If you've made the decision to invest in DIY solar panels, you're not alone. According to data shared by Greentech Media, solar energy systems were installed every 2.5 minutes in 2014, coming to a total of 200,000 installations. You already know the benefits will be huge, but how do you know what kind to get, and what do you look for? Here are three things to decide before shopping that will make your decision process go smoothly.
Decide Between Off Grid or Grid Tied
Those that go with an off-grid system will only get needed power from their panels. So during the evening hours after the sun sets, you'll need batteries to back up the system. Most people who go this route do so in a new home where the cost to install a power pole is not affordable. They also tend to be highly environmentally conscious, as they are pretty much forced to rely solely on green energy production.
Grid-tied solar panels still allow the home owner to have access to energy supplied by the power company. They are typically less expensive due to the fact that batteries are not required. They are advantageous because you still have access to power after dark, and you don't have to worry about draining the panels and being without an energy source should you accidentally leave your television or lights on all night.
Check With Your Power Company
Your local utilities division has rules that pertain to installing and hooking up your grid, and there may be certain building codes to adhere to. Permits may be required, but most utility companies have a person on staff who specializes in helping consumers with DIY solar panel installation.
Another thing to do is visit the Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy (DSIRE). Visitors can look at the different benefits of investing in solar panels, which can include rebates and other perks. For example, Missouri has 61 incentives that include rebates as well as loan and grant programs, tax credits and exemptions, and financing.
Lastly, find out if the utility company in your state offers net metering. This allows homeowners that generate more electricity from their solar panels than they use to send that unused electricity back to the grid. Their meter will actually spin in reverse and give them a credit on their monthly power bill. Average consumers can see anywhere from 20-40% of their solar energy getting sent to the grid.
Determine The Size Needed
Figuring out what size solar panel system you need can be a little tricky. It starts with narrowing down how much energy you use in kWh every day, how much sun you get, and the size of your roof. The less sunlight you get, the more panels you need. So someone who lives in Washington will need more panels than someone in Florida, since they get less sun on average.
To figure out how much daily sunlight you get, visit the Renewable Resource Data Center. Next, use your power bill to determine how many kWh you use every day. The following formula will then determine how many watts of energy your panels need to be able to produce every hour:
Daily kWh used divided by no. of daily peak sunlight hours x 1,000
Now, most panels range from 150-345 watts each. So next, you'll simply divide your hourly energy needs in watts by the wattage of the panel to determine how many total panels you'll have to install.
For example, suppose you decide to buy 150-watt panels, and your home uses 30 kWh every day. If you have four daily peak sunlight hours, you'll need 50 panels installed. Here's the math used to determine that number:
30 divided by 4 x 1,000 = 7,500
7,500 divided by 150 = 50
Keep in mind that your roof has to be large enough to accommodate the panels, so roof measurements beforehand are a must.
Because the larger the system the greater the cost, you want to do all that you can to use as few panels as possible. You can accomplish this by switching to a laptop instead of desktop computer, using fluorescent bulbs, watching television on a smaller set (or even a black and white for significant savings), utilizing a gas stove, line drying your clothes, and investing in a small, energy-efficient refrigerator. By doing all of the above, you can drastically reduce your daily kWh and the amount of panels you need.
Contact a company that manufactures solar panels for more info.