Residential Solar Energy — What's The Deal?

Gaining more and more headlines is solar energy and its applications for residential use. Not meant to be overly comprehensive or technical, this post gives you a brief glimpse into the world of residential solar and its future.

The concept behind a residential solar energy system is this: photovoltaic solar panels are installed on the roof of a residence and connected to an inverter. The panels collect electricity (DC) from sunrise to sunset. The inverter converts the energy to alternating current (AC), which is required for household use. The power is delivered to the home’s main electrical panel or sold back to ‘the grid’, resulting in a significant reduction in energy costs.

Further benefits are clear and becoming more and more attractive as the technology advances and becomes more affordable. Of course, this is clean and natural energy that is not dependent on fossil fuels. Systems are also durable. Right now most systems are built to last between 25-50 years and generally require little maintenance along the way. The cost of electricity continues to rise; meaning the ROI is expected to continually improve year over year. Additionally, a solar power system does not increase your property tax, yet generally will increase your property value when you go to resell.

The drawbacks are largely linked to initial cost and aesthetics. The upfront costs of install are highly variable based on size, location, and tax rebates – but in the ballpark of $40,000+ before tax credits and incentives.

The amount of energy generated is dependent on available sunlight. This makes cloudier (and snowier) climates less conducive and thus has caused a wide range of differing opinions around the technology’s future viability. Improvements to the technology and rising energy costs are contributing to more and more regions reaching the ‘tipping point’, which generally carries the meaning that the break-even point of ownership is 10-years or less. Right now roughly 1/3 of the United States is said to have reached the tipping point, but that number is growing steadily. It’s impossible to predict just how fast residential solar will develop and progress, but it appears that the technology has indeed taken root and is here to stay.