Do solar panels really make a difference for the environment?
About one-half of the electricity used in a Utah home is generated by coal-burning power plants. Coal is currently one of the dirtiest sources of energy available. A coal plant produces about two pounds of CO2 for each kilowatt-hour of electricity that you use. Once the CO2 is emitted, it is estimated to stay in the atmosphere for 200-300 years! An average-sized 3 kilowatt home solar system would prevent the production of almost 6,000 pounds of greenhouse every year. It is hard to imagine 6,000 pounds of anything that is light enough to float in the air, but think about it this way; greenhouse gas levels are rising by about 2 parts-per-million each year. At that rate, your rooftop system would be protecting the equivalent of a cube-shaped chunk of our atmosphere that would cover 16 city blocks (learn more). Yes, you would be making a difference!
What will solar panels do to my home’s resale value?
A recent study show that solar panels increase your home’s resale value significantly. Check out this New York Times article for a great explanation.
Do solar panels help protect my roof?
Yes, but the solar panels on your roof are designed to last for a long time; many are guaranteed for 25 years. Be sure that you install them on a roof that will last as long. Otherwise, you (or someone else) will have to remove and reinstall the panels when it is time to replace your roof. This will need to be done by a licensed electrician, and won’t be cheap!
Can I use my photovoltaic system for emergency power?
Most of the solar panels that you see on home rooftops do not supply emergency power. If you want an emergency backup system for your home, you will need to add a battery backup system that will require a special circuit for the lights and appliances that you would need in an emergency. This may be an acceptable additional cost when building a new home, but is likely to be too expensive for an existing home.
How will solar power affect my electric bill?
The more electricity you use, the more likely it is that solar panels will give you a good return on your investment. That is because (in Utah) you can only receive credit up to the amount of electricity that you use in your own home. If your system produces more than you use on an annual basis, you won’t get paid for it. Additionally, our residential rate structure is tiered, meaning that those of us who use more electricity pay a higher rate than those who use less. For these reasons, it is important not to buy a system that is too big for your home. Trying to install a system that will offset all of your usage, making your home “net zero” is usually a bad idea.
How can I install my own solar panels?
Thinking about installing a system yourself? Why not try something a little safer, like base-jumping? Electricians and roofers are both on the ten-most-dangerous-jobs list, and individual solar panels don’t have an “off” switch. If you did survive, you would have violated building codes by not being licensed, and Rocky Mountain Power would refuse to connect your system to the grid for the same reason.