sustainable, renewable & innovative energy solutions

10 Steps to Going Solar

Residential solar is a smart solution for homeowners needing to curb the cost of home energy and a choice that transitions your home to greater energy self-sufficiency. Small to medium sized solar panel arrays installed on your roof or in the yard, can significantly reduce your monthly energy bill. If you live where land allows for a ground mounted solar array, it provides the same results as roof mounted solar panels, providing the same direct sunlight conditions exist.

For many homeowners the idea of installing solar may seem like a fairly ambitious project, or simply too expensive to do realistically. We’ll break down the process for you to illustrate the essential steps necessary to install solar panels at home. Our 10 Steps for Home Solar Panel Installation clarifies the process, with a cost friendly approach in mind. If you need to be cautious on expense, as many of us have to be, consider starting small and create a modest plan which can be built upon in following years. You could even begin by installing just one good solar panel today and bring in more later when you can.

Here are your “10 Essential Steps”:

1. Have a home energy assessment done – some areas offer them for free, and look for home energy assessment rebates where you live. We’ve noticed this service being offered for free much more in 2010, so research what’s available where you live before paying for an energy assessment. If you are wanting to apply for solar incentives, tax breaks or credits having a home energy assessment is often a typical prerequisite to obtaining solar incentives.

2. Follow the recommendations provided by the assessment to improve home energy efficiency. The value of making home energy improvements prior to doing a solar installation can’t be understated. Taking your time at this stage  ensures you will maximize every solar hour that convert the sun’s light into energy for your home, by ensuring your home is energy efficient.

3. Switch to energy saving devices in your home, like energy saving power bars, energy efficient lighting and thermostat timers. Also consider the host of solar lighting solutions on the market for the garage and outside lighting needs around the home. Again this is bringing your home’s energy supply and demand equation into a more cost friendly zone in keeping with doing a solar installation.

4. Make sure you can go ahead with a solar installation by consulting your civic permits office to ensure you are meeting all zoning requirements and are aware of permit fees. Record any anticipated costs.

5. Assess how much energy you typically use at home by compiling a list of kilowatt hours (kWh’s) used per day by your home appliances, all lighting, heating, air conditioning and water heating. Many appliances have stickers that tell you the kilowatts used to run the appliance. Some estimating will be required with heating, air conditioning and water heating. If possible we suggest taking some time to assess your energy usage by compiling stats for a full week and then averaging out the total. Pick up an energy meter which makes assessing your appliance and electronics energy usage easier and more accurate.

6. Tally your kWh list to get a get a good idea of how much energy you use per month multiplying your daily usage by 30 to get your estimated monthly kWh’s. Be sure to factor in the approximate energy used for heating in the winter months and air conditioning in the summer based on daily or if possible weekly use. This final tally will later allow you to estimate how much energy a solar panel(s) will produce in relation to your needs, and allow you to see energy cost savings you will enjoy once your system is installed. Record all results.

7. Research available incentives and rebates for solar panel purchase and installation in your state or province and nationally. Also explore no-or-low-interest loans or financing. We have noticed many banks and solar companies providing financing at very low interest rates, and even government programs providing no-interest loans for solar home retro-fitting, so investigate. Makes sure you check how to qualify for the financial incentives. Make note of the incentives you will be applying for.

8. Research solar panel products. A vast amount of  R&D takes place around the world in an effort to develop the most efficient residential solar panel, so keep “solar power efficiency per square foot” in mind when hunting for products. If the best solar panels were bright green we would tell you to get them, the point being that you simply need to consider which ones work the best. Thin film residential solar products like solar shingles are a great option, but they aren’t yet as energy efficient as mono-crystalline PV solar panels per square foot. Record all product pricing options.

9. Finally review solar installation costs involved for having professionals do the job. Shop around and get the scoop on installation costs before you go ahead. Free installation estimates are available out there so check what might be happening in your area. When looking at a solar installation your key point to understand is how to achieve optimal energy generation. This is an opportunity to ask questions about how location,  solar panel tilt, your home’s latitude and longitude, and even how a tracking system (positions your solar array to follow the sun throughout the day) can optimize your solar array’s energy production capability.

10. Now you’re ready to create a realistic residential solar installation plan that fits your pocketbook, based on your compiled home energy data, incentives information, and products & installation costs. Once installed your residential solar system can be very easily expanded when finances allow. Even one solar panel makes a big difference. This is an opportunity for a awesome learning experience for the whole family and something you can share with your neighbors.

That covers your complete basic steps to plan and install solar for your home. Buy a notebook and create this project with this step by step planning approach. The wonderful thing about solar panels or even residential wind turbines, is that energy savings begin right away. All good quality solar panels come with a long-term warranty and usually last 20+ years. Maintenance involves simple washing with the garden hose from time to time to remove any dust build up or leaves from the garden. We wish you much success with your residential solar plans and welcome your comments and feedback.

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