Calculate the Cost of Converting to Solar Power
LESLIE: Tom in California’s looking for some alternative energy. How can we help?
TOM IN CALIFORNIA: Hi. Yes, I’m interested in finding out about solar panels for the roof and whether or not there are batteries that are available in larger sizes for more capacity holding. And I have no idea what it would cost to put that system in.
TOM: Well, there’s a lot of different types of solar collectors, Tom. You know, in California, you’re probably going to want to take advantage of a hydronic solar collector, where you basically use it to preheat your hot water for domestic needs. And there’s also ones that can deliver electricity. Those tend to be the most expensive because, as you say, the solar cells and the batteries all add to the hard cost. But there are a lot of benefits to solar energy today and the government actually, in a lot of the states in the country, has offered a lot of rebates and tax incentives to put solar panels on. So I think it’s a good thing. I think it’s definitely worth something investing in.
I know in my home state, there’s a 70 percent credit on your … on your … excuse me, a 70 percent rebate for the cost of putting solar in. So in our state, the government’s making it very inexpensive to do this. So I definitely think it’s a good idea and something you should look into.
TOM IN CALIFORNIA: Oh, yeah. Fine. Do you have any idea how much the initial cost is?
TOM: Well, it really is depending on how much power you want to deliver.
TOM IN CALIFORNIA: It’s electric heat. It’s air conditioning. It’s everything. The whole house is electric. I’d like to be able to tear up the electric bill when it comes.
TOM: Okay, Tom, so your question is, first of all, is it worth putting solar panels in to offset your electrical cost? And really, how much are you going to get out of that if you go through all the time, the trouble and the investment. Correct?
TOM IN CALIFORNIA: Yes, it is. Yes.
TOM: Alright. Well, first of all, we should understand the way these solar systems work. I mean, with the modules that are mounted on your roof, they basically convert sunlight into DC power. And then, basically, there is another part of this that connects that into the alternating current that is used to run your house.
Now, there is something known as net metering. And that means that if you generate excess power, that the excess power can be fed back to the power company. So basically, you’re supplementing your connection to the utility by using solar panels.
The panels are pretty large so, visually, you have to make sure it’s something that you’re going to want to deal with. The panels, in size, are about 120 square feet. They’re usually about two-and-a-half feet tall and they are usually 10 or 12 feet long each. And to figure out how much of those you need, you basically take your daily kilowatt usage for your house – how many kilowatts you’re using a day in your house – and you divide it by .25 because that’s the size … that’s the number of kilowatt hours you need to generate to be able to keep up with your demand.
TOM IN CALIFORNIA: Okay.
TOM IN CALIFORNIA: Yeah. I sincerely appreciate it. Can these be mounted to a south facing wall, also?
TOM: You know, I think they can. But you have to, then, watch your roof overhangs because that’s going to block a lot of the sun. The best coverage would be – the best coverage would be on your roof.
TOM IN CALIFORNIA: Yeah, I know. But the roof faces west and east. It’s a slanted roof.
TOM: I still think that you’re probably better off putting them on the west side of the roof than putting them on the south wall.
TOM IN CALIFORNIA: Oh, okay. Wonderful.
LESLIE: And Tom, there’s another website – it’s called solarexpert.com – and if you surf around that website a little bit, you’re going to find a whole worksheet area where you can size your own solar electrical system. So you can find worksheets for the electrical load, the battery sizing, the solar module sizing, solar charge, solar DC to AC and solar electrical wiring guide. So it really is a wealth of information and it’s a California-based company so you’ll have a lot of information from them. It’s Go Solar Company – solarexpert.com.
TOM IN CALIFORNIA: Yes. Thank you very much for your help. I sincerely appreciate it.
TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.