Building a Solar-Powered Home: 5 Things to Consider
If you happen to be interested in issues like pollution, waste, recycling, conservation, deforestation, and other eco-friendly concerns, you are probably looking for ways to adjust your lifestyle in order to live up to your green sensibilities. And while you can take strides on many fronts by driving an electric car or using mass transit, buying organic and locally-sourced foods, recycling and buying recycled and sustainable products, and so on, one of the best ways to cut your carbon footprint is to stop sucking up energy in your home. You can do this by making the switch to clean, green solar power. However, building a solar-powered home isn’t as easy as slapping some panels on the roof, severing ties with your power provider, and calling it a day. There are several things you need to consider if you want solar power to deliver on its potential. Here are a few that could have you saying yes to solar, or alternately, heading in a different direction.
- Cost versus reward. Although getting off the grid and switching to solar power can definitely save you money over time, you need to understand that it is not without expense. For one thing, the average home will need $25,000-$50,000 worth of solar panels to operate. That’s a lot of dough up front. But you’ll also have to maintain your panels if you want them to continue functioning properly. Some of this you may be able to do on your own. For example, you can buy solar panel kits for a fraction of what it costs to purchase completed panels, but you will have to assemble them. And you might have to hire help to install them. You can also clean, inspect, and repair your panels as needed. But you need to seriously weigh the costs before you invest in solar panels. They may not pay off as anticipated, although of course, the benefit to the environment also factors in to your decision.
- Your climate. If you live in a southern state with a climate that predominately experiences sunshine, you are probably going to see excellent value from investing in solar panels. But if you are constantly plagued by cloudy days and storms, chances are you will need a supplemental form of energy to power your home. This isn’t to say that you have to draw from the power company, however. You might consider a residential wind turbine or water power of some sort, depending on your region and what best suits your needs.
- Home orientation. For those who live in the northern hemisphere, south-facing slopes offer the best opportunity to collect sunlight for energy. So you’ll want to make sure that any structure you build with the intent of placing solar panels on the roof conforms to your orientation needs.
- Storage. If you get sunlight on a regular basis (i.e. daily) you might not need a lot of backup storage for energy. But if you go days or even weeks without seeing the sun, additional storage could help to ensure that you have access to green energy even when the sun isn’t shining.
- Incentives. You might think that all of the green tax energy incentives have expired, but some have been extended. The Solar Investment Tax Credit, for example, is in effect until 2016, allowing you to claim up to 30% of your investment in residential solar systems when you file your income tax return. This is excellent news for anyone looking to build a solar power home. And you might even want to check with your state to see if any additional incentives are offered. When you contract with a company like Icon Solar to make the switch, make sure to ask if they know of any incentives that can help to make your up-front costs sting a little less.