Steve McCurry

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  1. When the topic of solar energy for homeowners is discussed, it often concentrates almost entirely on the cost of installation and the amount of money that can be saved on electricity bills. Both those topics are important, but they’re entirely about the financial side of solar energy. There are also many practical topics about a solar installation that must be worked out before the homeowner can enjoy the carefree benefits of harvesting energy from the sun. The number one topic for any solar installer will always be the location on the house where the solar panels will be located. Some of the limitations on the number of places on a home that solar panels can be installed are obvious. If the available sunlight is blocked by nearby structures or trees, part of the roof will be unsuitable for a solar panel array. Most housing in the United States was built without any consideration for the possible effectiveness of passive solar gain, never mind an active solar collection plan. Image by OpenClipartVectors Solar Panel Installers Work With What You Have Most houses are built from plans taken from a catalog that doesn’t take into account the direction that the house will face when compared to a compass heading. The house has a front façade that is designed to face the street, and the random direction of the way the street is laid out governs the orientation of the house. When a solar company like is hired to design and install panels to supply solar energy for homeowners, they have to work around what is in place. Luckily for homeowners, solar installations can be placed effectively in many different locations on a home while still delivering big savings on energy bills every month. If the roof on your home isn’t well suited for a solar panel array for any reason, there are many alternate locations that will work almost as well. Here’s a short list of alternatives to conventional roof locations for solar panels: Solar Panels on Sidewalls If your south-facing roof surface is unsuitable for a solar array, the south-facing building façade is often the next place an installer will look for a location for your panels. Solar panels work best when they face the southern sky, but they also work better when they’re angled properly to catch the most rays. Panels that are laid obliquely to the sun’s rays collect less energy. That’s why sloped roofs generally make the best locations for solar panels. Roofs on single-family homes are almost always pitched to shed rain and snow away from the house. While the angle of the roof will vary depending on the kind of house design that is used, it’s always preferable to laying the panels on a flat surface. In a way, vertical sidewalls are the opposite of a flat roof when considerations of the angle of the sun’s rays are taken into account. Sidewalls still have the problem with amount of rays hitting the panels at an oblique angle, but they are at 90 degrees compared to a flat roof. Installations on a flat roof will usually be made with the panels angled toward the sun. This is accomplished by putting the panels on racks, with the end of the rack pointing south or southeast lower than the end that is facing north. Every degree of incline is useful to lower the angle of the panel in relation to the sun. When panels are installed on a house’s sidewall, the bottom edge of the panel can be tilted out on brackets in much the same way. More of the suns rays will hit the panel at as close to perpendicular as possible, increasing the yield of the panel overall. Solar Panels on Garage and Outbuilding Roofs The electrical service panel in your home will no doubt be the nerve center for your new solar installation as well. It’s natural to think that the main house is the only appropriate place for solar energy for homeowners to consider, but there’s no reason why a garage or other outbuilding can’t serve as an appropriate location for a solar array. It doesn’t really matter if the garage is attached to the house or freestanding to make it a candidate for a solar upgrade. If the orientation of the structure and the pitch of the roof make it a superior place for solar collection, there’s no reason that the service panel for the solar collector can’t be located inside an outbuilding. The service wires for the collected electricity can be buried in a conduit between the outbuilding and the main house, in the same way newly constructed houses have the electrical service run without stringing wires from a telephone pole. In some installations, this might also be desirable because no part of the new solar installation will affect the existing house itself. Solar Panel Ground Installations If the house roof is not suitable for a solar array, but you have a great deal of unobstructed area around the house, the solar panels can be mounted on the ground on racks. This has many advantages. The panels can be installed, cleaned, monitored, and repaired without ever leaving the ground. This is much safer and more convenient than roof locations. Because the solar array is designed from scratch, and isn’t dependent on the existing structure, it can be aimed at the point of the compass that will collect the most sunlight. The angle of the panels can also be easily configured to collect even more sunlight. It’s generally easier to add on to a ground-based solar array, and the total installation can be expanded past anything even the largest roof can offer. Eventually, House Designs Will Be Ready for Solar As solar panel installations become more common, home designers will inevitably begin to alter their plans with an eye towards integrating solar arrays. Architects and builders have integrated a great deal of technology into houses in the last two centuries, including things we take for granted like indoor plumbing, electrical service and fixtures, phone lines, and cable and Internet service. There’s no reason that houses can’t be designed to accommodate solar energy for homeowners like any other technology. Until then, solar installers will continue to use ingenuity to work around the existing designs.
