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Is my home a good fit for solar?
#1. Do you own your home?
You'll first need to own a home to install solar panels. Owning a home allows you to fully realize the many benefits of going solar. If you're renting, then it's unlikely that you'll be able to convince your landlord or apartment's property management to invest in solar equipment, but it's worth a try.
Do you need help convincing them? Take a look at our top 10 reasons to go solar for fascinating talking points. You may be able to sway them towards solar by speaking to the many benefits of solar such as an increase in property value and environmental benefits. If that isn't enough, then maybe the tax benefits and incentives will help persuade them.
#2. What if your home is in a shaded area?
Don't panic if your home doesn't receive direct sunlight throughout the entire day. Contrary to popular belief, your home doesn't need to be in the desert of Arizona to take advantage of solar panels. While it's true that more direct sunlight translates to more energy production, equipment such as microinverters and power optimizers can help mitigate the impacts of shade. A well-designed system will thrive in just about any environment, making virtually any home a candidate for solar.
At the end of the day, solar panels cannot produce electricity without sunlight. Sources of shade such as trees can be eliminated or at least minimized through removal or regular pruning to maximize your solar output.
#3. Is your roof adequate for solar?
When thinking about your roof, important factors to consider are age, material, space, tilt, and orientation:
Most solar panel systems are designed to last around 30 years. If your home's roof is towards the end of its life, then you should consider replacing it before installing solar panels. You'll accrue some additional cost upfront, but you'll avoid the hassle of having to uninstall and reinstall your solar panels down the line. The durability of solar panels will also help protect your roof from the elements, ultimately extending its life.
What your roof is made of is less of a concern as solar companies continue to innovate. Solar panels can be mounted on virtually any roofing material, including clay tile, asphalt, rubber, and even standing seam metal.
On the contrary, it can be difficult for installers to mount solar panels on slate and wood. Slate and wood are both fragile materials that require specialized mounting equipment that is typically more expensive. You may have difficulty even finding a company to install your solar panels on slate or wood as they don't want to incur the risk.
Solar panels are most commonly rigid and rectangular and are not catered to the shape of your roof. Keep in mind that most residential installers recommend at least 10 solar panels per home. Uniquely shaped roofs or obstructions such as dormers, chimneys, or vents, may inhibit the installation of solar panels on certain sections of your roof.
You can install solar on a flat roof, but installing solar panels on a flat roof typically requires more space since you need to tilt and stagger the rows of panels for optimal electricity production. Tilted solar panels are also important for the self-cleaning of the equipment.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, panels that are installed on a steep roof generally produce less electricity and are more difficult to install. As a rule of thumb, anywhere between 30 to 45 degrees is the optimal tilt for most solar panel systems.
Which direction your roof faces, or its orientation, largely influences how much direct sunlight your solar panels will receive throughout the day. Thanks to the tilt and rotation of Earth, south-facing roofs typically receive the most direct sunlight. It's the exact opposite in the Southern Hemisphere, as north-facing roofs typically receive more direct sunlight. While a south-facing roof is ideal, it's not a necessity. Solar panels installed on east and west-facing roofs will receive more than enough sunlight to make your investment worthwhile.
#4. How much do you spend on electricity?
One of the most important factors to take into consideration is how much you currently spend on electricity and how much you will save by going solar. Your solar company will be able to help you determine your rate of return on your investment.
If you live in an area where electricity is more expensive, then you'll see your return on investment much more quickly. Similarly, if you don't consume much electricity or live in a low-cost area, then it'll take you a bit longer before your investment pays for itself.