Do I Really Need a Solar Energy System?

Many people today ask me about solar systems for their residences. The number one concern is energy costs. They notice that without fail- their energy costs rise year after year. So the number one question I hear is: “Is a solar energy system affordable for me- will I save money?” Most of the people I meet – are not “green liberals” trying to save the environment. Instead, they are hard working Americans- worried about where their money is going. They know that their energy costs keep rising so they are looking for alternatives to reduce their costs.

Most people though, really do not know much about solar energy systems. They do not know what systems are available or what they do. And they do not realize that their utility company charges them at a higher rate for the more energy they use. So the first piece of advice I give homeowners is to learn how to read their energy bills. The second thing of course, is to do little things first-to reduce their consumption. Conserving energy through efficiency can reduce one’s energy bills. This includes making the home more energy efficient. Insulation, weather stripping and updating old appliances can reduce energy bills at a minimal cost. One usually saves the cost in only a few years.

There is no doubt that Solar Energy systems require a substantial investment and the cost recovery is usually a little longer than than conservation alone. However, if energy conservation and efficiency has already been addressed and utility bills are still high- then Solar can be a wise investment. So I answer homeowner with the next question. What is your monthly energy usage; what is your monthly average energy cost?

I ask this because there is a threshold amount… Every household is different depending on house, location, state, energy use and cost of electricity… When an installer knows what the usage is, then a system can be proposed based on the demand. A system should save the homeowner money each month and provide a return on their investment. If they payback time is too long… Then it is not worth it… Payback for any system should be no longer than 12 years. Depending on the system- the average should pay for itself in 8- 11 years.

So how much should an average bill be to see if it is worth getting a solar electric system? Again it depends on so many factors…Is one heating a pool? Does one want to use a hot water system? Or does one want to generate electricity to power the house? A rule of thumb it is to look at only the electric costs since these usually are the highest for most homes. Utility companies charge in a tier system. If one is paying on tier 1- then they are buying electricity at the cheapest rates charged. If they are using electricity and charged on tier 2 – they are paying more overall, but may not need a Solar System. If an energy electric bill shows a customer being billed at the tier 3 or above- now Solar Electric Production will compete with most electric companies. Some households are being billed above tier 3 and are in tier 4 or 5. If a bill reflects this usage and billing- then yesterday would have been a good time to get a system. “What are you waiting for?” So check the utility bills. Understanding the energy bill and usage will provide a clearer picture of whether investing in a Solar Energy system is a wise decision.

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