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Is solar power right for you?

Updated: Nov 26, 2018

If you’re thinking about using solar power in your home:

Start by reviewing your utility bill to see how much energy you used in the last year and what it cost. See what part of the total bill is for “metered” electricity or kilowatt-hours (kWh) and what is for other items such as delivery costs. Even if you reduce the number of kilowatt-hours you buy from the utility, you’ll still need to pay the utility’s fixed charges, like delivery or administrative costs.Evaluate how you use energy, and look for ways to reduce your home's electricity use. Make your home and appliances more energy efficient and ensure your home is properly weatherized to reduce your energy needs.Consider how long you plan to stay in your home. A residential solar system is designed to stay on a home for at least 20 years. Leases and PPAs generally are long term; some last 20 years. If you think you might move in that time, find out how installing a system will affect your ability to sell your house. Ask the solar company about its policy on transferring the contract to the new homeowner after a sale, and confirm that what it tells you is the same as what is in the contract.Figure out what size system you need to meet your average energy usage. Learn about the different products available in your area that will work on your house. The customizable calculator from the Department of Energy uses your address and details you provide about a system to help you estimate how much energy it will produce.Solar systems use one or more inverters to convert direct current (DC) electricity from the solar panels into alternating current (AC) electricity used by your appliances and outlets. The amount of power you get from a solar panel system depends on:the average number of hours of direct, unshaded sunlight your roof gets annually the pitch (angle), age and condition of your roof, and the compass direction it faces the size and strength of your system environmental factors such as snow, dust or shade that may cover the systemContact your utility to see what arrangements it makes with homeowners who produce solar power. Your utility may use “net metering,” which pays you or gives you credit for excess power your system produces during the day and returns to the grid.If you have a homeowner’s association, find out if you need its approval to install a system.

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