Will Going Solar Save Me Money?

You may be considering investing in solar energy for your home or business for a variety of reasons – like the fact that solar power derives clean, pure, renewable energy from the sun.  Or that by Installing solar panels, you are helping to combat greenhouse gas emissions and to reduce our collective dependence on fossil fuel.  You likely already know that the burning of fossil fuels to produce electricity results in the emission of harmful gases that are the primary cause of air pollution and global warming, and you want to make a difference before it is too late. You may be motivated by all these important factors.  But sooner or later, you want to know the answer to a key question always asked by consumers who may be considering “going solar.”  “Will going solar save me money?”

The answer to that question depends on a number of critical factors.  When you “go solar”, you effectively install a power plant on your roof to replace the power plant where your utility gets its electricity.  That means homeowners who pay high electricity rates to their utility companies are the ones who save the most when they switch to a solar power system that is installed on their home or business.

So for those of us who live in New York or elsewhere, to answer the question “Will going solar save me money?” it is important to first know how much you pay now for electricity.  That is because your current electricity bill is the largest factor in determining how much you’ll save by installing solar.  You pay your utility company for every kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity you use, and your rate varies significantly depending on where you live. In some parts of the country, you can pay less than 8 cents per kWh; in others, you’ll pay 20 cents or more.

In an annual electricity price comparison conducted by the state of Nebraska in 2016, the average cost per kilowatt hour in the US ranged from 7.46 cents/kWh in Louisiana (the lowest) to 23,87 cents/kWh in Hawaii (the highest).  The average cost across all fifty states paid by consumers was 10.27 cents/kWh.  So, how does NY compare with other states around the area and nation?  Our rates are high – New Yorkers paid 14.47 cents/kWh, significantly higher than average.  So, the answer to the question “Will going solar save me money?” is likely to be YES for New Yorkers!!

A second key factor in determining the potential savings of going solar is finding out if a solar installation will work on your home or business.  “Will going solar save me money” is partly determined by factors such as the physical location of your property and features of your particular site.  When you contact a licensed installer like Venture Home Solar, for example, our solar experts evaluate your site giving particular attention to your location, the orientation and tilt of your roof, and any shading that occurs during the day. . To determine  if your roof is a good fit for a photovoltaic installation, and to help you answer the question, “Will going solar save me money?”, we consider the following:

  1.  Is your roof free of shading for the majority of the day?  Full sun between 9:00 a.m. and 3 p.m. is ideal because the more sunlight that a PV heating system receives, the more energy will be produced.
  2. What direction does your roof face? A southern orientation is ideal in the Northern Hemisphere because orienting directly toward the sun results in capturing the most energy—maximum power comes when panels can capture the majority of the sun’s rays. However, if your site consistently has fog or clouds at one end of the day, then favoring a different orientation may result in better production from your solar system.
  3. What is the tilt of your roof?   Because a PV module performs best when its surface faces the sun directly, considering the sun’s elevation in the sky is important.  That may seem overly detailed but roof angle is important.   In the Northern Hemisphere, the sun rises to its greatest height at noon on the summer solstice (about June 21). It sinks to its lowest angle at noon on the winter solstice (about December 21). These elevations vary depending on your location’s latitude. In Seattle, Washington, which sits at 47°36’N latitude, the solar-noon elevations span from 19° in winter to 66° in summer. In Miami, Florida, which has a latitude of 26°N, these angles span from 41° to 88°.  The position of the sun in the sky changes throughout the day and time of year due to the earth’s rotation around its axis and around the sun, and this affects a solar installation’s efficiency and energy savings.  Typically, fixed PV arrays should be tilted toward the sun’s “average” elevation to capture the most year-round solar energy.
  4. Do you want to pay the additional installation cost for a tracking mechanism to optimize the position of your solar panels throughout the day?  To maximize your solar panels’ efficiency, you can spend the extra money of equipment that will adjust their tilt angle and orientation towards the sun.  You can purchase single-axis trackers that adjust either the tilt angle or your panels’ orientation, but not both, or buy double-axis trackers that control both variables to maximize solar panel output.  According to the US Department of Energy, single-axis tracking increases energy output by 24% on average with respect to a fixed installation, and double-axis tracking increases it by 40%.

To help you make these critical decisions and to find out “Will going solar will save me money?” you need a site assessment from qualified professionals like those of us at Venture Home Solar.  Venture Solar stands ready to help you explore your solar options and to learn more about your site’s specifics.  We also know the details of the various federal, state and local financial offsets and incentives available to New Yorkers to make your system even more affordable.  Headquartered in Brooklyn, we only serve NYC and the surrounding areas.  Find out how you can be part of the NY initiative to bring clean energy to all New Yorkers and find out if solar can save YOU money.  Call us at 800-203-4158 to learn more.