Sizing up Solar: See How It Works and If It’s Right for You

Solar panels on roof of house

The sun has been the most energy-efficient power source in the solar system for about 4.6 billion years running! Clean and renewable energy sources like solar and wind are becoming increasingly popular, which is great for the environment, but you may be wondering “how does it work?”

We’re glad you asked. The decision to install a home solar panel system depends on several factors — all unique to your individual situation. But here are some key considerations that apply across the board to help you get started:

 

1. You’ll likely still be connected to the electric grid

Your solar panel system can’t operate independently of the electric grid unless it’s specifically designed to provide backup power. If there’s limited-to-no sunlight, you’ll need to be connected to the grid to get electricity. Also, most solar panels shut off during power outages as a safety precaution.


2. You could be compensated.

You can be compensated for the excess energy your solar panels generate that your home doesn’t immediately use. The compensation rate is set by regulators and current rates can be viewed online. Essentially, the extra electricity your solar panels generate is used to power other sources, which we’ll pay you for—but only if that power goes to the grid.


3. Your home may direct your decision to install solar panels.

Installing solar panels isn’t as simple as installing a satellite. Here are some things to consider: Are you planning on selling your home in the next few years? Solar panels are like an in-ground pool; some people love them and some people hate them. If you decide to take your panels with you, you’ll need a professional to do it. Speaking of professionals, be sure to hire one to inspect your roof first to make sure it’s ready for panels. Certain characteristics of your home, like how steep your roof is, may impact your ability to install solar panels. Also, consider the condition of your roof. If you need roof work in the near future, it may make sense to complete repairs first to avoid taking panels down after installation. Finally, check with your home insurance agent to see how solar panels may affect your premium.


4. You could save money—but how much?

There are many variables to consider, such as weather conditions, your household’s electricity use, the efficiency of your home, and future changes to electricity rates. Be sure to calculate your up-front costs, monthly payments, and potential savings. When you purchase a solar panel system, you pay upfront to install the panels, but you may be able to take advantage of state and federal tax credits. Keep in mind that you’ll also be responsible for maintenance and repairs. It’s a lot to consider — crunch the numbers with our solar calculator to see if it makes sense for your family.


Regardless of how you power your home, consider making energy-efficient upgrades to ensure you’re not paying for wasted energy. An efficient home is the first step in reducing your energy needs and helping to power a cleaner energy future!

As with most big home purchases, there are many things to consider. For more information on solar, check out our helpful solar power guide for homeowners.