Top Reason To Consider Using A Residential Solar Energy System

The two primary reasons most often listed for installing residential solar energy systems are environmental and economic. Home solar arrays:

- create points of renewable energy that reduce the load on the country's electrical grid,

- feed clean energy back into the grid,

- help to reduce emissions created by existing means of electrical generation, like coal,

- and further the cause of renewable energy by example.

In economic terms, the decision may be more complex. The current average national cost of electricity per kilowatt hour is $.12, with considerable regional and local variations. Conventional wisdom suggests that unless you are paying at least $.10 per kWh, an investment in an alternative energy system of any kind is not cost effective.

Conduct a Home Energy Audit

To really determine the degree of benefit you will personally derive from a roof-mounted solar array on your property, you need to first understand your own electrical usage patterns by conducting a home energy audit to make sure you are implementing these energy saving ideas. Maximum savings are derived from any alternative energy system when that system is paired with a comprehensive program of efficiency and savings.

The best way to determine your current annual usage is to total the monthly kWh data from a year's worth of power company statements. Also pay attention to peak periods or seasonal use. Seasonal information offers good clues about countermeasures like installing thicker attic insulation to improve summer cooling or plugging air leaks to stop winter heat loss.

The average American home uses approximately 10,000 kWh per year. Once you understand your current electrical use, see how far you can bring the figures down with common methods like:

- switching your lighting to compact fluorescent bulbs,

- updating old appliances with Energy Star-rated models,

- or stopping vampire power drains from computer and home entertainment systems. 

Homeowners who aggressively look for low-cost ways to lower their electricity bill often reduce their consumption by as much as 20% with no significant investment required.

That savings, paired with the potential to further cut your home's remaining usage by as much as 50% with a solar array, can be a compelling financial reason to make an alternative energy investment. However, homeowners must understand that solar energy does not generate sufficient power to run electrical-based home heating systems or really any system with a heating element involved.

Get a Power Generation Estimate

No homeowner should ever go forward with the purchase of a solar energy system without securing a reasonably accurate estimate of capacity based on:

- type of equipment selected,

- minimum power ratings for that equipment,

- suitability of the structure for a solar installation, and,

- suitability of the location for solar energy collection.

That information, paired with personal usage data, forms the basis for a solid calculation of the worth of the investment and the time it will take to recoup that investment.

Beyond financial and environmental considerations, what are some of the broader advantages and disadvantages of using home solar energy?

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