Making the switch to solar power has never been easier — or more appealing. That’s in part due to the recent passage of The Inflation Reduction Act says Nuala Murphy, Vice-President of Customer Care for SunPower, a home solar and energy services company. The legislation contains more than $300 million earmarked for clean energy spending, some of which will come back as tax incentives and credits to homeowners who choose to purchase solar systems.
All of that sounds great, but, as with any home upgrade, you’re probably wondering about what the process entails. Read on for Murphy’s answers to questions about cost, savings, installation, and other considerations when it comes to harnessing the sun to light up your home.
How do I know if my home is solar ready?
Companies like SunPower have systems and processes in place to guide you at every step of installation, including the primary phase of research. “A custom analysis of your home will ensure our team can design a system with the intent meet your energy needs for today and the future,” explains Murphy.
By assessing factors including the position of your home on its lot, SunPower will determine details like how many panels your roof can accommodate and what the ideal arrangement for the panels would be. They’ll also examine your current energy usage and help you think about what that might look like in the future; a family with five kids living at home will have different needs than a pair of soon-to-be empty-nesters.
If you see cloudy days as often as sunshine, that doesn’t mean your home is not a contender. Murphy notes that it’s a myth you need to live in an especially sunny climate to take advantage of solar power.
“There are about 100 million homes all across the U.S. that are great candidates for solar,” she says. “It’s also important to remember that most roof types in use in the U.S. — like asphalt, shingle, and clay tile — are capable of holding solar panels.”
Not sure where to start? SunPower's Design Studio tool enables you to see what your home would look like with solar panels, and get an estimate of your energy savings by typing in your address.
How much do solar panels cost?
The price of installing a solar system varies from house to house, based on needs and location. The average cost of a system is about $20,000, which can be paid up front or financed through monthly installments. If you’re paying for the system outright, it has the potential to be a major asset if and when you decide to sell your home, with research showing that installing a system can boost its value, especially in certain states.
But financing a system means you might start to see savings even quicker, as the payments are offset by decreased electricity. According to SunPower, many customers who finance their systems via loan start seeing utility bill savings as soon as their system is activated.
Can solar take me completely off the grid?
Possibly, depending on how much energy you use, how many panels you have, the climate where you live, and if you opt for battery storage. Even if you reach that milestone, as Murphy explains, there’s reasons to stay connected to the grid: “You may be able to run all of your electricity needs during daylight on your solar system and even generate excess power, which can be sent back to the grid for credits on a future energy bill. That then helps the community by lessening the load on grids in times of bad weather and high demand.”
There’s also a growing market for backup battery systems that enable homeowners to bank any extra energy generated by their home’s solar panels. For example, SunPower’s SunVault 26-kilowatt-hour battery system can store enough power to run essentials like lights and refrigerator as well as items that make life more comfortable like and HVAC a washer/ dryer during an outage.
When combined with a solar storage system, solar power can give you peace of mind that you’ll be able to keep your electricity on, even in a blackout. You can also deploy energy stored in a battery during times when grid energy rates are highest for another way to help save money on electricity bills.
I’ve gone solar. Now what?
Many people have questions about the maintenance of a solar system. Your provider can share a full checklist, says Murphy, but she notes that a key tip is trimming back trees to make sure the system is working at its full potential, and avoid falling branches or leaves causing issues. Most crucial, says Murphy, is working with a reputable company that you are confident will be around for the life of the system.
Next, consider a warranty to give you peace of mind and protect your investment if something unforeseen should go wrong. When shopping for a warranty, look for one that covers everything from performance to parts, and make sure you fully understand the terms.
Solar systems typically last between 25 and 30 years, so with a properly installed, well-maintained system, your home’s energy future can look bright for decades to come.