Common Questions When Going Solar
Investing in a residential solar system is a significant endeavor, and if you’re like us, you prefer to know all the ins and outs before making an investment. Based on feedback from our customers, we’ve compiled a database of common questions and answers to provide depth and clarity on a wide range of solar subjects.
We’ve got answers.
What Are the Most Efficient Solar Panels?
When it comes to just pure efficiency, concentration photovoltaics (CPV) are your best bet. They use mirrors to direct concentrated beams of sunlight onto solar panels, significantly boosting the efficiency of each cell in the process.
The only problem is that CPV modules not only require expensive materials, they are also significantly more challenging to manufacture than other commercially available options because of the complexity of the system, which needs to be able to track the sun to work.
So, what’s the better option?
Well, there’s a reason—three actually—silicon solar panels make up about 95% of all solar power systems sold today:
Reason #1: They’re inexpensive to produce
Their main component silicon is one of the most abundant materials on the planet, making it pretty inexpensive to acquire.
In addition, since silicon solar panels are so much simpler than CPV modules, they require significantly fewer materials and time to manufacture.
All this translates to a much lower cost of acquisition for homeowners.
Reason #2: They are highly durable
Silicon solar panels are designed to function in peak condition for up to 25 years, provided they are installed correctly and well maintained throughout their lifespan.
And they should still perform at about 85% capacity after 25 years, so you should still be able to enjoy significant energy cost savings from the 26th year onward.
Reason #3: They get the job done
While not as efficient as CPV, which in some cases can reach 50% efficiency, silicon solar panels more than make up for it by allowing you to easily get more panels, thanks to their significantly lower cost.
At the end of the day, you’ll still get the results you want but without having to spend a fortune on a super efficient but extremely costly system.
What does all this mean?
The bottom line is that efficiency is just one of the factors that dictate the viability of a solar power system. You also need to take into account how much it would cost to acquire it and how long you’ll be able to use it.
This is exactly why silicon solar panels are so popular right now. Even though they are significantly less efficient than, say, a CPV module, they’re so much more affordable, they last a really long time, and they get the job done just as well.
Want to find out more?
Book a no-obligation free consultation with one of our solar panel consultants today so we can answer all your questions and help you find (and install) the perfect solar power system for your home.
What is the break-even point for solar panels?
There’s no question that purchasing a residential solar panel system is a significant investment. But when does that investment start to pay off? The important aspect of this question to understand is that once you’ve paid off your solar panels, they keep producing energy for years at no additional cost to you.
There isn’t any single uniform answer to this question, due to the fact that there are so many factors involved with determining the cost-effectiveness of solar energy. However, you can put together a rough estimate by analyzing a few key elements.
You’ll need to factor in how much you’ll invest in your solar panels, which depends on the size and efficiency of your home, and the amount of peak sunlight you receive on an average day. Once you figure out how much energy you need, you should consider how much money you can save through solar incentives and tax rebates in your area. Are there solar tax credits available? How about net metering arrangements with local utility providers? Answering questions like these will get you one step closer to determining your break-even point.
Then, you should figure out how much electricity costs from your utility company, in order to properly analyze how much money you’re really saving from each kilowatt-hour generated by your solar system. If you would like some help figuring out where exactly your break-even point for solar panels would be, contact one of our representatives today. Speaking to a LGCY Power Energy Consultant will help you determine how much money you can save with solar energy at your home.
Is residential solar cost-effective?
For many homeowners, installing a solar power system is a great way to save some money, while also protecting our environment. However, there are many variables involved that can skew the financial numbers either positively or negatively for you. Let’s discuss the different questions you need to answer in order to determine the cost-effectiveness of residential solar for your home.
The first major variable is how much you pay for electricity from your utility company. Depending on which part of the country you live in, you might pay as much as 20+ cents per kilowatt-hour for residential power, but other regions can be as cheap as 10 cents per kWh, or even lower. Obviously, the more you’re currently spending on your energy, the more money you can save with solar.
