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How to determine whether solar is a good investment for your home site

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(Natural News) Solar energy is often touted as the energy source of tomorrow. We've been told that it's clean, it's safe, it's renewable. These are all good reasons to consider investing in solar energy, especially if you have aspirations of living off the grid. But actually doing so is a whole other matter that needs a lot more thought. Is solar right for you? Answering the following questions should help you with this one. (h/t to ThePrepperJournal.com)

How is the sun at my location? Making the most of solar power means letting the sun shine on your solar panels at full blast. A tiny sliver of shade won't be too much of a problem, but shade that can block off sunlight from one solar panel will be an issue. This can seriously diminish the power output of your system, which in turn means less power for you to use. So if you live in an area with a lot of trees or cloudy days, then solar power may not be for you.

What is the status of my roof? The roof is another essential factor in determining how successful your solar panel system will be. Firstly, it needs to be in good condition; a roof that needs to be replaced within 15 years' time will not be touched by contractors. Secondly, your roof has to be oriented in such a way that it can maximize sunlight. Ideally, it should be facing the south at a 30-degree angle. Eastern and western exposures will do, however, as does a 45-degree-angle tilt.

What are my energy habits and my state's energy rates? If your electricity bill runs up to the hundreds each month, then having a solar panel system can definitely help you save a lot. However, North Americans need to take the cost of electricity in each state into consideration. The average price that U.S. citizens pay for electricity comes to around 12 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh), but it actually varies depending on the state. Look up how much you actually pay per month to assess whether or not your savings outweigh the costs of a solar panel system.

How much am I willing to spend? According to News.EnergySage.com, a single solar panel with a 250-watt output can cost as much as $187.50, while DIY ones can bring the price to about $250. That's just a rough estimate; it can still go higher depending on the type of solar panel you choose. You'll still need to account for the size of the system, the amount of space necessary for its operation, and the kind of mount you'll affix the panels to. With installation, you can expect to plunk down at least $10,000. Maintenance isn't included in this projection. (Related: U.S. solar industry explained: 5 important answers about costs, tariffs and green energy.)

What about other financing options? Of course, you can get a loan to purchase the system or simply lease it. But using a loan means it'll take longer to recoup your losses, while leasing won't get you any rebates or tax breaks since the solar panel system isn't yours. Another feasible alternative is a solar Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), wherein a provider will install a system on your property and you eventually purchase the electricity. The downsides to a PPA is that you have to pay extra for professional services (although the provider will cover maintenance and equipment replacements) and you can't sell the solar panel system because you don't own it.

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