The installation of solar panels will shave hundreds, if not thousands, off your energy bill and increases the value of your home by about $15,000.
But calculating how many you’ll need and how much space the solar panels will take depends on several factors.
How many sunny days does your home enjoy? How much power do you use? What is the power capacity of the panels?
These are all questions that have a bearing on how many solar panels are needed to run a house. However, the number of panels that the typical American home needs to power their home may well surprise you.
In the following article, we’ll examine the benefits of solar panels and how many you’ll need to power your home.
Solar Power Basics
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the amount of sunlight that hits the Earth in a mere hour and a half is enough to power the entire planet’s population for a year.
Of course, you would need a fantastic amount of panels to absorb and produce all that energy, but still, that fun fact shows there’s plenty of power to harness for free.
As you may know, the sun emits light, radiation, and photons. The amount of light and radiation varies depending on your location on the planet and the time of year.
Solar panels are made up of photovoltaic cells, or PV cells. The panels and their PV cells absorb the photons. When the photons strike the panels, electrons are freed, creating an electrical field within the cell.
This electricity is then harnessed and sent to your home and the electricity grid.
Before it reaches your home, however, the electricity needs to be converted. The raw power that comes off the solar panels is direct current or DC. To convert this to usable energy, an inverter is used to change the power to alternating current or AC.
Systems once demanded that a central inverter do all the work for your home and convert all the DC power into AC. Now, microinverters do the work on each PV cell. This maximizes the amount of power generated by curbing power loss.
What is Net Metering?
Net metering is a credit and billing program available in the most sense that allows you to become a micropower supplier to your electric company.
When your solar panels produce more power than you use, the usage meter on your home actually suns in reverse. The power you feed into the grid will then appear as a credit on your electricity bill if you generate more power than you use.
These government incentivized programs have proven extremely popular, along with tax breaks for homeowners who pay for their solar panel installation cost.
Unfortunately, many parts of the country have reduced the amount of credit per kilowatt the homeowner reaps as part of net metering schemes. Some energy companies claim that the solar power success story has eaten into their operating budgets and profits, making the larger power grid more expensive to maintain.
Still, the benefits of solar power on your electricity bill and for the environment—diverting energy away from harmful fossil fuel energy sources like coal and natural gas—is still a boon for homeowners around the country.
How Many Solar Panels Are Needed to Run a House?
Most homes in the United States require 21 to 34 solar panels to power all their properties effectively. These figures are based on factoring in the 877-kilowatt hours that the federal government estimates are the average electricity usage for most Americans.
Other considerations to determine your solar panel-power needs include the amount of sunlight your home receives and the wattage for the PV cells you purchase.
Many websites offer a solar panel calculator to help determine the number of PV cells you’ll need. However, the basic calculation is your monthly electric usage divided by your monthly peak sun hours multiplied by 1,000. This figure is then divided by the power rating of your solar panel.
To find your monthly electric usage, grab your utility bill. Your monthly electricity consumption is shown as “total kWh used.” This figure is usually (but not always!) shown at the bottom of the bill.
Next, determine your area’s monthly peak sun hours. Your peak hours are the amount of time that your panels receive enough sunlight to produce 1,000 watts per square meter optimally.
The South, Southwest, and large parts of the western United States receive plentiful amounts of sun. Therefore these parts of the country have more peak sun hours. The Northeast has some of the least.
This means you’ll need many more solar panels in New York to generate the same amount of power as Arizona.
Another factor you need to consider is if you can position your panels to be south facing. If you can, then you can collect more solar energy on any given day.
Calculate Your Solar System Size
Once you’ve calculated these rates, convert your kilowatts to watts by multiplying by 1,000. Most solar panels (this varies) produce about 280 watts. So divide by its figure.
For example, say you live in Texas and need 8,130 watts of power to run your home. Texas gets 5.6 hours of average daily peak sun hours and gets a 6.2-kilowatt solar system size.
Therefore, you’d need roughly 28 solar panels on your home in Texas to power your home.
Of course, the efficiency rating for solar panels varies, so if you purchase more efficient solar panels, you’ll decrease the number of panels you’ll need.
Is My Roof Large Enough?
Now that you’ve determined the number of solar panels you’ll need, you have to ask yourself if your home’s roof is big enough o support that figure.
As stated above, the average home in the United States requires anywhere from 21 to 34 rooftop solar panels to power their home. Solar panels almost uniformly require 17.55 square feet per panel. Therefore, you’ll need anywhere from 369 to 598 square feet of roof space to handle the 21 to 34 panels necessary to power your home.
If this is a problem or your home is not south facing, inquire with your solar panel installer about either upping the efficiency of your panels to reduce the amount or about a free-standing array in your yard.
Even though these ground-based panels will eat up some space, they are also easier to install and don’t require removal from your roof if your roof is damaged or needs replacing.
Now that you’ve answered the question “How many solar panels are needed to run a house?” you need to decide if your home is suitable for a system, if you want to buy or lease, and which solar panel installer you want to go with.
To tackle these next steps, research companies through your state’s version of the Better Business Bureau, customer reviews, and news reports. The time you take to vet your options will increase your satisfaction in the long run when investing in solar panel power.
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