I know that it is good to be and go green, reduce our carbon footprint, etc. What would make this goal really attractive to the masses and me? Reduce some painful cost I’m currently absorbing right now, every month. Make it obvious. Give me a break even point that hits fast.
I researched photovoltaic (solar panel) technology recently and made a 5 point checklist to help me decide whether to get solar panels now or not. It really makes it very clear how to proceed given a particular situation.
If you score well, you should seriously consider getting solar panels for your roof right now! Every month that goes by with you not using this technology will unnecessarily take a lot more money out of your pocket to pay for electricity.
Slowly but surely early adopters of creating solar energy at and for residential homes are increasing in numbers. A couple of years ago, my mom even had solar panels installed on her roof. Not only does this system generate all the electrical energy she'll ever need, it will generate a surplus she gets credit for!
I pay on average of $250 a month for electricity. When you consider that bill could go away entirely for many years, that is a small fortune!
I've identified five factors that indicate whether considering this now makes sense for you.
First, the cost of buying or leasing a new solar panel system for your roof is a significant factor. The good news is, the costs here are coming down, fast. There can also be special pricing for new regions or at certain times of the year. And with leasing now possible, with some of these companies, you may find you break even sooner going that way.
Second, the government rebate program(s) available to you when you'd be able to commit to a system can amount to a major chunk of the cost. My mother's total rebate was 70% of $40,000. But every year what is available in terms of rebates changes and it also depends on where you live.
Third, the amount of southern exposure your home has is a huge factor. If you are on a north side of a hill, and your home has little or no southern exposure, this will probably not be something you can pursue now while at your current home. You may say, "Well, I have a field." The costs for a photovoltaic system that is stand-alone goes up exponentially, at least at this writing. This is not going to be financially feasible for you given what is currently available here and its cost.
Fourth, the contiguous amount of usable roof surface footage for the portion facing south is another factor. If you have dormers, it interrupts the continuity and will reduce your usable footage for the solar panels.
Fifth, the amount of daylight and sunny days your region gets annually on average is key. If you live in Seattle, Washington or Portland, Oregon, for example, the numbers may not work out for you based on where the technology and cost is at today.
I worked with both Solarcity and Sungevity this summer. Both are very professional and will work closely with you. With their help, you'll be able to answer each of these items. Note: They even work with existing satellite image data of your home (and roof) to be able to give very accurate preliminary estimates of what they'd think they'd be working with, given your specific situation.
There is one more thing to consider which is different from the 5 factors I've already covered. It has to do with your electrical consumption. Now, some of you may say, "Why are you bringing that up? Any excess you don't need you'd get credit for, etc. " How a credit is handled may be different depending on where you live. My mom, for example looses any credit she has accumulated at the end of the year. I'm told, however, some utilities in some parts of the country will actually cut you a check and pay you directly for the energy on a regular basis.
Also, even though I had a south facing house and roof, the usable surface area was not that significant. The system that could be installed on my roof could only accommodate about 30% of my electricity needs. My break-even point would be just 3 years. But, because I wasn't getting much of my bill paid for, I want to hold out for more efficient photovoltaic technology that has a smaller footprint. It's a calculated chance I'm taking. The technology may take 10 or 15 years to become available. Or, maybe it will be just 5 years! It was a 15 year lease I'd be locked into. I simply want to keep my options open for right now.
My situation does not mean that getting into solar panel technology isn't perfect timing for many of you! I know it is.