How To Calculate The Number Of Solar Panels You Need
Our solar panel cost and savings calculator is the fastest, easiest, and most accurate way to find out how many solar panels your home needs and you dont have to do any math. Plus, well give you the average cost of a solar installation for your specific home and how much itll save you on your electric bills.
However, if you want to put pen to paper and work out the calculations for yourself, follow these four easy steps to find how many solar panels you need.
Dont Miss: How Does The Federal Solar Tax Credit Work
The Unfortunate Truth About Solar Panels
As the world progressed from the comparatively dark ages of the Industrial Revolution to the scrambling-to-fight-climate-crisis days of the present, several amazing advances were made in the field of alternative energy. One of the most prominent is solar panel technology. Humans have become a race akin to minor gods who can harness the fearsome power of the Sun and, you know, use it to charge our iPads, power our toasters and keep the air conditioning at a perfect 72 degrees per our parents’ requests. If we’re lucky, solar panels could prove one of several pieces that allow us to move away from the atmosphere-poisoning fossil fuels we’ve been dependent upon for the last century and a half.
Along with wind, water, and nuclear power, we’ve seen solar farms crop up across the world. Production has reached an all-time high, subsidies for solar installation have been implemented in certain states, and we’re just a hop, skip, and a jump away from these blackened panels appearing on every rooftop in the country. Yay! But what if solar panels weren’t as perfect as we’re often led to believe? The unfortunate truth is that this technology still has a few major issues to work out, both environmentally and ethically.
How Much Will You Save
Once you know how much a solar power system will cost upfront, and how much energy it will produce, you can predict how much you can save in energy costs per year.
This is another tricky calculation, however, because a lot depends on how you pay for electricity at the moment. Utilities often charge residential consumers a flat rate for electricity, regardless of the time of consumption. This means that instead of offsetting the expensive cost of peak electricity production, homeowners’ solar power systems merely offset the price they are charged for electricity, which is much closer to the average cost of power production.
However, many utility companies in the U.S. have introduced pricing schemes that allow homeowners to be charged at different rates throughout the day in an attempt to mirror the actual cost of electricity production at different times: This means higher rates in the afternoon and lower rates at night. A PV solar array may be very beneficial in areas where this sort of time-varying rate is used since the solar power produced would offset the most costly electricity.
Exactly how beneficial this is for a given homeowner depends on the exact timing and magnitude of the rate changes under such a plan. Similarly, utilities in some locations have pricing schemes that vary over different times of the year due to regular seasonal demand fluctuations. Those with higher rates during the summer make solar power more valuable.
Also Check: How Do Solar Pannels Work
Youre Our First Priorityevery Time
We believe everyone should be able to make financial decisions with confidence. And while our site doesnt feature every company or financial product available on the market, were proud that the guidance we offer, the information we provide and the tools we create are objective, independent, straightforward and free.
So how do we make money? Our partners compensate us. This may influence which products we review and write about , but it in no way affects our recommendations or advice, which are grounded in thousands of hours of research. Our partners cannot pay us to guarantee favorable reviews of their products or services.Here is a list of our partners.
Faq About Solar Panels And Energy
1> What is solar energy? A very basic overview would be that solar energy is power harnessed from the suns rays. For this power to be captured as an energy service solar panels are used. These take in the suns rays and via an inverter convert them into electricity for you to use.
2> What happens if you dont use the solar energy you are generating? It goes back into the grid .
3> What benefit is it to you to have the energy go back into the grid? OK, this is a big one. For some people who signed up pre-2013, they were getting 44c back per KW of energy they generate, in some cases. For others who signed up after this generous rebate was offered, they get much less. Either way, there is a benefit in generating excess electricity as it will go back into the grid to help the greater community. You wont necessarily individually benefit from it, unless you are using the same amount of electricity at the same moment you are producing it.
4> Are some solar panels better than others? Although they all technically do the same thing, there is a HUGE variation on quality of solar panels. Cheap variations degrade more over time and are less reliable in harsh Australian conditions. Higher quality panels are designed to last 25 years or more.
7> Why do some people save more from having solar than others?
This one can be complex, but if we use Solar as a Service as the example model, these would be some of the reasons:
With most solar systems
Where you live
Don’t Miss: Ca Solar Tax Credit 2021
Estimate And Compare Residential Solar Panel Costs
The brunt of the expense with solar panels is in installation and the purchase of the actual panels.
» MORE: Compare solar loans and apply
Minimal long-term costs can make up for the upfront costs. Most systems dont require much maintenance and are designed to last for 20 years or more with little change to the amount of electricity produced, Nilsen says.
When calculating the total price, consider how much energy you regularly consume your usage is listed on your monthly utility bill and what size system will generate the amount needed. Some tools, like the SolarReviews calculator, estimate the system size for you.
With installation, an average residential 5-kW system costs from $3 to $5 per watt, according to the CSE, which results in the $15,000 to $25,000 range. That cost is before any tax credits or incentives.
