Small things can be done daily to help protect the environment. Replacing single-use water bottles and walking when possible are a few simple yet effective ways to help. However, interest in solar panels has piqued as the world focuses more on renewable energy. Many homeowners don't know how to go solar or if they can even afford it.
It's not critical to know everything about a solar energy system to take steps toward converting to solar power use. But you may have a few burning questions that, if answered, will guide you towards purchasing your first solar panel system.
What Is Solar Energy?
Solar energy, often referred to as solar power, is sustainable energy generated from the sun. The sun's beams can be used to convert energy into electricity, allowing solar power to fuel everything from televisions to cell phone chargers.
However, a solar panel system must be installed to get the benefits of solar energy in your home. Solar panels, an inverter (which converts direct current to alternating current), and racking (which serves as the system's foundation to install on) are all included in solar panel systems.
Why Choose Solar Power?
Solar energy is essential to protecting the environment. It creates energy without polluting the environment by harnessing the power of the sun. This results in cleaner air, a more stable climate, and we rely less on natural resources.
With every new kilowatt-hour of solar energy produced, we reduce our dependence on fossil fuels as we move closer to a cleaner, healthier society.
Our energy grid is also more secure as a result of solar energy. It eliminates the necessity of central power plant generation. Throughout the course of a solar system's lengthy life, it can improve price stability, grid reliability, and lower environmental regulatory burdens. By adding a battery to your solar energy system, you can make your home even more durable.
Additionally, going solar can help you save money on your electrical bills. The amount of money you save when you install solar panels is determined by a number of factors, including the amount of electricity your solar system produces, the amount of energy you use, and the incentives available in your area.
Generating your own energy with a rooftop solar panel can help you save money on your energy bills and protect you from increasing electricity costs. Over the course of a solar system's 25+ year lifespan, households may save thousands of dollars in electricity bills.
Similarly, community solar, when available, can help you save money on power while simultaneously supporting local renewable energy projects.
Getting Started with Solar Panels
With a few key steps, you can get started with your solar panel installation.
Determine If Solar Power Fits Your Needs
The first step is determining if you are a good fit for solar energy. Ask yourself these five questions:
How much is your current electricity bill?
What type of home do you have, and do you own it?
Will your roof meet solar requirements?
Do you qualify for tax credits and rebates?
What is the cost of solar power in your region?
If you're unsure whether you are a good fit or not, don't rule it out completely. Another option in some areas is community solar, which allows you to still reap the benefits of solar power, even if your home isn't a good fit for installing solar panels.
Get Installation and Equipment Quotes
Begin by finding a few installers in your area. Reach out and try to get more information about each of them. This includes trying to understand what differentiates the installer, what pricing might look like, and guarantees that they provide.
Choose Your Installer
Look for an installation company that is a certified North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioner, or NABCEP. This certification ensures that the public is receiving a qualified contractor that will work at the highest standards.
Ask whether they are licensed, bonded, and insured, too. Liability insurance will protect against any damage that may occur while they are working on your roof.
Take your time during this step of the process, and don't be afraid to ask for references. Seeing an example of the systems each contractor has installed will help you understand the quality of their work. Speaking with former clients can help you know you're choosing the right contractor.
Paying for a Solar Energy System
Determining how you will pay for your solar installation is just as crucial as choosing which contractor to use and which solar panel system to install. Solar can be paid for in three ways -- cash, with a loan, or with a lease or power purchase agreement. Each strategy has advantages and disadvantages.
You'll save the most money throughout the life of the solar panels if you pay for the system upfront, but you'll need the cash. With a lease, someone else owns the solar panels on your roof.
You buy power from them each month at a reduced rate compared to what you usually pay, but you won't save as much money over time and won't get all of the solar incentives. A solar loan is in the middle of the three alternatives because you own the solar panel system but pay for it monthly rather than all at once.
Having the System Installed
Once you've chosen your solar installation company and method of payment, the last step is the easiest. You get to sit back while the contractors install the solar panels on your roof.
Prior to the installation day and before the final contract is signed, the solar company will come to your house for site inspection. This visit is to confirm that your roof is stable enough to support the system and make any adjustments to your initial quote.
Your quote may change if your electrical panel or some other component needs to be upgraded before installing the panels.
This pre-installation visit is also when the installation company will begin the process of submitting any necessary paperwork for installation and connecting to the grid and incentives.
During installation, you can expect between 5-10 employees to be on your property, including certified electricians completing electrical work and solar panel installers on your roof. Your project should take approximately one day to complete.
After installation, it’s just a matter of getting approved for applicable incentives and permission to operate from your utility company so you can turn your system on.
How to Go Solar Within the Community
Not everyone can afford to have solar panels installed on their roof. Fortunately, renters and others can still benefit from solar energy. Having access to a portion of a solar farm near you is one way to get involved in community solar. You profit from clean energy produced from a neighboring solar farm rather than producing power on your rooftop.
You will receive a credit on your utility bill for the energy produced by your piece of the solar farm as a subscriber. This solar option allows you to support local solar while saving money on your power bill.
Going Solar in Texas
A number of incentives, ranging from tax credits to rebates to electric company bill credits, can help relieve the financial burden of going solar in Texas. Check the DSIRE for a comprehensive database of incentives, including those specific to individual retail power suppliers and utilities.
If you already have access to solar energy, make sure you are enrolled in a renewable energy buyback program, like the Rooftop Solar Buyback Plan from Rhythm. We're proud to offer a solution to Texans that will help you make and save money.