Home solar systems are no longer rocket science. Putting solar on the roof of a house is as easy as hiring a contractor. Those cells either heat water or convert light to electricity (photovoltaic). If it generates electricity the juice is either used, stored in batteries, or fed back into the power grid for storage. Unfortunately, instead of embracing the big pictures, most people feel they need to understand the details of the picture before they can make the move to solar.
At first glance, that makes sense. After all, this in new technology. Well, actually, the first photovoltaic cell was created in the late 1800s. So, it isn’t new. Although, it would be fair to say that it has only become efficient enough in the last thirty years to be a viable option.
The break down in that line of thinking is that most people on the street are no more likely capable of building an electric generator than they are a solar panel. The technology angle is just an excuse. The work of a solar installer is no more mysterious than the work of an electrician of a computer repair technician. The lack of understanding of the specifics of a computer doesn’t seem to be an inhibition against owning one.
What remains is the real mystery. People wonder about the cost of solar. What is required in the upkeep of the system? What does the consumer have to do? What costs will there be that are not there with traditional electric power? Also, there is the simple question of the benefit provided by solar.
There are a number of green incentives and tax rebates for those who install home solar. However, these come after the fact. To install solar, the homeowner will initially have to pay out between fifteen and thirty five thousand dollars. Of course, like any large home improvement, their are financing options, either with a bank or sometimes with the solar installation company.
This does add to the number of things in the house that can break. Roof maintenance is certainly more difficult with all that solar equipment in the way. In cold climates, solar panels heating water can freeze, which necessitates the use of anti-freeze. Also, having a single solar panel go out can drop the production of the entire system by more than a quarter, so that needs to be monitored. If the system has a battery backup, those batteries need periodic checking for fluid level. Fortunately, most solar systems come with a twenty five year warranty.
The benefit of the system is free power, for photovoltaic, or free hot water. The value of that is directly related to the cost of electricity from the local utility grid. Since most utility company pricing is vulnerable to oil price considerations, it is unlikely, with diminishing fossil fuel reserves, that those prices will go any direction but up. Taking the projected power output of the system and multiplying that by the current cost from the grid and projecting a reasonable rate increase percentage, gives a good idea how quickly the system pays for itself. After that, it’s pure cost savings.
Ultimately, downside of home solar is the upfront cash outlay. After that, it can add a few simple routine maintenance tasks to the homeowner. If something should break in the first twenty five years, it is a simple warranty call. After that, hopefully, there will be some new technology or incredibly more efficient technology that will make just as much sense to upgrade to as solar does today.
For more info on Solar Energy, check out my Solar Power blog.