If you know your current energy usage, you can calculate how much youll need to pay for solar panels.
Then comparison shop for solar panels as you would other big-ticket items, such as a car or TV, says Vikram Aggarwal, CEO of the solar marketplace EnergySage. Some companies reduce installation costs through rebates and other programs.
Aggarwal recommends getting quotes from three to five contractors. EnergySage compiles solar companies customer reviews, certifications, Better Business Bureau profiles and other information to help you find reputable providers.
What Are Solar Panels Actually Made Of
In 2018, Michael Shellenberger wrote an article for Forbes Magazine with the question: If Solar Panels Are So Clean, Why Do They Produce So Much Toxic Waste? Which immediately begged the question: What are solar panels made of? Note that the author of that article is a nuclear power lobbyist.
Solar panels are made with PV cells of silicon semiconductors that absorb sunlight and create an electric current. 95% of all photovoltaic cells are made entirely of Silicon, an element so common that it makes up 27.7% of the entire Earths crust and is the second-most abundant element we have .
Aside from regular PV cells, PV thin films are also used in solar panel manufacturing. These films are made of the following:
- Copper Indium Gallium Diselenide
- Cadmium Telluride
- Polyvinyl Fluoride
The materials used in making thin film solar panels can be toxic. These toxic chemicals are introduced into the environment in two stages of a solar panels lifespan production and disposal. During production, these chemicals are gathered, manipulated, heated, cooled, and a plethora of other processes which involve human beings in every step. Not to mention the exhaust gasses that factories spew into the atmosphere.
However, all residential and commercial solar installations happening today are done with silicon cells, which contain no toxins.
These chemicals dont appear in modern aluminum-frame solar panels.
Also Check: Residential Flagpole With Solar Light
Read Also: How Do Solar Power Panels Work
Recycling Could Set The Problem Straight
Since photovoltaics and solar energy are a fairly new industry, there’s still time to work out the kinks before everything goes to environmental hell in a Sun-shaped handbasket. A solar expert speaking with National Geographic estimated the first major wave of solar panel death when the panels outlive their lifespan and need a good replacin’ should happen within the next decade, and this presents an optimal opportunity for putting the outdated tech through the recycler.
The key to reducing waste and preventing the exhaustion of necessary resources, as Scientific American mentions, is a closed-loop circular economy that takes the older solar panels, metaphorically grinds them up, and uses their component resources to produce the new ones. Otherwise, we’ll easily run out of these mined elements and drown the world in trashed photovoltaics.
F You Could Have Broken Tiles On Your Roofand Find Out After A Couple Of Years Remove The Panels Replace The Broken Tiles Reinstall The Panels$$$
Broken tiles during solar installation will only occur on tiled roofs. For most homeowners with a composite shingle roof, this isnt a concern. While tiles may break during the install, particularly for more fragile clay tiles, this is fully covered by the installation company under their workmanship warranty.
If an installer does not cover for work damages, you probably did not select a professional provider.
Recommended Reading: Is Solar Energy Good For The Environment
Scams Do Exist In Solar
I hope this clears up the solar is a scam naysayers.
That said, consumers do need to be aware of the scams that do exist within the industry. Theres always a couple of bad apples.
Homeowners are at most risk of falling for a spam scheme where websites sell contact information to the highest bidder. Website privacy policies, terms, and conditions matter.
Solar spam scams our worst enemy.
Estimating Your Solar Payback Period
The initial costs of rooftop solar panels are often the biggest consideration when going solar, leading many homeowners to question whether solar power is worth it. While most homeowners can expect their investment to pay off in under ten years, you can get a more specific estimate with a few calculations. If you want to calculate a rough estimate for how long it will take for solar panels to pay for themselves, you can use this formula:
/ = estimated payoff period
Calculation for solar panel payback period
Heres an example:
Your new solar PV system costs $15,000, and you received a tax credit of $4,500 in addition to a $1,500 rebate from your state. In this case, your gross solar system cost is $15,000, with the upfront incentives totaling $6,000. This means that your combined cost is $9,000.
Now, say that your energy bill is $100 every month, and your solar system produces enough energy to cover your energy needs. Your annual savings is your monthly power bill multiplied by 12 months, meaning in the first year of having solar, youll save $1,200 on your electricity bills. Some states and utilities also provide incentives that pay you extra for the solar energy your panels generate, like SRECs or the SMART program in Massachusetts: its not uncommon for those incentives to put an additional $600 a year into your pocket beyond your electricity savings, meaning an annual benefit of $1,800.
Don’t Miss: Who Buys Used Solar Panels
The Solar Panels On Your Roof Are Not Yours
The reality is that you do not own the solar system , and the solar energy that the panels produce is not free.
Under solar lease agreements or PPA, ownership is retained by the solar company, and you pay for the electricity it produces. In essence, the company has built a small power plant on your roof and is selling you the electricity. And you must buy it from them for the entire 20-25 year term.