Next, you’ll need to consider how much you’ll have to spend setting up your solar system. There are many variables for this question, including the size and energy efficiency of your home, the amount of direct sunlight your home receives on an average day, whether you plan on buying or leasing your solar panels, and more.
Another vital question along these same lines is which incentives and tax rebates you might be eligible for in your location. Different locations around the country have different government incentives available that can make a major impact on your costs.
In short, residential solar power can definitely save money for many homeowners, but you will need to properly analyze your specific situation to determine how cost-effective a solar installation will be for you.
How much do solar panels cost for a 2,000 square-foot house?
While there are many variables involved when discussing the efficiency and wattage requirements of your specific home, we can speak in general terms about the cost threshold for powering a 2,000 square-foot house with solar energy. According to the United States Census Bureau, the average new single-family house built in this country today is around 2,400 square feet, which is a significant increase from the 1970s, when the typical new build was in the 1,600 to 1,700 sqft range.
Therefore, it stands to reason that a 2,000 sqft house is roughly typical in the United States. Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration says that the average residential utility customer in this country uses right around 11,000 kilowatt-hours annually.
Using this data as a guideline, we can say that a typical 2,000 sqft home needs roughly 30 250-watt solar panels or 20 400-watt panels. Of course, there are plenty of variables that can affect those numbers, starting with the amount of direct sunlight your home receives in a typical day.
Homeowners in the American Southwest can take advantage of around six peak sun hours per day — a peak sun hour is considered to be an hour of direct sunlight that provides one kilowatt of energy per square meter. Meanwhile, homeowners in the Pacific Northwest might only have access to roughly 3.5 peak sun hours.
Also, there are additional variables like the materials and insulation used to build your home, the presence or lack of energy-efficient appliances and HVAC systems, and more. Your costs will also vary based on the brand and type of solar panel. We advise contacting one of our Energy Consultants to get a quote for your home.
Can you get solar panels for free?
In short, no, you cannot get solar panels for free. However, you will sometimes see companies advertising free solar panels, so let’s get down to the bottom of what this really means. When you see this phrase, the solar company probably either means they will lease solar panels to you, or they will provide you with a solar power purchase agreement.
If you lease your solar panels from the installer, the solar company will still actually own those panels. All you’re doing is renting them, so in fact, you do still pay for the electricity produced by your solar system in the form of a monthly lease payment.
A solar power purchase agreement, or PPA, is a method in which the solar company designs, funds, and installs a solar panel system at your home. They then sell you the power generated by that system for a previously agreed-upon fixed rate. This rate is almost always cheaper than the rates available from your traditional utility company, but it’s definitely not free either.
In addition, a PPA is usually a long-term arrangement, as these agreements usually last for at least a decade. During that time, you’ll still likely save money compared to purchasing energy from your utility company. However, the solar company not only receives your monthly payment, but they also get to take advantage of any relevant solar incentives or tax credits.
Once the PPA expires, you can extend it, purchase the system from the solar company, or have them remove it. No matter which of these options you select, you are still not getting solar panels for free.
What are the disadvantages of solar energy?
While there are several significant advantages of solar energy — including the potential for both environmental and economic benefits — that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any possible disadvantages. One of these potential downsides is the fact that some parts of the country simply don’t receive much direct daily sunlight.
This is due to the fact that sunlight itself isn’t enough to generate power. Rather, you’ll need to consider peak sun hours, which is the metric used to assess how many hours per day your solar panels will be able to function at optimal capacity.
Some parts of the country, like portions of California, Nevada, and Arizona, receive six or more peak sun hours per day, but the coastal regions of Washington and Oregon only receive three to four hours per day. If you live in a location without much sunlight availability, you may want to assess whether solar is the right answer for your energy needs.
Another disadvantage is the reliability of solar. Obviously, your panels won’t generate any energy at night, and the presence of clouds can also disrupt the efficiency of your solar system. In addition, solar energy can have steep setup costs, especially if you need to purchase a battery storage system. If you don’t have access to robust solar incentives and tax credits, your initial setup costs could total tens of thousands of dollars.
