Is My House a Good Fit For Solar?
Solar energy is becoming increasingly popular as a growing number of consumers prioritize clean energy. Purchasing solar panels for your home can also be a fantastic investment that could pay dividends for years to come.
If you’ve been asking yourself questions like “Is my house good for solar?”, then you’ve come to the right place.
In this article, we are going to cover every question that you need to ask yourself in order to determine whether solar is right for your home. We will also show you what the ideal solar setup looks like and how you can quickly (and cheaply) estimate the amount of solar energy that your home will be able to generate. Let’s get started.
Is My Home Good For Solar? Here’s How to Find Out
Questions To Ask About Your Roof
How old is your roof?
Solar systems are manufactured to last for 25-30 years. So if you think your roof needs to be replaced or have significant repairs done soon, you will want to take care of those first. Otherwise, you would need to pay to have the solar panels removed from your roof and then again to reinstall them on it.
What materials is your roof made from?
You won’t have any issues installing your solar panels on most common roofing materials. However, roofs that are more brittle, such as those made from slate and wood, can be tough for solar installers to work on.
It is absolutely still possible to get solar panels on a roof that’s made out of slate or wood. You may just need to spend some extra time on finding an installer who specializes in working on those types of roofs.
What’s your roof angle?
The angle that your roof is tilted at can have a big impact on how efficiently the solar panels that you install are able to create energy. Thankfully, most U.S. homes have roofs that are titled between 30 to 45 degrees and that’s perfect for solar panels.
Just keep in mind, roofs that are steeper than this will likely produce less electricity. If you have a very flat roof, then your solar panels will likely need to take up more space on it.
How large is your roof?
Generally, the more space that is available on a roof, the easier that it is to install solar panels on it. But small roofs aren’t necessarily worse for solar panels.
The key thing here is the amount of continuous free space that you have on your roof. If your roof is oddly-pitched with lots of obstructions like vents and chimneys, then it will be more difficult for a solar panel installer to add panels to it.
Having a large roof gives you a better chance of having enough free space available on it for solar panels.
What direction does your roof face?
The direction that your roof faces will influence how much energy the solar panels that you install on it will be able to generate. As a general rule of thumb, if you live in the Northern hemisphere, you want your roof to face southwards to receive as much sun as possible.
But if your roof faces north instead of south, don’t let it discourage you away from getting solar panels completely. You can still make them work and they may still be a solid investment. They can still be effective. They may just not be as effective as possible.
Does your roof get a lot of shade?
The amount of shade that your roof gets will also impact how effective any solar panels that you add to it can be. If your roof is covered entirely in shade for much of the day’s sunlight hours, then your panels won’t be very effective.
Depending on the situation, there may be steps that you can take to repair the problem. For example, you might be able to trim a large tree that’s been shading your roof so that your panels can begin creating more energy for you.
Questions to Ask Yourself About Cost
Many people who decide to add solar panels to their homes do so as an investment. Asking yourself these questions will help you figure out whether solar can be a good investment for you.
How expensive are solar panels in your area?
In order to determine whether solar is a good financial decision for your home, you need to first figure out exactly how much solar panels cost in your area. This can vary a bit from state-to-state.
For example, residents of Alabama can expect to pay about $10,800 (after tax incentives) for solar panels but those in New Jersey should expect to pay around $12,500 (after tax incentives).
How much are you currently paying for electricity?
Next, you need to determine your current charges for electricity. Generally, the more that you’re currently spending on electricity, the more that you can save by swapping over to solar panels.
Once you know how much you are currently spending on electricity, you can use that number to figure out how much you can save on a monthly basis by adding solar to your home.
Then, once you have your monthly savings potential, you can divide the total purchase price of your solar panels to determine how many months it will take you to break even.
Remember, a solar system will typically last between 25 and 30 years. If you can’t break even within that time frame, the investment likely won’t be worth it.
Does your region offer net metering?
Net metering is an electricity billing practice that lets homes with solar panels utilize the excess energy they produce at night. If you live in an area with a consumer-friendly net metering policy, you will likely be able to save even more on your electricity bill.
Other Questions to Help You Determine If Solar Panels Are a Good Fit
Do you own or rent?
It’s usually not a good idea to add solar panels to a home that you are renting -- even if you imagine that you will be there for a very long time. Besides, adding solar panels to a home that you rent would likely be a violation of your rental agreement.
If you own your home, then this won’t be an issue. You can add solar panels to your house and enjoy the many benefits that they provide for years to come. And if you do decide to sell your home one day, you will likely get more for it because you added solar panels to it.
What permits are needed for solar in your area?
Most homeowners need to apply for a few permits before adding solar panels to their property. Usually, this means getting each of the following:
- An electrical permit
- A structural or building permit
- And potentially a dedicated solar panel permit
However, the requirements for receiving each of these permits can vary quite a bit from state-to-state. You may want to look into how hard it is to get the permits that you need before signing an agreement with a solar panel provider.
What’s your local climate like?
Solar panels are only able to operate at their full potential when the sun is shining. It goes without saying, then, that the more sun your area gets, the more effective adding solar panels to your home could be.
That being said, solar panels can still be smart investments in areas that don’t receive as much sun. You may just not be able to save as much per month as you would otherwise be able to.
What a House That’s Perfect for Solar Looks Like
The truth is, solar panels can be an effective and impactful addition to many different types of homes. However, some homeowners will be able to get more out of their panels than others.
If you’re curious about what the perfect situation for solar looks like, the home would have each of the following characteristics:
- A large, obstruction-free roof that’s tilted between 30 and 45 degrees
- Minimal shade
- Situated in a climate that receives year-round sun
- Southward-facing roof
- Has a roof that doesn’t need any repairs and isn’t made out of wood or slate
Is Solar Right For My Home? The Bottom Line
Solar panels can be a great addition for most types of homes. Even houses with roofs, locations, and shading situations that are less than ideal can still benefit from adding solar panels.
There are really only a few situations that can disqualify you from solar entirely. Here’s a quick list:
- Your roof receives shade all day due to a nearby obstruction that can’t be fixed
- The cost of solar panels in your area far exceeds the monthly energy savings that you would receive after 25-30 years of using them
- You rent your home instead of own it
As long as you don’t fall into one of these scenarios, there is a very good chance that adding solar panels to your roof can be a viable way to help you power your home.