Solar panels are an excellent source of renewable energy, but how do you know if your home is a good fit for solar? Homeowners that want to make the switch to solar must first check if their rooftop can support photovoltaic panels. Here are a few ways to figure out if a residence is a candidate for solar energy installation:
1. Scale the roof
Doing the research on your own about whether or not your home can support solar panels can provide some important insight. There are certain obstacles that need to be accounted for, according to CNET. The perfect placement for solar panels is on a roof that faces south, and is devoid of antennas or chimneys. Trees can throw shade on a home and prevent total conversion of energy.
Use the maps provided by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to research how much sunlight your house will receive. After understanding how much sun the house will receive in a given year, figure out if your roof faces either south, east or west where you plan on putting the paneling.
Clear any low hanging branches that may cause a loss of energy efficiency due to shade at a certain time of day. The roof should be maintained routinely to clear obstructions after installing panels.
2. Use the Internet
Contrary to popular belief, solar panels don't exactly soak up the sun. According to MIT research, the average amount of sun that the panels convert into energy currently is 15 to 21 percent of the total amount of sun they see in a day. This means that placement of the panels is of utmost importance, because if a panel is facing the wrong direction, it could ultimately suffer a loss in energy conversion efficiency, according to Understand Solar.
Solar-Estimate is a website that can provide you with basic figures on what kind of system size you would need to purchase to cover your energy costs, how long it would take to pay back the cost of installation, and other interesting numbers. This is great way for homeowners to figure out whether or not switching will have an impact on their bills, and can serve as the foundation of online research.
Project Sunroof can be used to research how many hours of sunlight your roof will see per year, how much square feet is available on your home for solar paneling and how much money you'll save over a 20 year lease. Project Sunroof is a free program that is currently only available in three cities nationwide, but as it grows it could become a useful tool in researching solar energy efficiency for homes.
3. Call in an expert
When it comes down to it, solar energy companies know best. Find a reputable local company that you feel comfortable with and ask for a consultation. After having done your research, you'll have a pretty good idea of whether or not your house is going to be a candidate for solar installation, and the expert will act as assurance.
The company can help you decide what type of panels will work best on your house, where they will fit best, and which direction they should face. Some companies can also help with financing the installation.
After hearing back from the expert, weigh all of your options. Solar energy can provide sizable savings to homes with the right specifications—an ample amount of surface on a roof that faces south, in an area that receives a reasonable amount of sunlight every year. Homes that are candidates should take the next step in saving money.