Everybody dreams of a clean, independent way to power their house, and right now, the most popular way to do that is solar power.
Sure, solar power sounds fantastic. A sense of energy independence, an opportunity to reduce your carbon footprint, and yes, the opportunity to lower your bills.
And it’s more prevalent than ever before. As of 2013, the United States is generating enough solar power to fuel 1.3 million homes.
On average, an American homeowner starts a new solar project every four minutes, and the U.S. now generates more than 10 gigawatts of solar power annually.
But where does your solar dream intersect with reality? Is it all we think it is?
Let’s see what solar power really looks like. And just as importantly, what it costs.
The typical solar power array consists of four parts:
- The panels, which everyone can see from the outside.
- The controller, which protects the batteries by regulating the flow of electricity.
- The batteries, which store the electricity.
- And the converter, which converts the electricity into something regular equipment can use.
Yes, you can see the panels from the road, but the other three parts are every bit as important.
And unfortunately, they’re not cheap. When you buy a solar energy system, sticker shock isn’t easy to avoid.
The cost: Once you factor in rebates and tax credits, the entire system can cost between $15,000 and $35,000. Of course, that starts to pay itself back with your monthly savings, and some owners are finding that their solar arrays pay themselves off in under a decade.
That sounds like an awful lot of money, but it’s dropping rapidly—the cost of the panels themselves has fallen over 60 percent in the past two years. As solar becomes more popular and manufacturers compete for more solar customers, the market will keep driving the price down.
Buying your own solar power system isn’t your only option. Solar installers in some states offer to lease you a system for a flat fee monthly. You pay the fee in lieu of a monthly power bill, and the third-party company installs and maintains the array.
It’s not necessarily inexpensive—the fee is usually in excess of $100/month—but if you’re in a state where your electric bill is already high, then it’s a viable alternative to buying.
The environment: It’s simple, really. If you’re in a sunnier part of the country, solar’s easier for you. States like that average more than 6 hours of direct sunlight a day, like California and Colorado, are tailor-made for widespread solar power.
If you live somewhere like that, all you need to do is find the spots on your house that collect the most sunlight and place your panels there. Since they’re constantly absorbing sunlight, you’d be able to generate more electricity with fewer panels.
What if you don’t live in a sun-drenched state? Well, you can still use solar power, even if you only see the sun for a few hours a day. You’ll just need more panels, since they’ll collect less sunlight individually.
The providers: Most solar-powered residences are on the grid, which is less complicated than it seems.
When your house consumes more energy than it produces in a month (usually in winter), then you pay a power bill. When it produces more than it consumes (usually in summer), you don’t.
And if you’re a little itchy about altering your place of residence for a solar array, some of your local energy providers may offer plans with strictly solar-generated power. If that’s what you’re interested in, you can find those plans at chooseenergy.com .
John Tough serves as Head of Business Development at Choose Energy, the premier online energy marketplace empowering consumers and businesses to choose their energy supply. In this role, he is responsible for creating new partnerships and products that promote and simplify electricity choice through digital and offline channels.
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Article source: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/solar-power-want-vs-174510718.html