Judging by social media and the news, environmentalists and people who care about environmental issues are quite upset by recent developments. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) is being defunded and may actually be abolished by 2018. The Clean Power Plan, a policy that was aimed at reducing carbon pollution from power plants is under attack. More oil pipelines, fracking, drilling on protected land and national parks plus reduced restrictions on coal mining’s environmental impact like dumping coal ash in rivers, are all going to go forward full speed now.
So, you may ask, why aren’t more of these outraged Eco-conscious people running their homes on solar energy, a power source that does not produce any pollution? Especially when you consider the average household emits approximately 20 metric tons of carbon pollution each year. By installing a solar power system, a typical two-person household reduces their carbon emissions by three to four tons annually*.
Some homeowners who care about the impact they are having on our environment drive an Eco-friendly Prius or other EV. However, if their home is not solar powered, whenever they plug in to charge their vehicle up they are still using fossil fuel because most of the energy utility companies provide is generated by coal-fired power plants or by burning natural gas. EV drivers are definitely reducing their carbon footprint, just not as much as is possible.
There are really only two reasons why pro-environment homeowners don’t consider going solar. One reason is difficult to overcome. The other reason is based on a common misconception.
Reason 1: Not Solar-eligible
If your home or property has a lot of shade solar will not work for you. Even if sunlight hits a section of your roof or property at particular hours of the day, it’s possible it may not produce enough electricity to lower your electricity bill due to its azimuth. The wrong azimuth angle reduces the energy output of a solar panel array down to 35%. If the shade is from trees, the only way to overcome this is to cut down some trees or cut back some branches.
Another factor that may make a home ineligible for solar panels is roof age and roof type. A roof that is in bad shape should be replaced before a solar panel system is installed on it to avoid having to uninstall solar panels and reinstall them on a new roof. Fortunately, this is an obstacle that can be rectified. If your roof is in bad shape, get it replaced before going solar. You would have to do this anyway, so it makes sense not to wait. There are also tax breaks and incentives that can help offset some of this cost.
Unfortunately certain roof types such as slate or cedar shake make installing solar panels difficult if not impossible even if the roof is in perfect shape. Roof size can also affect a home’s eligibility. If the home is a town home or row home there may not always be enough roof space to produce enough electricity to make going solar worth it.
Even if your roof makes it impossible to have a rooftop solar system, you can still go solar with a ground mounted system if you have enough unshaded property. The same rules for available sunlight and azimuth apply.
By the way, Home Owners Associations (HOAs) cannot stop a homeowner from going solar because they would be breaking Maryland’s solar access law.
Some people think homeowners who switched to solar did so because they are “greenies”. The truth is although solar panel systems do not produce any pollution, most people who power their homes on sunshine say the main reason they went solar is because they were tired of never-ending utility rate hikes and wanted to reduce their electricity bills.
Today a home solar system is not only affordable, it can actually cost the homeowner NOTHING. Many solar-powered homeowners today go solar with a PPA (Power Purchase Agreement). A PPA allows a homeowner to pay $0 for their equipment and installation and only pay for the electricity at a locked-in rate that is 20-30% lower than utility status quo.
If a homeowner prefers to own, they can use financing to purchase their solar system and receive generous rebates, incentives and tax credits that significantly offset the price of the system. Plus they can earn income from the excess energy their solar panels produce. The profits their system generates makes the return on investment phenomenal at 125% in 5-7 years and 500% by year 20. Many homeowners who own their solar system literally pay $0 for electricity.
So Now What?
If you are someone who has a home that could be perfect for solar but are still unsure whether scheduling a free solar evaluation with a detailed cost-benefit analysis would be worth your time, here are a few more articles that could interest you.
Written by Laureen Peck, Vice President of Marketing, Solar Energy World
*The U.S. Green Building Council