Solar Power System for Your Home

a year ago
From January 01, 2020, new homes in California must be equipped with the solar power system. The imposition of this policy pushes solar power to one of the most discussed topics. With an average $1,467 annual savings in electricity cost, an 8 – 10-year payback period, and a 20-year warranty, is solar power system worth investing?

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In recent years, solar power systems have attracted more and more attention and the price is becoming more and more affordable. You might have noticed that some neighbors have installed solar panels on their roofs and started to use the solar power system to power their homes.

You probably heard one thing or two about the solar power system, but still have some doubts. For example:
How much money do I invest in a solar power system?
How much money in electricity bills do I save after installation?

This article is a micro-introduction to the solar power system for homes.
First, let’s take a look at its composition.

1. Composition of Home Solar Power System

Generally, a solar power system for homes includes solar panels, solar power mounting brackets, inverters, switches, cables, control instruments, and battery banks.

The solar panel is made of solar cells that convert solar power into electricity and output direct current. The convention efficiency is generally 3% - 17%. The direct current generated is converted to the alternative current through inverters to power home appliances, it can also be connected to a battery bank to store the extra electricity.

2. Types of Home Solar Power System

There are two major types of home solar power system, on-grid, and off-grid solar power system.

On-grid: As the name implies, you need access to a local power company’s network. When the solar panels do not produce enough electricity to power the house, you can use the grid. When the solar panels produce more than you need, it can be sent to the grid and you will be reimbursed by the power company, which is environmental-friendly and economical. The total installation cost is around $18,000 - $20,000.

Off-grid: Usually a large battery bank is needed to store the electricity for night use. In case the sunlight is insufficient, you might need to purchase a generator as well. A single battery bank costs $5,000 - $7,000, 2 – 4 are typically required, and needed to be replaced every 5 – 11 years (depending on the type of the batteries, lithium batteries last the longest). The total installation cost is around $50,000.

3. Determine If Your Current Home is Suitable for Home Solar Power System

The average American electricity consumption is 10,766 degrees annually. Apparently, if you own and charge an electric car every day, or any other high-power electrical devices, the usage increases accordingly. With a solar power system installed, an average of 60% - 80% of electricity cost is saved. It is also relevant to where you live, you can expect to get the most out of it if you live in an area with plenty of sunlight.

If you live in sunny California, for example, a 5kw output solar power system provides about 8,000 kWh of electricity per year or 74% of annual usage. California’s average electricity cost in 2019 is 18.34 cents per kWh, the saving per year is $1,467. But if you live in Connecticut, the system would power 6,000 kWh less annually.

In 2019, the average cost of a home solar power system is $2.99 per watt, which makes the investment for a common 5kw system around $14,950 (excluding other costs such as taxes). And that is a great amount of expense for a regular household. However, if you install and use a solar power system from January 01, 2020, to December 31, 2020, you are eligible for a 26% solar tax credit, meaning that if your total installation cost is $18,000, you can expect tax credit of $4,680.

To receive the tax credit, you must be the owner of the solar power system. Leased systems are not covered in tax credit eligibility. Different policies are imposed by each state to encourage and support the use of solar power systems, so, there may be further incentives.

4. Questions to Think About Before Installing Solar Power System

4.1 What is the required roof area?

Take the 5kw system as an example, it includes about 20 solar panels, which require about 350 square feet on your roof for installation, facing the south to receive the maximum sun exposure. Meanwhile, it is the best if the sunlight hits the solar panel vertically, the installation angle is important too, the closer to the north, the bigger the installation angle.

4.2 Is additional load bearing is required in the structural design of the roof?

Solar panels weigh about 2 - 4 pounds per square foot. It is recommended to hire a professional appraiser before the installation to measure if the roof structure and weight-bearing meet the requirement. Contact the professional installers to ensure safety.

5. Routine Maintenance

Once a solar power system is installed, there is little additional overhead. Although a solar power system is designed and installed to be cleaned by the rain, routine maintenance should not be neglected to maximize the power conversion rate.

Basic maintenance includes:

Remove dust, snow, fallen tree branches and leaves on the surface to reduce the occlusion. Inspect the brackets regularly to see if there is any looseness caused by corrosion or wear. Hire a professional technician to inspect the part connected to the grid regularly to ensure safety.

6. Summary

Pros of the solar power system:

  • 1. Fully utilize renewable power, clean and environmental-friendly
  • 2. Save electricity cost and provide insurance for the increasing electricity cost
  • 3. Easy maintenance in regular use, little overhead
  • 4. The tax credit from the government
  • 5. A reliable system, long warranty (up to 25 years for some brands), and long service life

Cons of the solar power system:

  • 1. Big initial investment
  • 2. Easily affected by the environment, does not apply to all areas
  • 3. If there is a need for electricity storage, the storage and monitoring cost is high, for example, Tesla power wall or large capacity battery bank.

The data show that more solar power reaches the earth per hour than the power consumption of the entire year, but most energy is wasted as radiation. From a broader perspective, installing a solar power system uses the most sunlight, an energy that is renewable, saving electricity bills in the long term, decreasing carbon emissions, and the greenhouse effect. It is an environmental protection measure for sustainable development.