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All You Need to Know About Going Solar

by Point2 Editorial Staff
6 min. read

As fossil fuels fall ever out of favor, renewable energy sources are widely considered to be the future. But, when it comes to providing renewable energy to your home, knowing where to start can be challenging.

Installing solar photovoltaic (PV) panels is a good place to begin and one of the easiest ways to start your green energy journey. But what does going solar actually entail?

In this guide, we’ll delve into everything you need to know about going solar and installing your own solar panel rooftop.

How Do Solar Panels Work?

Humans have been harnessing the sun’s energy for millennia, but it’s only fairly recently that we’ve learned how to convert the sun’s immense energy into electricity to power everyday objects. In this short time, photovoltaic (PV) technology has rocketed. Nowadays, everything from street lights to satellites is powered entirely by solar panels.

But how do they work? Typically made from silicon cells encased in a metal and glass frame, solar panels absorb the sun’s energy when sunlight shines on them. This energy creates direct current (DC), which flows through intricate circuitry into a solar inverter. The inverter then transforms the direct current into alternating current (AC).

AC current can then power household appliances plugged into your regular power points. When you install a solar panel roof on your home, the panels are wired into your existing electrical system.

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How Long Do Solar Panels Last?

On average, solar panels have a 25 to 30-year lifespan, with many manufacturers offering a warranty to match. However, even after 30 years, your solar panels won’t simply stop working. Like many traditional energy sources, solar panels naturally produce less energy over time.

Known as the degradation rate, you can expect solar panels to degrade at a median rate of about 0.5% each year. So, after 25 years, most solar panels will still work at around 85% to 90% of their original output.

Solar Panel Maintenance Tips

One of the best things about solar panels is that they don’t need much maintenance. In most areas, regular rainfall is enough to clean off any debris that could affect performance, but for those living in arid climates, you might need to manually clean them from time to time.

Keep an eye on your energy bills and energy usage rates to see if there’s any noticeable drop in performance. A spike in your utility bill can sometimes point to an electrical problem that needs to be rectified by a professional.

How Many Solar Panels Do I Need for My Home?

This is a somewhat open-ended question with several variables, such as the size of your home, your location, and your typical energy usage. Online calculators can help you determine an accurate number for your specific circumstances. Still, the average home will generally need between 12 and 25 solar panels to offset utility bills fully.

Do Solar Panels Increase Home Value?

There’s no doubt that solar panel kits will reduce your utility bills considerably, but do they add any additional value to your home? Data collected in the past few years has shown that homes with solar panels sold for an average of 3% to 4% more than comparable properties without such systems.

For short-term resales, this might not be the best news. But if you plan to live in your new solar-powered home for several years before selling, the combination of reduced bills and an increased resale price can really pay off.

solar panels on house

Image: U. J. Alexander / Shutterstock.com

8 Key Things to Know Before Going Solar

With the basics out of the way, let’s look at the most important things you need to know if you’re seriously considering going solar.

1. You’ll See a Reduction in Energy Bills

For many people, switching to solar is about living a more environmentally friendly lifestyle paired with enjoying reduced energy bills. With solar panels providing the bulk of your energy needs, you’ll also be protected from fluctuations in traditional energy prices.

The break-even period — the time taken for energy savings to exceed the installation cost — is generally between seven and ten years. However, this depends on several factors, including lifestyle choices and location.

2. Solar Financing Incentives Can Help You Get Started

In both Canada and the U.S., you’ll find several tax incentives in place designed to encourage homeowners to go green. Many of these cover the installation of solar panels, with rebates of around 30% to 40% typically on offer.

3. You Can Install a Solar Panel Roof in Any Climate

It’s a common misconception that you need a year-round sunny climate to benefit from solar panels. While areas that enjoy more sunshine typically generate more solar energy, even homes in rainy and cloudy locations can save a considerable amount on their utility bills by going solar.

4. You Also Don’t Need a South-Facing Roof

A south-facing roof will enjoy longer hours of sunshine, but homeowners with west, south-east or even east-facing roofs can still enjoy the benefits of a solar panel rooftop.

5. The Sun Doesn’t Need to Shine to Make Savings

Most solar-powered homes are still linked to local electricity suppliers via the grid, so if you run out of solar power, it will simply revert back. As such, you might see your utility bills increasing in winter months and periods with less sunshine.

But, many solar panel kits and systems also include a rechargeable battery. This stores the excess electricity produced during the sunnier times, which can be tapped into whenever needed.

6. You Can Install Solar Panels on Your Existing Roof

Installers prefer to work on newer roofs as they are typically tilted at the right angle to ensure the panels work at the optimum capacity. However, the rack system can be fitted to more or less any style of roof, so there’s no need to spend thousands of dollars on a new one.

7. Don’t DIY Solar Panels

While an experienced DIYer might be able to tackle the task, it really is worth calling in the professionals. Getting the installation wrong can damage your roof but can also result in the panels not performing at their best.

8. Can You Take Solar Panels With You When You Move?

Technically, you can. However, it’s not advisable as removing, transporting, and reinstalling them soon becomes prohibitive. On top of that, there’s also a risk that you might damage the panels in transit.

Instead, the best thing to do is leave them behind for the new owners. Remember, a house with solar panels will typically sell for more than one without. If you bought the panels on a lease, the contract can generally be transferred to the new owners. Alternatively, if you bought them outright, you can simply add the cost to the price of your home, at least in a favorable market.

Generally speaking, solar panels are an excellent long-term investment but don’t always pay off in the short term. So, if you plan on flipping a property, installing solar panels won’t necessarily bring the gains you might have expected.