Is Your Home a Good Candidate for Solar Power?

Solar power is almost always a good idea for home owners interested in saving money on electricity costs and supporting a healthier environment. But there’s no denying that some homes are more well suited to solar power systems than others. Your sun exposure, roof, climate, even state policies can influence how well you’ll do with a residential solar power system. Consider these factors that can make a difference in the performance and financial impact of your solar power system.

Sun Exposure

As solar power requires the sun to operate, having good sun exposure on your roof is a must. Ideally, your roof will have a south facing orientation. Western exposure is good as well. With solar panels facing in these directions, you’ll get more energy out of your system. Of course, much like a satellite dish, installers can typically find a good orientation for your solar panels that will yield the most sun exposure.

Roof Quality and Age

If you’re planning to install your solar power system on your roof as most home owners do, you’ll need to consider the shape your roof is in. You should also consider the type of material your roof is made of.

A new roof is like a blank slate for solar power. With 20 years or more left on its lifespan, there’s little chance you’ll need to remove your solar panels to have any roof work done. Older roofs with damage or those that may need to be replaced soon can be problematic, as you’ll need to remove your solar panels and have them reinstalled once your new roof is on or you’ve completed repairs.

Another important consideration for your roof is the type of roofing material used. Asphalt shingles are a popular roofing material, and one that is well suited for solar applications. But other materials, such as Spanish tile, may make installations more difficult, but not impossible.

Shading and Obstructions

Homes with lots of shady trees or other obstructions may have trouble generating solar power unless panels are placed away from the shade. You’ll need to work with your installer to find locations on your roof that are not usually covered in shade during sunny hours. You may also consider trimming trees or other obstructions.

If you’re concerned about building development that might shade your home in the future, it’s a good idea to look into getting a solar easement. With a solar easement, you’ll come to a binding agreement with your neighbors that they won’t build or plant landscaping in a way that would interfere with your ability to get sun on your solar panels.

Roof Surface Area

Ideally, a solar power roof will have a large, flat surface area. The larger the area you have available on your roof, the larger the system you can install, and the more power you can produce with solar energy.

Vent pipes, dormers, chimneys, and skylights can get in the way of a solar installation, so it’s best if these are off to the side and out of the way of the solar panel installation. However, solar power installers can typically work around these obstructions.

Ground Mounting

For homes where a roof mount is not suitable, a ground mount is usually a good option. With a ground mount, your solar panels will be configured in a south facing orientation to maximize your exposure to the sun.

Weather Conditions

Your local climate greatly influences how well your home is able to produce solar power. While most areas of the united states will be able to produce adequate solar power based on available sunshine, there’s no denying that some locations are better than others.

Homes that receive a higher than average annual sunshine, more sunny hours, and more clear days will generate solar power better than ones that have fewer hours in the sun. Living in a sunny location with solar power means your energy production may often exceed your usage, allowing you to take advantage of net metering credits and other financial benefits of solar power.

Your State’s Policies

State policies don’t have anything to do with how well your home can generate solar power, but they can influence how much it costs you to install and use your solar power — and even determine whether you can make solar power work at all. States that have HOA protection and solar easments can make it easier for you to install your solar power system without worry. And with favorable policies for solar rebates, tax breaks, net metering, renewable energy credits, and other financial incentives, you can easily save thousands on your solar power system installation and operation. You can learn more about your state’s policies in our state solar guides.

Photo by Flickr user kubina