  2. If the idea of solar energy is appealing to you, but you don’t know much about it, then listen up. Would you like to save a huge chunk of money on your utility bills while also doing your part to reduce the effects of global warming? If so, then having a solar energy system installed in your home is for you. This innovative system is full of benefits with absolutely no drawbacks. Here is everything you need to know about solar energy for homeowners: • How Solar Energy Works Think of the sun as a giant power plant; instead of coal being burned to produce electricity that runs through utility poles, the sun’s natural energy is collected to power electrical devices. There is solar thermal that is used to heat water and there is solar electric that is used to provide power. Most of these electric systems are connected to a power grid which allows them to save power derived from the sun’s energy for future use. When you require power, energy will be drawn from this grid. This is an especially important feature since you cannot create any solar energy after the sun is down, on very cloudy days and when they are snow covered. The power grid is connected to the utility company’s meter. As your system banks power, it will cause the meter to spin backwards. As it uses power, the meter will spin forward. At the end of the month, if you didn’t bank enough solar power for what was needed, you will owe money to the utility company for those overages. However, a good installation will ensure that you have enough coverage to either completely cover all your power needs or at least come very close to it. You can find many great companies like SunBugSolar. • How Weather Impacts System Although solar energy requires the sunshine to create energy, snowstorms and thunderstorms will not prevent a home from using solar energy. This is particularly good to know if you live in the Northeast and experience several inches of snow each winter. While solar panels will not produce energy while covered in snow, you can draw from your stored energy. Furthermore, their tempered glass and dark design encourages quick melting to get your system fully functional, and the precipitation will not damage your panels. • How Long They Will Last When you see those shiny panels on the roof, you make think they are fragile glass that can crack with any force applied. However, the panels are very rugged and built to withstand the elements. They can handle lightning strikes, hail storms, pressure of snow pileup and even hurricane force winds. Furthermore, most systems come with a standard 25 year warranty which will cover any unlikely damage to the panels. • How It Will Affect Your Home’s Value Having a solar energy system installed in your home can have a tremendous effect on your home’s value. If you ever decide to sell your home, your home’s value can be increased upwards of $20,000 because of the utility savings a new homeowner would experience. This is a great incentive for potential homeowners since they would reap all the benefits of a solar energy system without ever having to pay for the installation. In essence, they will be buying a house that will actually save them money right off the bat which means they can afford a larger monthly mortgage. Image by The Open University • How Many Solar Panels are Required How many solar panels are needed to power your home are based upon how much electricity you currently require. Using utility bills for reference, a solar installation company will determine how many kilowatts you use on average, and will create a panel design based on your specific needs. • What Your Home Needs In Order to Install Panels Your roof needs to have about 300-600 square feet available in order to install enough solar panels to provide adequate power. While it is preferable for the roof to face the south, you can still use solar energy if your house faces east or west. • How Much Installation Costs There are many variables that will determine how much installation of a solar energy system will cost a homeowner. Factors such as geographic location, household size, household needs and amount of panels installed will all decide the customized price. However, you can receive rebates for installing a renewable energy system and can receive a tax break of 30% of the system cost which can be used to recoup upfront costs. • How Much Money Will be Saved The average homeowner can save around $20,000 on their energy bill over the course of 20 years, simply by installing a solar power system. More populous states and those that have extremely high costs of living will experience even greater savings of $30,000 plus. Therefore, the longer you live in your home, the larger the savings. To determine how much money you can save, look at your most recent electric bills and see how much money you spend on average. Remember that over the years, rates per kilowatt for supply and delivery will increase, causing even larger electric bills in the future. • How to Start the Process First, find a local company who specializes in solar energy home installations. A reputable company should come to your home and offer a free, thorough consultation. They will look at your house and tell you what benefits you can expect from installing a solar system. They will then design the system and send you a proposal which will list the cost and schedule. Once an agreement is made, the company will schedule the work and handle all necessary permits. Once installation is complete, you can begin collecting solar power immediately. Now that you have everything you need to know about solar energy for homeowners, you can decide if a home solar energy installation is for you. If you plan on living in your home on a long-term basis, want to save money on your electric bill and want to use renewable energy, then solar energy is for you.