We’re talking about your roof.
That expanse of asphalt that gets blasted by the sun daily may not be as pretty as your lawn, but that doesn’t mean you couldn’t be harvesting something from it. Is it worth your money to build a solar system for your house?
3 Primary Factors
There’s not one good answer for everyone. The first factors to consider are:
- Where is your house located —both in the United States and on your lot?
- What is its value?
- How long are you planning on staying in it?
These weigh into the whether or not solar is a financially responsible move and can help determine what type of solar power you should explore.
For properties in and around Decatur, Georgia, where Carter & Associates plies its trade, there’s a lot of sun. Grabbing some of that heat before it hits your roof (and then drives up your cooling costs) makes a lot more sense than in more northerly climes. There are lots of calculators available online that can analyze your specific location. The Solar Electricity Handbook’s irradiance calculator is a good one.
But you should consider your house’s site-specific geography as well as its longitude on the globe. The investment won’t make any sense, or energy for that matter, unless it has a large swathe of roof facing south, and that section shouldn’t be in the shade for most of the day.
2 Important Numbers
Now you know if solar is even doable at your house. If it is, now is a better time than ever to install a solar system, per EnergySage — a site that identifies available solar contractors for people in various regions.
First, the cost of a solar system is at an all-time low. In 2014, the national average cost was $3.86 per watt. By the end of 2017, that cost fell to $3.13 a watt. “In many parts of the country including Florida, Arizona, and Maryland, average costs were below $3.00 per watt on EnergySage and as low as $2.00 per watt in some counties,” the group said in its April Solar Marketplace Intel Report.
Secondly, a home with solar is 3 percent more valuable, on average.
And that’s why it’s important to factor in the value of your house and how long you intend to live in it. The math is easy: A $300,000 house would be worth $9,000 more with a solar system installed. A traditional solar system, with thousands of kilowatts of capacity and a battery storage system, could cost more than twice that much. But a more valuable house would realize a greater increase from a solar installation.
And don’t forget to factor in greatly reduced (or eliminated) power bills when you run the numbers. The number of years you foresee staying in the house is a crucial part of the equation.
Other Solar Options
Finally, there are several ways to tap into solar energy without the expense of a traditional solar system. Many people install a system without batteries that simply takes advantage of solar power when the sun is doing its thing. This greatly reduces power consumption but won’t help you overnight or during blackouts.
A passive solar water heater is another way to dip your toe in the solar-heated water. This passive system circulates water through a winding channel of pipes along the roof, using the sun to make it good and hot before storing it in a modified hot water heater in your house.
Such a hot-water system is comparatively cheap and doesn’t take up any additional real estate inside your house like a battery system would. It does use a lot of your roof’s real estate, but if you’re not using it in any other way and don’t see putting panels up there anytime soon, it’s a great way to go.
Solar energy is, without question, the most ethical source of energy that’s within the reach of many homeowners. And that may trump any financial questions you have.
Hopefully, it’s clear now that solar might be a good investment from an investment point of view, too. But just like you shouldn’t walk out on the beach without slathering on your sunscreen, you shouldn’t plan to bask in the glow of solar energy without arming yourself with the numbers and possibilities.
Happy sunbathing, from Carter & Associates.