Residential Solar Power
Residential solar power systems are the most popular in use today, although there are also a lot of other solar applications as well. With the rising cost of electrical power, any alternative is certainly appealing. The average electrical bill goes up by an average of about six percent per year. At that rate, your electric bill doubles every 12 years. There is a very good chance that over the next ten years, that will increase by much more than 6% a year.
The initial investment is the biggest disadvantage of residential solar systems. One thing that helps offset that expense is government incentives. The federal government has been offering tax breaks, and states have offered rebates. In some states, nearly 50 percent of the installation cost is offset by these programs. As a result, the payback on these systems can be as little as seven to ten years.
Say that your electric bill runs $300 per month. If a system costs $70,000 prior to tax incentives, the system could cost as little as $35,000 out of pocket. At an interest rate of 6%, it would take approximately 10 years to pay off the loan if you only paid $300 per month, and increased your payment by 6% each year (which would equate to your rising utility bill). After the tenth year, your electricity would be free. At that point in time, you would save a total of $537 per month. That savings would increase by at least 6% each year. That is like having an extra $700 in your pocket. This is how much you would have to earn to pay the $537 electric bill. After 15 years, it would be like sticking an extra $1,000 into your pocket every month.
What I love is going out to my power meter on a sunny day and seeing the meter actually spin backwards. You see, what happens is the extra electrical energy you produce goes back into the power grid, and you get credit for it. Unless you decide to go with a system that isn’t tied into the grid, you will still need to have a utilities hookup. The only alternative to this is having your own battery backup system, which can be a drawback in a few ways. You would need an extra storage area to store the batteries; you would need to buy the batteries and also need to replace them on a periodic basis. May I add, you would also need to dispose of the old batteries properly, since they are considered hazardous waist.
An added benefit to residential solar power systems is that they will increase the value of your home. It is a much better investment than installing a swimming pool. While a swimming pool that costs $30K to $40K, will only increase the value of your home by maybe $10K, a solar system that costs you $30K out of pocket may increase the value of your home by $25K to $30K. Even though the installation of solar electricity is fairly expensive, the day to day maintenance is very minimal.
Even if you don’t completely eliminate your electric bill, what solar does is puts you into the lower tiers, where you don’t have to spend as much per kilowatt of usage. It’s when you get into the upper tiers that you start paying a lot more for your electrical power. For someone who doesn’t want to put up a large investment on the front end, some solar companies offer an option to lease solar power. In this case, you can actually lower your monthly electric bill with no, or very little out of pocket expense.
One advantage of solar power is that it doesn’t put any pollutants into the atmosphere like the use of fossil fuel does. Another great advantage to a residential solar system is that it can be conveniently placed on top of your home without taking up and additional space. It can also be installed pretty much anywhere in the world, whether there is access to a grid or not. Although most systems tie back into the power grid, solar power off-grid systems work great in remote areas where electrical lines can't go. Naturally, if the area has a lot more sunlight, it will be more ideal in location. Modern solar systems will produce some electricity even in a cloudy situation.
There are a few other disadvantages, or drawbacks to solar energy. The clearest con to solar residential systems is the fact that the sun doesn’t shine 24X7. In fact, it doesn’t even shine half of the time in most areas. For stand-alone systems, that aren’t hooked to the grid, this is a bigger problem. With proper storage batteries, you can still have a workable situation. Clouds, smoke or any other form of pollution can block solar production. Also, dust can get on the solar panels, which will cut back on how efficient the panels are. That is one area where the solar system does require some maintenance. I would recommend washing down the solar panels once every month to six weeks, depending on how much rain you receive. In dustier areas, you may need to wash them off more often.
Another drawback of residential solar energy is if you don’t have a roof that is South facing. Ideally, the roof should face either due South, South-East, or South-West if you live in the Northern Hemisphere. If, on the other hand, you are in the Southern Hemisphere, you would need a roof to face North, North-East, or North-West.
Considering all of the pros and cons of solar energy, it seems that the advantages of solar power systems outweigh the disadvantages somewhat. But, each person needs to weigh both sides before deciding if solar is a good option or not. You might also want to consider diy solar panels for home use to save even more money. Here are some questions you need to answer in the process:
Does the sun shine a majority of the time where I live?
What government incentives for solar power are in place where I live?
Does my roof face the right direction to produce solar power?
If I don’t have a South facing roof, is there some other place I could put solar panels?
Are there solar lease programs where I live?
Are there solar lease programs where I live?