Beginner’s Guide to Solar Panels for Your Home
Many families want to help make Atlanta a greener place. We know heat and light from the sun creates a free, environmentally-responsible form of energy. If you’re thinking about installing solar panels at your home, here’s what you need to know:
How Solar Panels Work
There is more than one way to capture and use solar energy, but residential homes can use solar panels. The sun shines on them, creating direct current electricity. This DC electricity feeds into a device that converts it in to AC (alternating current) electricity. This AC electricity can power appliances in the home, like air conditioners and lights. Your home would still connect to the traditional power grid to have electricity at night, but you would use far less than without solar energy.
If you have a home with a roof and you get a significant amount of sun during the day, you can install solar panels. If you’re not sure how much sun your house gets, and how many panels your house would need, check the Google Sunroof Project. Roof size isn’t really an issue, because systems are so lightweight.
Between equipment and installation, most systems cost easily more than $10,000. But there are savings available. Michael Cichetti of Green Building Education Services (GBES) notes that city of Atlanta residents can take advantage of the Solarize Atlanta program, which is a community-based solar purchasing effort. It’s crowdsourced clean energy, cutting costs to wholesale prices for a group of buyers. If you live elsewhere in metro Atlanta, other cities are slated for future Solarize programs, or you can start a petition for your town. The U.S. Department of Energy also has a pdf guide to financing systems that covers plenty of options.
Homeowners can get a 30% federal tax credit to cut down the costs of solar. That’s like a straight discount off the cost of a new installation. The program is set to run until 2021, but the rebate amount will be reduced starting in 2019. You may be eligible for other rebate programs in Georgia, and the DSIRE database is a good resource to check.
Installing a solar system isn’t cheap, but the savings on monthly utility bills show quickly. One Alpharetta mom said her family installed 21 panels on her home two years ago, and her family has seen a big difference in energy bills, particularly during summer. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, most home solar energy systems pay for themselves within 5 years. The higher your electric bills, the more solar energy will save you over time. Solar energy systems are also appealing to home buyers, raising the value on your house when it’s time to sell by several thousand dollars, according to a study by Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBL)
Some homeowners associations restrict or don’t allow solar panels. Be sure to check your neighborhood’s rules to find out if you can install them. One Atlanta mom shared that it was against her association’s rules, but she successfully lobbied to overturn the bylaw.
Get Multiple Estimates
Several Atlanta-based and southeastern companies can complete residential installations of solar panel systems. All will provide free estimates that include the recommended size of system for your home, how much it will cost, and how it will impact your energy bills.