We’ve all heard the soundbite benefits of installing solar in our homes. In this article, let’s go beyond clickbait titles and into what these soundbites stand for. They do read well; lower electricity bills, lower carbon footprint and, as we recently wrote about, increased property value. On the other side of the coin, is the need to invest time and money. So, what way does the scales tip?
Understanding Solar Power
Solar technology has been around for quite some time, but it’s only over the past few decades that it’s become a commercially viable technology for residential and business use. A PV system consists of a number of panels that are mounted on your roof at an optimum angle/position to capture light. They generate DC (direct current – like a battery) which is converted using an inverter to AC (alternating current), that you use in your home.
It’s green, sustainable and noiseless energy that upwards of 50,000 homes in Ireland have now invested in.
Solar Power for the Home: Costs
Solar panels require upfront capital. While the power a solar system converts to electricity is free; the technology that allows us to make that conversion is expensive. As previously mentioned solar panel systems are made up of panels and an inverter but also metering equipment alongside the smaller components of cables and wires. Depending on how big your system is, you might also invest in a storage battery which can also be costly.
We have written about whether or not the end justifies the means here.
While the solar system itself will last for 30+ years, it is worth noting that inverters and batteries will need to be replaced after several years of use. These future costs alongside occasional professional check ups and potential cleaning (if you don’t want to do it yourself) are all factors to keep in mind.
The costs are broken out in a very straightforward manner once the installer knows what’s required and what’s possible for your home. At Caldor we can also discuss the grants that are available and talk you through the restrictions with planning permissions if needed.
Solar Power for the Home: Benefits
The point we make over and over is that PV solar installations will reduce your grid energy requirements if installed correctly and you manage your general household’s energy usage wisely. It is a worthwhile investment as we see the spike in wholesale market prices driving up our bills significantly. That said, the energy you capture on any given day is dependent on how much light the panels can capture.
For this reason, an important first consideration to make is to ascertain the solar irradiation levels available at your home. A good installer will be able to gauge this and offer an installation that optimises your potential production power.
They will also look at the orientation of your home. They will look at whether or not there are objects that could be obstructing sunlight and they use all these factors to decide on where and at what angle your panels should be mounted.
Another consideration to keep in mind is how we tend to use our energy differently depending on the season. In summer, the power we can generate from solar is a lot more than in winter when we have less daylight hours (we’ve written about that in more detail in this blog). This conflicts with when we need power most, when those chilly evenings begin to close in around the end of September, early October. For this reason, storage batteries can be a great asset.
While we can look at storage batteries to help, we can now also look at selling excess energy produced in the summer months back to the main grid (read more on this here). This adds up to give us a counter balancing act to the less impressive yield during those winter months.
The final benefit we’re going to give you here is the impact having a PV system can have on the value of your home. We’ve written about that in more detail here but it provides an attractive and active green tick to your property’s listing if it comes time to sell.
Pros and Cons of Solar Panels for Your Home
We know solar power has its benefits and drawbacks. The key takeaways we’ve come to know (both sides of the argument) over countless headlines, snappy social cues and this very article are as follows;
- Solar energy is the way to go if you want to go green.
- You can reduce your utility bills by being less dependent on the grid
- You not only save the environment but will also be able to earn money by selling any excess energy produced back to the grid
- Solar panels continue to become more cost effective while the technology continues to improve
- There are incentives in place to encourage us to convert to sustainable energy sources
- The installation of solar systems can be costly
- Not every home is suitable or compatible for solar panels to be installed
- Daylight hours, pitch, angle and orientation of your roof and house will dictate what can be produced.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can a House Run on Solar Power Alone?
This is very often not possible. There are so many variables to the output of solar panels. If it’s cloudy or nighttime, light can’t be captured to generate electricity. There are battery solutions which we’ve touched off here and you can read more about here, but they are still a significant and additional expense. Most homes will rely to some degree on the main grid.
Do You Really Save Money With Solar Panels?
Yes, you do really save money with solar panels. If your home is suitable and you work to employ energy saving tactics across it, you will make savings. It’s not a matter of swapping over and then letting loose. It is a valuable assistant in reducing what you need from electricity companies when used strategically.
How Much Does a Solar Panel Cost?
This is down to the size of the system, your requirements and the compatibility of your home. We’ve written more extensively about that here. At Caldor, for a standard family home, we would tell you to expect an estimate of approximately €4,000 to €12,000 for a full installation, inclusive of the available grants (which we can assist you with).
How Long Will It Take for Solar Panels To Pay for Themselves?
In Ireland it takes, on average, anywhere from 5 to 15 years depending on the size of your system. This is a common question so we’ve given you a good guide on how to work this out here.
Any home improvement starts off as a daunting and tiresome task. It’s important to focus on the long term gains instead of the initial research pains. In most cases, solar power is a good decision but talking to a registered and reliable installer is one of the best steps you can take in figuring out whether or not to take the leap.
In the current climate with the fluctuations in energy costs rattling our bills more than we’d like, investing in solar can be a solid and reliable fixed cost we know what we’re dealing with.
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