Whether you’re concerned about money, independence or the environment, choosing a home solar system is a big step in the right direction for your family. Knowing which system is right for you can be a little tougher. These questions can help you figure out where to start.
Every family has their own vision for their home solar energy system and a different budget to work within. Knowing your goal is an important step in gathering relevant information about system options and having productive discussions with your solar installer when you’re ready to make a final decision.
Do you want to…
- Power your whole home with solar, or just a few systems?
- Be completely off the electric grid, or still be tied into it?
- Have a backup in place in case of power outages?
What Size Home Solar System Do You Want?
Some families want a maximized home solar panel system that will cover as much of their energy needs a possible. You may want to save on your monthly bills, be energy independent or significantly reduce your family’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. How many panels you need will depend on your home’s sun exposure and the efficiency of the system you choose.
Other families want to power a specific appliance or system that tends to be an energy hog. Electric vehicle charging, water heaters, AC units, heated pools and hot tubs are common needs. Most of these needs can be met with 3 to 15 panels. Choosing a key system is a great way to go solar on a budget.
If you want improved energy security, backup battery systems are also an option. Backup batteries can kick in during power outages to keep your family comfortable and important systems running.
How Much Energy Do You Use?
Energy consumption is measured in kilowatt hours (kWh). Your electric company charges you based on how many kWh you use each month, and home solar system sizes are determined by how many kWh they produce on average.
Whether you want to power a water heater or as much of your home electrical use as possible, you’ll need to know how many kWh you need your system to produce. For “whole home” electric use, check your bill. Most companies provide snapshot of your average energy usage. You may also be able to call and find out exactly how much you used in previous years.
If you want to cover a select system, like a water heater, you’ll need the wattage of each appliance and an accurate estimate of how many hours per day you use it. The EPA offers a free appliance energy calculator that will help you estimate your total kWh needs.
What About Backup Batteries?
Backup batteries are an excellent addition to home solar. Batteries can collect excess energy, pick up the slack on cloudy days and keep essential systems running when your conventional electric goes down. For people that want off-the-grid systems, backup batteries are essential.
Battery banks charge when the weather is optimal and will hold their charge for an extended period of time. You can connect your batteries right into key systems to ensure they’re ready to go when you need them. Depending on your system, your backup power can for as few as 20 hours and all the way up to five days or more.
If you’re considering batteries, you’ll want to know how many things you’ll want to power, how much power they need and how many day’s worth of power you want to have. Popular choices in the southwest are refrigerators, freezers, ceiling fans, outlets for freestanding fans and water heaters.
Intergrid and Off-the-Grid?
Solar systems can either be intergrid or off-the-grid. Intergrid systems are tied into the conventional electric grid. People who want to maximize their energy dependence may want to be completely disconnected from the local power grid, or off-the-grid.
With intergrid systems, the power grid picks up the slack to power your home when your solar energy system is tapped out. Any excess energy your home solar system happens to produce is sent into the grid to be used by other local homeowners. In some areas, you may be able to “bank” the excess hours as bill credits and even be paid for extreme excess.
Off-the-grid systems are not allowed in all states and local areas. When they are, having a full bank of backup batteries and a gas generator is important for maintaining energy security. Check your state and local solar access laws or ask a solar installer for more information on intergrid and off-the-grid systems.
Once you have a basic idea of what you want, give SunPro Solar a call. We’ll help match you with the ideal system for your needs.