In the last few years, the world committed to taking action on climate change after years of sitting on the issue. Most of the blame for the emissions central to human impact lies with corporations and institutions like the U.S. Armed Forces.
As those groups make slow progress towards changing their ways, everyday Americans search for ways to reduce their carbon footprints. One popular way to offset carbon emissions is installing solar panels to replace part or all of a household’s traditional energy usage.
The first step towards making the switch is figuring out how many solar panels your house needs. If you have no idea how to find the number, you’re not alone—It’s not the most straightforward process!
There’s no need to worry or be confused with this quick breakdown in your pocket. Read this article for everything you need to know about getting started with home solar panels.
First Consideration: How Much Energy Does My Household Use?
As you start the decision-making process, the first thing you should determine is how much energy your household uses. When the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) averaged American energy usage, they found that the typical utility customer uses about 10,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year.
This figure is a useful place to start, but it’s still an average. It doesn’t represent an actual person or anyone’s household habits.
As those particulars are everything to your household’s energy usage, taking a closer look is wise. Here’s what to consider:
Who’s in My Household?
When you average the size of all American households, you get a number between 2-3 people. Apart from the fact that it’s impossible to have a household of two to three people, this figure may not represent your situation.
You might live alone and use less energy than the average household for that reason. Or, you may live in a co-op house with twenty other people and use more than the average.
Consider who lives in your household and how much power each person uses. Breaking your home’s energy usage down like this is helps figure out where you can cut back to limit how many panels you need to buy if you’re on a budget.
Take a Shortcut
If that sounds like a lot of confusing work that puts you off the idea of solar, don’t run away!
It’s good to know the details of your habits, so those last steps are worthwhile. Yet, if you don’t have time or want a clearer picture, there’s an easy option. You can get an overall record of how much power your household uses from looking at your utility bills.
Second Thought: How Suitable Is My Roof?
Before you rush out and buy a big solar panel setup, don’t forget to consider the limitations. Apart from cost, there’s one basic limiting factor: your roof.
Even if you measure your roof’s total surface area or know it from blueprints, talk to a solar company about the roof. Parts of it might not be appropriate for panels. You should also look at the pitch of your roof, another factor affecting how well your solar systems work.
If you find you can’t fit as many standard panels as you need on the roof, look into more efficient PV cells. They’re smaller than the standard ones considered in these basic guidelines. You can put more of them on your roof and also get more energy from fewer panels, making them a good solution for houses with limited roof space.
Roofs aren’t identical—all have their quirks and issues. It’s impossible to give a standard formula or quick trick for evaluating your roof. The struggle of figuring out what kind of panels you need and how many your roof can hold by yourself is all the more reason to consult the pros.
Study the Numbers: How Much Sun Does My Roof Get?
The amount of sun that shines on your house is another factor that affects how many solar panels you need. A few panels in a sunny area could collect the same amount of sunlight as several more panels under cloudy skies.
The main circumstances that determine this are geographic location and where you’re able to place solar panels.
How Sunny Is My Region?
Two houses with the same energy usage in separate states need different numbers of solar panels.
Chances are good that a Blue Raven Solar system in sunny North Carolina generates more electricity than comparable solar panels in gloomy Seattle. Homeowners in Arizona are in an even luckier position as far as solar power goes. As brutal as the sun is in desert climates, it’s ideal for maximum solar energy generation.
Take some time to look into how much sun your area gets on average. Various universities, weather labs, and government organizations often keep logs you can see. You can also use solar power meters to gather exact information about how much sun your house gets.
Where Can I Put Panels?
Another factor to keep in mind is where you can install your panels. Imagine the one available spot is on the north side of your roof, with a tree shading the space a bit. You won’t get as much energy from your solar system as if you have room on the south side, which gets more sun, with no obstacles.
When you talk to professionals about how much room you have on your roof, ask them what spot gets the most sun and whether it’s the best spot.
Choosing a System: Do All Panels Have the Same Electricity Output?
If you’re wondering whether different types of solar panels have the same output, the answer is a definite no. Some panels are more efficient than others.
The most efficient, best solar panels have monocrystalline photovoltaic (PV) cells. Standard panels have less efficient polycrystalline PV cells, so you need more of them to get an equal output.
High-efficiency solar panels are the ideal choice if you can afford them. You’ll reap the benefits you pay a premium for in the long run.
Plan: What Do I Want to Power With Solar Energy?
The kinds of appliances you have also affected the number of solar panels you should install. You also need to consider whether you want to go 100% off-grid or power a few things instead.
Some households have energy-efficient appliances and home designs that cut down energy usage. Others have old, wasteful appliances with higher demand. You can get by with fewer solar panels when you install more efficient appliances.
Calculate: How Many Solar Panels Do I Need to Meet My Goals?
After considering all the factors that determine how many panels you need to power, do the math.
Another average good for getting a basic idea—not for making hasty assumptions—is how much energy a basic solar panel generates. This basic rule of thumb is that one standard solar panel produces about 350 kWh each year.
Yet, as you read in the previous sections of this article, there are a lot of different factors impacting how much energy you’ll get from each solar panel.
First, learn the specific one-year output of the panels you want to install. Take your household’s average energy usage and divide it by that number. The result is, in most cases, the most accurate estimate you can get.
The truth is that there’s no one exact number of solar panels you need. You never know how your energy usage might change.
Weather patterns change over time and are more extreme, chaotic, and unpredictable than ever. You might need your heater or air conditioner more in some years, which would put more demand on your solar setup.
When you power a few appliances instead of the whole house, you at least have a basic idea of how much electricity each fixture uses. If you hope to run your whole house with solar power, you have some other things to consider.
When solar panels power everything, consider that you might pick up new hobbies, host guests, or have special events in some years. All of these things can put more demand on your PV cell system.
Give yourself some buffer in case your energy usage rises for whatever reason if you can afford it. Add an extra panel or two to your estimate if you’re concerned about usage.
Get the Most From Your Home Living
These tips for figuring out how many solar panels you need will help ensure you don’t run out of power when you’re least expecting it. Having your calculations down before getting a quote is a good way to stay one step ahead and get the most value for your money.
For more great home living tips to help you save and enjoy life more, look no further than other articles on this site. Click on another article to give your lifestyle a boost today.