Residential solar systems provide the homeowner with a number of benefits, plus, they're great for the environment. From 2006 to 2013, the installation of solar panels grew by 1,000 percent, and that number is expected to rise. If you're among those considering making the investment, you may feel overwhelmed with where to start. Here are three simple steps to choosing the right solar system for your home.
1. Know Your Options
You have a number of options when it comes to choosing a solar panel system. Photovoltaic (PV) panels are the most common type installed, and they're the ones most people see on rooftops. They work by converting sunlight into electricity via silicon or thin-film technology. PV panels come in various types, shapes, and sizes, and which one you choose will depend on your home's energy needs and budget.
Solar thermal panels are another option. They convert sunlight to heat energy, and they are used for heating water and swimming pools or heating and cooling the home. They are further broken down into active or passive systems.
Active systems use pumps to move water around the system and distribute heat that way. They are a little more expensive, but they tend to be more efficient in the long run.
Passive systems are cheaper, don't require a pump or electricity, and are also very low maintenance. They work by allowing hot water to rise within the collector panel. The hot water then flows into a tank for storage. The cooler water gets recirculated through the collector panel until it warms up sufficiently.
Because of the low initial investment, solar thermal panels are considered one of the easiest ways to get renewable energy inside your home.
Concentrated solar panels are a third option. They essentially reflect the rays of the sun onto a collector. The collector then either stores the energy as heat or converts it to usable mechanical energy. Once again, there are many different types of solar collectors available, and a professional installer can walk you through the best option for a residential home.
2. Get Multiple Quotes
Before making a decision on what type of solar system is best for you, get several quotes from different companies. Looking at your options side-by-side will better allow you to see the differences and the similarities between the companies as well as the system you choose.
You'll see a difference in financing options as well as the equipment used, and you'll be able to make an informed decision when you compare the pros and cons and weigh that with the experience of the company and installers.
3. Understand the Costs
Solar systems are definitely cheaper than they were several years ago, but they're still an upfront investment. However, PV panels are designed to drastically reduce your monthly electric bill. So, ideally, whatever you pay in monthly financing should be less than what you were paying the power company.
PV panels also come with incentive programs like rebates and tax credits as well as grants and low-interest loans.
Another financial bonus of PV panels is that they are tied to the grid, meaning any excess energy produced by the panels goes to the power company. If you have a net metering agreement (allowed in many states), you can be compensated for the surplus energy you provide to the power company. In California, this is known as the Net Energy Metering program, and payment is made automatically if you have rooftop solar panels.
Most PV panels will provide your home with power for 25-30 years, but the general consensus is the system should pay for itself within 10 years, making it a worthwhile investment. For more information, contact companies like AAA Solar Source.