Solar panels are gaining quite a bit of popularity. Still, they’re a relatively new innovation. Most people know what they are, but don’t know much about the specifics such as how exactly they work or how to install them. Unless you’re an engineer, you will probably need a professional to give you specifics for your home, but we can start here as a jumping-off point.
Why should I go solar?
Solar panels are basically big batteries that you can strap onto your roof – or anywhere that gets sufficient sunlight. They will take the sunlight, turn it into energy and help to provide backup power to the regular electricity you use. This backup also saves you money.
How much a solar panel installation can save you depends on a few factors, one of which is how much sunlight you have. Savings range from just over $1,000 per year to more than $3,000. Since the price of having a solar system installed on your home just keeps getting lower, you can fully expect to earn your money back within the time frame of a reasonable warranty. That makes this investment a much better one than, say, buying a new car.
Actually, having solar panels installed is probably going to cost you about the same or less than buying a new car. For most people, it’ll cost less – coming in at around $17,000. Plus, you’ll be looking at some tax credits, which won’t lower the upfront costs, but it will give you something extra back.
Keep an eye on the Solar Investment Tax Credit, and check to see what is offered in your area. Each state has different incentives, so it pays to investigate.
How does solar energy work?
Installing solar panels is no walk in the park. Unless you have a good deal of training, this probably isn’t a project you want to undertake yourself. At the bare minimum, you need a licensed electrician to do the work, but it would be preferable to have someone who specializes in solar panels.
So, knowing that you’ll have someone else to do the dirty work is the start of it, but how do solar panels actually work? Once the solar panels are installed on the roof, they’ll be wired into your home electricity. The panels capture sunlight with photovoltaic (PV) cells, which converts visible light into direct current (DC). This current gets shipped down to an inverter which changes it to AC power, which then runs into your house for you to use.
Essentially, once the panels are installed and wired into your breaker, you shouldn’t have to do anything else. Assuming you don’t run into any unusual problems, the entire process should be completed in just a few weeks.
Who can install solar panels?
Most people will want to do a bit of shopping around for a project like this. You don’t want to just buy the first car off the lot, after all. Try to get a minimum of about three quotes from potential contractors. In order to make sure you’re choosing wisely, check them out.
Use companies that are registered with the Better Business Bureau and that have an A rating. Avoid ones that haven’t gotten around to a registration yet – they may not have enough experience to make you feel comfortable.
Also, make sure you’re going to get a good deal. You really want a company that offers a decent warranty, usually in the 20-25 year range. That gives you plenty of time to earn back your money without worrying about running into major issues.
Last, use common sense. If you live in the middle of a forest, solar panels may not be the way to go. However, with some space, a decent amount of sunlight and a trustworthy contractor, you can start watching your electric bill fall.
Main image credit: Dave Dugdale on Flickr
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