Are you ready for solar at your home or business? Have you started looking at the installed costs and savings? Alabama actually ranks in the better half of the country for the intensity and time that the sun is available to be harnessed.
Solar array installed prices also keep dropping at an incredible rate. You can currently estimate a residential job nationally at $3.50 per installed watt. So a 5 kW array would cost around $17,500 before any tax credits, rebates, etc…
So what is the first step to solar? Believe it or not, an Energy Audit. Due to a number of conditions in our state, solar generation usually doesn’t make financial sense at this time. Though solar generation can be very important to individuals that want independence from utilities, a sustainable household or be on the cutting edge of technology. So why an Energy Audit? As you research solar you’ll find the initial investment can be quite daunting. The best way to reduce that initial investment is to reduce the size of your solar array.
A good rule of thumb is your home should have a HERS score of 50 or less before considering solar. The standard reference home would have a score of 100, so this means you’d be twice as efficient as the standard. This also means your solar array would be half the size and nearly half the price. This will typically require a well designed and sealed home, LED lights, good insulation, Energy Star appliances, and efficient mechanicals. Also, if you want to benefit most from solar you need to be an expert (or at least know an expert…Energy Auditor) in your energy consumption – where, what, when and how much. Other than the obvious smaller solar array, why do an Energy Audit and lower your load first? Three simple reasons; first an Energy Audit and the following fixes are usually much cheaper than solar, second the sun doesn’t always shine and third the direction and size of your roof may not support your needs otherwise.
Another consideration to lower your investment cost and system size is Alabama isn’t really the most solar favorable state around. There are a number of items that make our installs more difficult and less financially beneficial. (image below from solarpowerrocks.com).
Contact an Energy Auditor to learn more about your home’s energy potential. There are a number of easy tools out there, to get a rough idea, I like Google’s Project Sunroof. There are also a number of ways to design and implement your system to enhance efficiency by avoiding inverters or the grid. Some of the major equipment suppliers are offering systems that can provide DC power as well as AC power. Think charging batteries (maybe an EV) without the energy loss of inverters or use DC fans (HVAC) or pumps (pools) that get power straight from the sun.