Are Solar Panels At Home Right for You?


Are you thinking about having solar panels at home? We questioned whether this was feasible for us as well! Here is a guide on deciding if solar panels are right for you based on our experience.

Updated 03/12/2024

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We continue to question ourselves on ways to improve our sustainable living lifestyle. A while ago, we decided to dig into having solar panels as a renewable energy source at home. Through a lot of research, planning, and budgeting, we took the leap of buying and installing solar panels ourselves! We bought a solar panel kit and installed them ourselves. There are a lot of options from DIY solar kits companies who will help you with the panel layout, permitting services, and even installation coordination. Reach out to us by email here and we can help you get started and connect you with the company we went through! Or contact them directly and get a free quote by filling out this form.

Overall, it’s a bit of a complex process to install solar panels at home. So we’ve put together a Going Solar post series to help walk you through our journey on!

Questions for Solar Panels at Home

  1. Are solar panels right for me? 
  2. Does my roof get enough sun?
  3. Can I even afford solar panels?

Big questions like these can make the prospect of getting solar panels installed on your roof seem daunting. But we’re here to help walk you through them!

Are Solar Panels Right For Me?

This first question is largely personal. You’ll have to decide if you want to go through the process of installing solar panels and if they make sense for your location, budget, and lifestyle. 

If you live in an area that is already served by a large amount of renewable energy then it may not seem like adding solar to your roof wouldn’t be worth the trouble. Thankfully, our energy grid is interconnected. This means that any electricity your solar panels produce gets added to the same grid that the utility company is pumping into. That means that every bit of electricity you produce and don’t use goes into the grid for someone else to use, and that means a little less electricity is needed from any coal or gas plants that may be hundreds of miles away. So every bit you produce helps the planet! 

Net metering or Electric Grid Graphic

Then there is also the financial incentive. Even if the US was running on 100% renewable energy, there would still be utility companies charging you for your electricity use. Depending on the cost of that electricity, having your own panels may quickly pay for themselves. So while they may cost money to install, they could end up making you money over the long run.

The final thing to consider is if you are the kind of person that wants to have solar panels on their roof? Since you made your way to our blog, I’m guessing the answer to that question is yes! Let me take a moment to say welcome!

If you’re still uncertain, we understand. It’s not easy being the envy of the neighborhood. Always having to tell your family, friends, and neighbors how cool your solar panels are and showing off your cheap electric bill. Don’t even get me started on the awesome monitoring app that lets us track their production in real time!

Assuming you’ve decided you’d like to seriously consider having solar panels for your home, it’s time to move on to the next question.

Does my roof get enough Sun?

There’s a quick way to check if your roof gets enough sun. Go to Google Project Sunroof and enter in your address. Google Project Sunroof uses satellite data collected for Google Earth to estimate the number of usable sunlight hours your roof will see per year. Also, they appear to update this information at some interval. When we first pulled the data for our roof two years ago, it said that we had 1,170 hours of usable sunlight. As you can see from the image below, this has gone down to 1,019 hours of usable sunlight per year. I think this new number may actually be more accurate based on what we are seeing in our system.  

As you can see, our house is not the best candidate for Solar Panels. We live in the Northern hemisphere and have large trees to our South. This means that in Fall and Winter, when the sun is lower on the horizon each day, these trees will cast shade on part of our roof during part of the day. However, we are able to produce a decent amount of solar energy in the Summer when the sun is more directly overhead and in the spring before the trees regain all their leaves, .

If you check Project Sunroof and see that your house doesn’t get much sunlight, then don’t give up hope just yet! First, check if you have enough space on your roof and if your roof faces the right direction. If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, then a good sized roof on the south side of your house is best. If you don’t have a large South facing roof, you may still have a good shot with an East or West facing roof. As you can see in the heat map above, some of our neighbors’ East facing roofs would perform better than our south facing roof. 

Checking Tree Coverage

The next thing to check is tree coverage. If you have large trees around your house then you’ll want to check how their shadows fall throughout the day in the winter. You’re good to go if they don’t land on your roof. If they only partially cover your roof, then I recommend taking pictures at various times during the day. This way you can try to place your panels to avoid the shadows. If they cover your roof fully, then chances are you won’t get any production from your panels during that time period. We have that very problem during the winter. 

power and energy charts for our solar panels for home

In the graph above, our power production would start to ramp up in the morning. However, it would never get to its full production before the shadows began to fall over our panels. Then the production would drop down to a low level as only some of the panels were able to produce before finally dropping to zero as the sun sets.

Now compare that to one of our best days so far this year:

power and energy charts for our solar panels for home

The production works its way up close to maximum value and then holds there until the sun begins to lower in the sky. The dips and spikes you are seeing in the morning are likely due to clouds passing overhead.

Alternative Way to Support Renewable Energy

So if you have done these checks and it turns out that you don’t have a good roof for solar panels? Well, there are still ways that you can support renewable energy! A great one is to sign up for a program that buys energy credits. One great program is Arcadia. They take over your bill from your utility company. Then work as a middleman to offset your electricity usage with renewable energy. This may end up costing you slightly more each month, but it’s a great option to drive demand for renewable energy.

More Sustainable Home Improvement

Alright! So now that you know if you are a Solar Person and if you have a good roof for solar, the next question to answer is what size system you need, what size system you can afford, and what the payback period on that system would be. To answer those questions, go to next article in our Going Solar Series here.

Check out some of our other sustainable home improvement articles:

Let us know if you’ve decided to Go Solar or if you have questions. We’re happy to help in any way we can to get solar panels for your home!

Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links, and I will earn a commission if you purchase through these links. Please note that I’ve linked to these products purely because I recommend them and they are from companies I trust. There is no additional cost to you.

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