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3 Things to Do before Adding Solar to Your Home

With solar power becoming more and more popular—not to mention much more affordable—over recent years, it can be tempting to rush headlong into installing a system of your own. You’ve probably heard all about the amazing benefits like the monthly savings on utility bills, and even the ability to keep your lights on in a power outage if you have the right kind of system. But before you jump into purchasing a solar power system, there are a few other things you should do first. Keep reading to learn what they are.

Figure Out Your Average Power Consumption

In order to install a system of the right size, you’ll need to know how much power your home uses on a daily basis. To calculate this number, you’ll need to look up the power needs of every lightbulb and power-using device in your home, and estimate the number of hours you use that device every day. These calculations can be complicated, so it’s a good idea to work with a professional to figure out how much power your home will need.

Another place you can check is on the utility bills that you get each month. These should list the number of watts you’re paying for on every bill. If you go this route, make sure you’re examining at least a year’s worth of utility bills; your power consumption can change pretty drastically between seasons, so you’ll want to ensure you’re considering your energy consumption throughout the year when calculating the size of your future solar array.

Work on Reducing Your Energy Consumption

Why should you care about reducing your energy consumption when you’re about to invest in free, renewable energy? As described in the section above, the size of your system will be based on the amount of energy your home uses. This means that, if you can reduce your power consumption every month, you may be able to install a smaller system while still meeting your energy needs; so, you’ll spend less money on the system, and keep more cash in your pocket.

Keep in mind that this reduction in your power usage needs to be about establishing new, permanent habits. If you find ways to cut down on your energy usage and size your array according to that reduced consumption, but then return to your old habits after your solar system is installed, you’ll find yourself running out of solar power much more frequently than you would like.

Consider the Type of System You Want

Did you know that there are 3 primary types of solar power systems? You’ll need to carefully consider whether a grid-tied, off-grid, or hybrid system best suits your needs, and that means researching the pros and cons of all those options. Here’s what you need to know about the different types of systems so that you can make an informed decision:

  • Grid-tied – This has been the more popular choice among homeowners over the last couple of decades, because it’s the most affordable option. With a grid-tied system, you don’t need to invest in a backup power source. The grid functions as your backup power instead, and if your city offers net metering, you can earn utility credits for any excess solar energy your system produces. However, it does mean you’ll continue to rely on the grid regularly, so you can’t truly achieve energy independence this way. Your system will also be subjected to the same blackouts as everyone else on your block, regardless of whether or not the sun is shining at the time.
  • Off-grid – Off-grid systems aren’t connected to the city grid at all. For this type of system to be successful, you’ll need to be entirely independent in your energy production. This typically means having a solar battery bank, as well as a secondary source of backup power, should your stored power run dry. These systems are expensive, and usually best suited to homes that don’t have access to a power grid.
  • Hybrid – Hybrid systems offer users the best of both worlds. You can connect a battery bank and achieve energy independence, but you remain connected to the city grid, just in case your bank ever runs dry. Your battery bank also allows you to keep your power on when the grid goes down. It is more expensive than a grid-tied system, but it can allow you to get the most out of your system.

The right system for you will depend on your needs, your priorities, and your budget. If you think you might want a hybrid solar power system, make sure that you look at hybrid solar inverters instead of grid-tied inverters. A grid-tied inverter won’t allow a battery bank to be connected, so this is an important distinction. Once you’ve done all 3 of these things, contact a solar professional to work on designing and installing your new solar power system.