By Sam Deane
Considering installing solar power for homes? Here’s everything you’ll need so as you can get a sense of cost and scale of the job.
Begin by establishing exactly how much of your home’s total energy usage you want to be run on solar power. Do you want solar power merely to heat the water and the water-heating system? Do you want to go completely off-grid and power the whole house by solar power? Either way, you’ll need to know how much energy your home is consuming per month on average.
Using your monthly utility bills, calculate your home’s average energy usage. Note any peak times when you use radically more energy. The Christmas period can cause surprisingly heavy energy demands. In essence, you need to design your solar power system to cope with your home’s maximum energy demand.
Once you have these figures, I recommend multiplying the amount by at least 1.5. This will give you a working leeway for any extra appliances you might add to your home over time. Now you know how much solar energy you need to pull in from the sun, you also have an idea of the amount of solar panels you will need to buy.
I would advise you to buy solar panels online. Go to eBay and input the words “solar panel pallet”. You’ll probably get an amazing bargain there. Prices have dropped dramatically recently. For an average family house, you can probably buy enough panels to power your home for less than $15,000.
Get good quality skilled and experienced tradesmen to do the job. Again, look online or check your local phone book. Always get at least three quotations. Cost is central, but it is very important that they have previous experience in installing solar power for homes.
Once you have someone you can trust at a good price, discuss with them which inverter to get and how much that will cost. Solar panels harness the power from the sun and turn it into direct current (aka DC power). The inverter converts this DC current into alternating current, (aka AC power). Everyone who installs solar power for homes needs to buy an inverter. Almost all the equipment in your home generally runs off AC so the inverter is essential.
A good inverter will cost about $2,000. Add another $500 or thereabouts for installation. Inverters have a lifespan of about 10 years, while solar panels, if looked after, will last 25-30 years. So you’ll probably need to replace your inverter over time.
If you want to go completely off-grid, you’ll need to store your excess energy in good quality batteries to store excess solar power harnessed on sunny days. That way, you’ll have a reserve of power to run your household appliances on darker days and at night-time. They cost about $50 – $100 each for the deep-cycle types. You’ll need about 10 of them. New batteries generally need replacing every 3-5 years.
Typically, your installation costs shouldn’t be much more than $10,000. However, installation costs depend on a variety of factors. How is your roof constructed? Steep roofs or Spanish tiles cost more to install as the panels need to be properly secured. Yet further cost goes into ensuring leak-proof seals in these roofing systems.
Installing solar power normally doesn’t need much electrical work to set up. Older houses may require additional rewiring, though this is rarely extensive. Nevertheless, have a qualified, experienced electrician check all the wiring.
Don’t forget to look for government support. Most local governments around the world are offering major tax credits. Your utility company might also have incentives to offer. These can all add up to as much as 50% of the total cost.
Final point – if you are investing in solar power for homes, it makes sense to protect your new asset. Ask your insurance advisor to add this to your homes and contents policy. Adding your new solar power system to your homeowner insurance policy won’t cost you more than $100 per annum. This will protect the investment you’ve made on your house. An additional $100 per year to cover your $40,000 solar system against any disaster really is an absolute bargain!
Look on your solar power system as a long-term investment. Each step of the installation process should be taken carefully. To remind yourself of the value of your investment, ask yourself, “What is the payback time?” Of course, after it’s all paid off, you have free electricity for years to come.
Consider if you were to take a loan to finance your solar power for homes system. Although it may seem like a hefty initial outlay, the monthly payments will probably be less than your current utility bill. So all ways up you’re saving money.
Of course saving money is not the only reason it makes good sense to install solar power for homes. It’s good to know that you are reducing your carbon footprint. Thereby your children and their children can inherit a planet worth living in. That’s the very least you can do for them, don’t you agree?
Father of singer-songwriter Sula Mae, his 20 year old daughter, Sam Deane has traveled the world as a magazine editor and publisher, a life coach and trainer. These days, he writes about solar panels, managing an important and lively blog about solar power.