The use of solar power for residential purposes has been evolving substantially over the past two decades. With more competition in the marketplace bringing down equipment costs and the steady rise in the price of conventional power sources, more consumers have been considering the use of solar power for supplying their household electric power needs than ever before.
As with most things, cost is an important determining factor in whether or not to go solar. Depending on what region of the country you live, several factors will have an effect on the true cost of creating a solar power grid for your home. These include:
- Average amount of solar radiation available
- Availability of rebates and local power company incentives
- Current costs for traditional energy sources
- Household energy requirements
- System size desired (complete or partial)
- Professional or do-it-yourself installation
Other Factors to Consider
While initial setup costs can be substantial and may make going solar seem to be out of reach for your particular circumstances, other factors may provide additional incentive. Some of these include increased home resale value, reduction in fossil fuel usage by substitution of a renewable resource and significant downsizing of your home’s current carbon footprint.
Panels and Collectors
There are two basic methods for taking advantage of solar energy: solar panels and solar collectors. Panels are used to turn sunlight into electricity that can be used to power your home’s lighting, appliances, etc.
Solar collectors are used to collect heat generated by the sun, usually for the purposes of providing hot water. While the hot water produced will not be adequate for all your hot water needs because solar hot water heaters aren’t capable of making enough hot water, a collector system can augment your traditional hot water system, thereby saving money. Typically, installation of a solar water heater system will cost a bit more than $1,000, but experts estimate that your hot water costs will be reduced by about 50 percent. Worldwide, hot water production represents the #1 use of solar power. Beginning small by just installing this type of system is a good way to get started going solar without a great up-front expenditure.
Creating a Full-Fledged Solar Home
Creating a total solar home that includes heating and cooling operations can be very expensive, running up to as much as $100,000, but there are so many variables that it’s tough to peg an exact figure. Components necessary for this venture include:
- Solar Photovoltaic Panels – amounting to approximately 100 square feet for every one-kilowatt of electricity generated. The cost of solar panels continues to come down, with Chinese manufacturers receiving subsidies from their government and actually selling panels at a loss. This has prompted some western governments to impose embargo taxes on these companies to address what are seen as unfair trade practices.
- Power Inverter – converts solar power into electricity. Cost is between $150 (1000-watt) and $450 (3000-watt).
- Charge controller – shuts off the charge to the batteries when they’re full. Costs about $600.
- Batteries – deep-cycle batteries for storing electrical power for later use (at night or on overcast days). Costs about $175 per battery. Depending on the amount of power required, a battery bank could contain as many as 25 batteries.
How Much Does it Cost to Convert a Home to Solar Energy?
For a typical, professionally installed solar power setup for lighting, hot water and appliances, the cost could be around $30,000. If permitted by local building code regulations, a do-it-yourself installation can be undertaken and the total cost could be reduced by as much as 50-75 percent. With the federal tax rebates, local rebates and power company incentives, these costs can be further reduced by as much as 60 percent.
Nicole writes about all things “green;” from the details of converting a home to solar energy to the best sanitary disposal units on the market.