Is Solar Power Worth It?

9/3/10 by Gordo

Photo courtesy of NikonVCanon via Flickr

Although sunlight is free, converting it into usable solar power requires a significant investment.  Fortunately, the cost of installing solar power equipment has gone down by approximately 50% in the last five years, making solar power usage a possibility for a wider demographic.  Determining whether solar power is worth it for you and your family depends on numerous factors, including the location and size of your home, the cost of the hardware you select, and whether you assign worth based on financial benefit or environmental impact.

The Real Cost of Solar Power

There really is no upper limit when it comes to how much you can spend on solar power installation.  Prices can range from a few thousand dollars to $50,000 or more, so it’s certainly not a decision to take lightly.

One serious consideration is the amount of sunlight levels in your local area.  If you live in a sunny area like Phoenix, solar panels are likely to be a worthwhile investment, but in a city like Seattle, where cloudy days outnumber sunny days, you may find that solar power equipment provides fewer benefits overall.

The size of your home is another important consideration.  The larger your home, the more solar panels you’ll need to install.  But no matter what the size of your home is, the initial cost of using solar energy will be significant because you’ll have to buy hardware and pay someone to set it up.

In general, you can expect to pay around $20,000 for the whole shebang, but you may have access to some federal and state incentives that will bring down the cost.  If your home is well-insulated and has large windows, solar power will pay for itself relatively quickly.  But it usually takes five to ten years for the investment in solar power equipment to pay itself off completely.

Solar Water Heating Systems vs. Solar Power Systems

For the best return on investment, consider installing a solar water heating system.  Solar water heating systems cost around $5000 to install and reduce your water heating costs by anywhere from 50-100%.  Solar water heating systems typically pay for themselves within three years.  A standard solar water heating system saves two tons or more of greenhouse gas each year, while a solar power system saves only around 1.4 tons of greenhouses gases on an annual basis.

In fact, some experts recommend just trying to cut down on electricity usage rather than investing in solar power equipment.  Just think: turning off the chest freezer in your garage alone could save just as much greenhouse gas as investing in thousands of dollars’ worth of solar equipment!

There are other advantages to using solar power, though.  For one, when you have a solar power system, you have access to power during blackouts.  That means when the electricity goes out, you’ll have at least enough power to run the fridge and your computer, as well as a few other odds and ends.  In addition, a solar power system adds to the desirability and resale value of your home, which is especially reassuring in today’s rough housing market.

Solar power is not for everyone, but for those who are concerned about the effects of their lifestyle on the planet and on their electricity bill, it’s certainly worth looking into.  Solar power is a renewable, natural resource that costs zero dollars to use.  Sure, it’s expensive to get set up, but it will cost you little to no money to maintain your solar power system.

If you’re unable or unwilling to invest in a solar power system for your entire home, you can start implementing smaller-scale solutions, such as solar-powered yard lights, solar timer switches, and solar-powered floodlights.  Stay tuned to find out what types of solar-powered items you could use in your home right away to reduce your electric bills and your carbon footprint!

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3 Responses to “Is Solar Power Worth It?”

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