

Solar power is appealing to many for obvious reasons – its environmentally friendly, it lowers electric costs and it makes your home more energy efficient. Although they’ve become more affordable in recent years, they’re still quite an expense for the average homeowner.

So if you’re considering installing a solar panel system, knowing the ins and outs will definitely make the decision easier. One of the main questions homeowners ask is if solar panels increase the value of a home. But – as is the case in most questions regarding houses – it depends on a variety of factors.

Here’s what you should consider when deciding whether solar power is right for you: 

Your Electrical Consumption

Solar panels generate electricity (duh), which is measured in kW. The estimate for average energy use of a home in the US puts electricity use around 1 kW per hour (kWh). The average price for electricity is $0.10 per kWh. So since each month has around 730 hours the average household electrical bill would be $73. Keep in mind this number is an average for the whole country. Electricity in Texas is cheaper than electricity in Hawaii – there are a lot of factors that can increase or decrease the amount of electricity you use.

Your Location

The average solar panel can generate around 10 watts/SF. Some more some less. There’s around a 12 percent conversion rate for each panel which means you’d need 100 SF of panels to power a home that uses 1 kWh – if the sun was shining all day and night 24/7. But it doesn’t so you need to estimate your panel requirements based on your location.

In Massachusetts, we get an average of 7 hours of sunlight per day – so you’d only need around 400 SF of panels. Across the country in Seattle, where the sun shines an average of 3 hours per day, you’d need more like 800 SF.

Your Budget

The price of a solar power system includes the panels, the installation and the electrical system required for your home to use the energy. The cost of solar panels is based on watt, with the average ranging from $7 to $9 per watt including installation. At these prices a 5 kW system could set you back between $25,000 and $35,000. However, keep in mind that you’ll probably be able to get a subsidy for your purchase either from your utility company or another source to offset the cost.

If you bought a $20,000 system, it could take 20 years to pay for itself. While this may make some hesitant, there is hope for cheaper prices. Many manufacturers are promising cheaper panels that are less expensive and more efficient. This would cut down the time in which you’d recoup your investment. The cost of electricity could go up as well which would also shrink the timeline to get your money back. Factors, factors, factors.