Finally, solar energy isn’t a terribly efficient form of power generation, as most solar panels are only 15% to 20% efficient — traditional forms of fossil fuel-generated energy can have much higher efficiency ratings.
What is the best solar system for a house?
It’s hard for us to come up with a one-size-fits-all answer to this question because each homeowner has their own specific set of needs and circumstances. However, one way to analyze the “best” solar system is to discuss the most powerful and efficient panels available.
Based on efficiency, the best solar panels available today are available from SunPower and LG, as both of these companies produce solar panels that meet or exceed 22% efficiency. This means that these panels are able to convert more sunlight into energy than the typical solar panel, which has an efficiency rating somewhere between 15% and 20%.
Who makes the most powerful solar panel on the market today? The Chinese manufacturer Trina Solar announced in 2020 that they are now producing two different models of solar panels with power outputs of 500 watts. Considering the fact that the typical residential solar panel produces 250 to 400 watts, this is obviously a major increase in capacity.
Overall though, the best solar system for a house is a system that’s custom-designed for your location and needs. This article from the U.S. Department of Energy is an excellent resource along these lines, as it breaks down some of the major determining factors for planning your home solar system.
To figure out what is the best solar system for you, you’ll need to analyze how efficient your home is, consider the solar potential of your location, determine your energy needs, and more. Or, you can contact LGCY Power and ask one of our Energy Consultants to help you find the best solar system for your home.
How much does solar cost for a whole house?
According to data from the Center for Sustainable Energy, the typical residential solar panel system costs can vary quite a bit. This calculation is based on a system capable of generating five kilowatt-hours of energy, with an average cost of $3 to $5 per watt.
There are many variables that could push your specific solar system toward the high or low end of that scale, or even beyond. First off, the cost of solar panels varies quite a bit depending on which brand you buy, as well as how powerful your chosen panels are. In addition, it’s important to note that there are varying levels of solar incentives depending on which part of the country you live in.
On a national scale, you can still take advantage of the solar investment tax credit (ITC) if you act quickly. This incentive used to provide a 30% tax deduction for homeowners who install solar panels, but that rate dropped to 26% in 2020. In 2021, it will dip again to 22%, and after that, the ITC is set to expire.
Update: In August 2022, the solar tax credit was increased to 30% and extended through 2032.
On a state-by-state basis, there is a wide variety of different incentives for solar energy. Some states have generous solar incentives, like California, which offers rebates for homeowners who choose to install solar batteries, and they also offer a net energy metering program, along with property and sales tax exemptions that can really help you minimize your costs.
On the other hand, there are some states that only offer minimal solar incentives or none at all. To find out more about the incentives and rebates available in your state, take a look at the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE) website to get all the details.
How many solar panels are needed to run a house?
There are several variables that go into determining your specific needs for a solar power system but in general, the typical homeowner requires around 30 solar panels to fully power a house. However, it’s important to note that the exact amount of power you need varies based on your location, as well as what type of solar panels you choose.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the typical American residential customer uses just under 11,000 kilowatt-hours per year. Some parts of the country receive more hours of direct sunlight per day on average than other regions do, but a solar system consisting of 30 250-watt panels should supply enough energy to power the average American home.
Of course, this number could vary considerably based on the size of your home and how many sun hours your panels receive per day, along with other factors like the quality of insulation in your home, whether or not the home has efficient appliances, etc.
Another variable is the wattage of your panels. These days, you can find solar panels that produce up to 400 watts (or in some cases, even more than that). If you live in an area that receives lots of sunlight — for example, Arizona — and you install 400W solar panels, you could actually power your entire home with around 20 panels.
For further information about how many solar panels you need to power your home, contact one of our LGCY Power representatives today. Our solar experts can help you answer even your toughest questions about solar panel installation.