How to kick the coal habit, shrink your carbon footprint, and start saving with solar
Recently we had a great question come in through our Facebook page.
“Where does a homeowner start? How do I know what is the best alternative for my house?” – Chester S.
Excellent question, Chester. Most folks we meet say they want to both save money and actively root for a brighter, more breathable future.
Who doesn’t want that, right? But we know it’s hard to know quite where to start.
The good news: solar can definitely check those boxes.
But the truth is that as much as we wish we could transform every single home into a tiny clean-burning power plant, a few variables do have to come together to put that sunshine to work.
That said, we’ve been riding the solar coaster since 2010 here at Sugar Hollow. So we can probably assess your home for solar in the time it takes to wait in line for an actual roller coaster. While you’ll probably need a professional assessment to get a solid picture, there are a few simple ways you can start getting a clear picture yourself.
Our top tips for understanding your home’s solar potential:
#1 – ENERGY EFFICIENCY
First things first: take a critical sweep of your home’s energy use.
Why? If you boost your home’s energy efficiency before you go solar, you’ll reduce your energy needs in the first place… which means you’ll spend less on solar (or whatever energy source you choose to use), plus shrink your carbon footprint.
We see energy efficiency as a two-parter. If you’re keen to score savings, you can start reducing your home’s energy demand with some simple lifestyle checks.
Our goal for you here: consider ways you’re wasting excess energy at home where you could be easily and quickly saving — without sacrificing comfort. You might be surprised by how much you can save by making a few changes.
Here are two surefire energy savers to start with:
- Yes, switching from incandescent to LED bulbs does make a difference — to the tune of 75% less energy.
- Save 15% or more on heating and cooling with a programmable thermostat. They let you adjust your home’s temp at night and while you’re away so you’ll stop wasting energy you’re not even using. (Source – UCS Climate Team)
When you’re ready for the next step, a professional energy efficiency auditor can run diagnostics and assess your home’s energy systems for energy vampires like duct leakages, building integrity issues or other vitals.
#2 GOT A PLACE IN THE SUN?
You’ve taken care of the low hanging fruit. Time to see if your roof is solar-ready. Read: (mostly) unshaded. Sometimes a tree can be trimmed or removed to make this work. South-facing roofs are still the solar darlings, but east or west facing can often soak up sun-power beautifully, too. Try playing with Google’s Project Sunroof, a modern-magic solar tool that roughly assesses your roof. (Though it doesn’t work for many smaller towns yet.)
Don’t have a prime roof? Before you despair: if you’ve got unused lawn space, you might be a good candidate for a ground mount system.
#3 FIND YOUR AVERAGE POWER BILL
Sunny(ish) spot found? Splendid.
Time to gather those power bills. Since we tailor-design each system to fit your lifestyle, it’s important to know how much energy you use on average. While you’re at it, consider whether you’d like to have the potential to also solar-charge an electric car (there’s even an inverter out now that integrates powering your panels and your EV) or other battery-powered tools like lawnmowers.
Knowing your usage is also part of how your potential savings can be calculated. Understanding exactly how much you’ll save can get complicated, so while you might see hard numbers listed on the internet, the truth is there are so many variables it’s impractical to predict your savings until the numbers are really crunched.
If you don’t know your power use because you’re building a new home, an experienced installer should be able to give a good estimate for that, too.
#4 FIND YOUR INSTALLER
So you’ve looked at your home’s energy efficiency. You have a general idea of your roof’s potential. And you know your average power bill. Time to get specific.
Like any valuable home upgrade, solar panels are a long-term investment: you’ll want an installer you trust 100%.
Call around. Ask questions. Read reviews. Find someone truly local to your area so you they’ll be around to help you if you need them. A quality installer should be knowledgeable about (and passionate about helping you understand) the intricacies of going solar.
Some questions to ask when you’re choosing installer:
What are my financing options?
How will this work with my utility?
What kind of net metering options does my utility offer?
What will my power bill look like from now on?
Do you offer a way for me to check in on my energy production and energy use?
When will I start seeing a return on my investment?
Are you available locally to come out if I need help or have questions?
This should give you a great starting place. Hope this answered your question, Chester!
If this was helpful, feel free to share with a friend. Keep the conversation going by commenting below or give us a call at 828-776-9161.