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Is Solar Right for You?

Understanding the basics of solar energy will help you decide if it's right for you.

There are many considerations when deciding to go solar.

Understand the Basics

Photovoltaic (PV) panels capture and convert sunlight into electricity that can be used to power everything from lights and appliances to electric cars. Solar energy is not a new concept. In the 19th century, a professor discovered that the sun's rays could be used to produce electricity. Now, advancements in PV technology have made solar power more reliable and affordable than ever.

Solar PV systems are made of individual solar cells that are configured onto a solar panel. The cells absorb energy from sunlight and produce direct current (DC) electricity. Because your home runs on alternating current (AC), a device called an inverter is used to convert the DC electricity to AC power.

Residential solar panels hold about 40 cells and are manufactured from tempered glass that can withstand rain, snow, hail and high winds.

Examine Your Roof

Solar panels are typically mounted at a fixed angle facing south. And while a south-facing roof is best, don't rule out solar if your roof faces east or west.

Panels can be installed on almost any type of roof structure. Four factors to consider are orientation, shading, surface and durability.

Solar panels can last 25 years or longer. While your roof doesn't need to be brand new, it should be in good shape before installing panels on top of it. Asphalt, metal, concrete, clay tile and vinyl roofs all easily support a solar panel system.

Also look for obstructions around your roof and how much shade you get from other buildings or trees. Shade on even small portions of a solar panel can dramatically reduce its output. Follow the advice of your solar contractor to determine if your roof condition is appropriate for a solar installation project.

Sunlight Required

The amount of electricity you can generate with solar panels depends on how much of the sun's energy reaches your property. A house with 20 solar panels should produce about 5 kW of power (20 x 0.25 kW), or 20 to 25 kWh of electric energy a day. By comparison, 20 LED lightbulbs burning 5 hours a day would consume 1.5 kWh.

You can use Google's Project Sunroof to evaluate solar in your area. Despite our northern climate, New England has excellent solar potential.

What happens when the sun doesn't shine?

Your panels won't always capture energy from the sun. Weather factors, time of day and local landscape features that shade the solar collector are common. If these conditions cause you to use more electricity than your solar panels generate, you can draw the extra you need from the grid, paying standard rates. However, if you participate in a solar incentive called net metering, you will earn credits from Eversource when your solar system produces more electricity than you use in a billing cycle and sends the excess electricity back to the grid.

Work with a Professional

A qualified solar contractor is the best expert to determine if solar is right for you. Your contractor will help you ensure that the solar panel system you install is sized correctly for your location. System size depends on available sunlight, roof area and the system's efficiency at converting sunlight to electricity.

And remember, solar is not right for everyone. We can work with you to maximize your energy savings in other areas of your home if you decide to not invest in solar.