You’ve done all the thinking that you need to, and now want to go ahead with getting and installing solar panels. You don’t think you’ve noticed a solar panel display in your local Walmart (yet!), so you’re wondering where you go from here. The fact is that solar panels are rapidly positioning themselves as a consumer item. Many are designed more for auto battery charging or RV use, and you need to read the details carefully to get the right products.
Setting aside the trivial case of buying a solar calculator or outside light, which of course have miniature solar panels built-in, where could you find panels that would be useful for a residential installation? One place that you might look is the ubiquitous EBay, where at time of writing a 3 foot square Mitsubishi 90Watt panel is selling for just over $400, and two new Kyocera 120 Watt panels have a price of $950. These panels are typical of current technology, with an output of about 10 Watts per square foot. While online, you may also find other stores – we found SunWize 160 Watt panels available for $750.
The easiest way to get a solar power system that you can install is to look for a package deal from one of the many solar suppliers that are springing up. You should look to include at least the solar array, any mounting racks and brackets, an inverter to convert the DC power to AC for your house, and a disconnect switch for the DC to prevent accidental shocks. You may also choose to get a set of batteries and charger system, which will give you independence from power cuts.
You will have to consider the power that you need, based on your house and your habits, and it is a good time to get on with energy saving measures, such as compact fluorescent bulbs, to reduce your load. You will find typically that you may need a couple of dozen standard size panels, and these will cover several hundred square feet of your roof. Expect to spend $20,000 to $40,000, and you won’t be far wrong – solar power has a high capital cost, but don’t ignore the government grants that are available, and also consider the increase in value of your home.
Finally, if you really want to use the technology and you can’t face the capital expenditure, you should look at the solar power rental companies that are spreading. These allow you to pay only a small deposit, and rent the installation, which of course they calculate and configure for you. In return, you may continue paying your current electricity rates, but with a guarantee of no price increases, or some similar funding program, which gives them a return on their investment and also results in an economy for you. This is a true win-win situation!