The Truth About Solar Panels Disposing Of Solar Panels
Anyway, this brings us to disposing of solar panels once they reach the end of their usable life. Were talking about 30 or more years of expected time for the average panel. Not a lot of time to kick the can down the road. There is a common belief that solar panels cant be recycled, but thats not true. After all were talking about silicon, metal framing, glass sheets, wires, and plexiglass as the bulk of a solar panel.
80% of a typical solar panel is glass and aluminum, which are easy to recycle. The basic process involves separating the aluminum frame, which is 100% reusable. Then separating the glass along a conveyor belt, which is about 95% reusable. The smelting process and etching away the silicon wafers results in about 85% of reusable product. Solar panel manufacturing can be an expensive process, but theres a financial incentive to go down this path anyway. Lets continue to find the truth about solar panels.
Recommended Reading: Solar Charger For Car Battery
No Such Thing As Free Solar Panels
If youre reading this article, then your Spidey Senses were spot on. There is no such thing as free solar panels despite what the online ads and door-knockers try to tell you.
More often than not, marketers using the ruse of free solar panels are trying to get you to sign a solar lease or power purchase agreement. Although these arrangements can increase your energy costs, they offer far less savings potential than solar ownership, and certainly shouldnt be considered free.
Which Homes Benefit The Most From Solar Panels
Certain homes benefit from solar more than others. When making a large upfront investment , its important to know if the home in question will be able to take full advantage of solar. Much of this has to do with the alignment of their roof in relation to the southern sky.
Speaking specifically for homes in North America, homes with a south-facing roof section are much better candidates for solar than those with east- and west-facing roofs. Also, homes without tall trees or buildings blocking the sky to their south will benefit more from solar than those next to tall buildings or butted up against forests on their southern side.
But You Need To Read The Fine Print
While great warranties in the world of solar power abound, it still remains important to read through your warranty carefully. Its crucial to understand what exactly your warranty covers and for how long. Despite the solar panel equipments durability and just because you have an equipment warranty it doesnt mean any or all repairs are covered. In most cases, the warranty will cover the cost of a panel repair or replacement for common issues like premature wear and tear, faulty wiring or corrosion, but youll want to double-check these details. Also, make sure that labor is covered when looking at warranties, as many only cover the cost of materials to repair a panel, leaving you with a high labor bill. After all, most all solar panel replacements involve a repairman climbing on top of your roof hauling heavy equipment, and as you probably well know, paying for labor can get expensive.
Due to the competitive, fast-paced solar market, its not entirely uncommon for solar companies to come and go. And while you cant see the future, it might prove advantageous to purchase a third-party warranty in case your solar company manufacturer goes out of business.
What Consumer Complaints Reveal About The Solar Industry
CfAs year-long investigation into the solar industry reveals Vivint and SolarCity are the Industrys Leading Bad Actors
Installing rooftop solar panels should be an easy decision for customers looking to lower their electric bills and reduce their reliance on fossil fuels. Net-metering and generous tax credits have made it more affordable than ever for homeowners to install panels and reap the financial benefits of going green. Unfortunately, the deceptive tactics of solar companies have made rooftop solar a bad bet for now.
Campaign for Accountabilitys year-long investigation into the rooftop solar industry has revealed promises of clean energy at reduced cost have proven deceptive. Unscrupulous actors have exploited vulnerable populations, preying on the elderly and those on fixed-incomes. Companies have misled consumers about the true costs of installing solar panels, provided shoddy craftsmanship, and left homeowners with higher utility costs, all while forcing them to sign unconscionable contracts that leave little possibility of recourse.
Holding the Industry Accountable
While clearly a front group for the solar industry, EPI is accorded expert status by even the most prestigious news organizations, while failing to note its obvious affiliation.
Also Check: How Much Do Solar Panels Cost In Alaska
And Then Theres Net Metering
One of the most innovative and talked-about concepts in solar energy is net metering. If you dont already know, net metering means that your system and other solar power systems are all connected into the public-utility power grid, so surplus power generated from those systems is sold back to the grid.
So, as your system starts converting sunlight into electricity, youll be selling any surplus energy to your power utility company. In theory, it works well: In the sunny summer months, your system will create a surplus of energy, allowing you to offset the cost of the power youll draw from the utility company during dark hours or during those cloudy winter months. Net metering is quite popular in the U.S., with 41 states currently utilizing the system.
While the concept might sound appealing, depending on how much net energy you use per month, your electric bill might not always be as low as youd imagine. A high electric bill may come as a surprise to those new to solar panels, but its important to remember that the energy that can be stored in your solar cell is finite. Even though youre generating renewable energy, it can only produce a certain amount at any given time. Solar users who remain conscious about their energy consumption are able to maximize solar efficiency while maintaining a reliably low utility bill every month. Less conscientious users, however, may quickly realize that solar panels are not just a free pass for electric power.