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Solar Panels for Your Home - The Basics


Solar Panels For Your Home

If you are considering solar panels for your home it can be a little bit overwhelming to sort through information and to understand exactly what everything means. Before you dive in, make sure you know your options.

Understand the technology. You don't need to be science wiz to understand the basics – and knowing the basics will help you make educated decisions about your project. Home solar panels are called photovoltaic solar panels (PV). Photovoltaic solar energy is solar energy that is converted into electricity instead of into heat. This is done through fancy specialized semi-conductors. An inverter box will turn the solar energy collected by your panels into usable electricity.

Understand what the heck you are talking about. It's important to understand what installers are talking about when they discuss ways to measure you home solar panels and electricity production. Watt: A watt is a unit of power. Kilowatt (kW): A kilowatt is one thousand (1,000) watts. The size of your home solar system is measured in kilowatts. One panel is usually 1kW in size. The average home requires a 3-6kW system. Kilowatt-hour (kWh): The unit of energy production per hour. Take a look at your current energy bill to see how many kWh's per month you use. One solar panel usually produces 1,800 kWh's of energy per month. (Check out my full golssary of solar terms here)

Understand what to look for in a home solar panel installer. For starters, choose a professional electrician who is NABCEP (North American Board Certified of Certified Electrical Professionals) certified. Get several estimates and ask for recommendations. A high quality solar panel installer will also guarantee their work and not subcontract out to less experienced workers. (Read "How To Choose A Solar Installer") 

Understand the costs and available rebates or incentives. The cost of home solar panel installation varies depending on the demand for solar in your area. At first it may seems costly, but it is important to take into account to 30% federal tax incentive and programs offered in your state (such as cash rebates and programs which buy your excess electricity from you). Keep in mind that most solar systems pay for themselves in 5-10 years and are warranteed for about 20, so you will get at least 10 years of totally free electricity.

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