We have all heard about solar energy generation, home energy management, and battery storage. Going solar might be attractive in theory, but is it realistic and affordable? In this article, we will discuss some critical aspects of such systems so you can decide if they are right for you. Let's get started!
Things to consider for a solar system
Your house location
If you live in an area where sunshine is plenty, there is a high possibility that your solar system will generate maximum solar power. Even in other places, it may still generate enough power for your personal electrical use, or help you lower your monthly utility bills.
Your landscaping and nearby structures also matter. You need to have a space, whether on the roof or in the yard, that isn't blocked by trees, other buildings, or anything else that would prevent the sun's light from reaching your solar panels.
Your home's roof
The slope and direction of your roof will affect solar efficiency. Usually, installers will recommend that solar panels perform best on south-facing roofs with a slope between 15 and 40 degrees, though other roofs can also be suitable.
In reality, installers can model roofs to determine what orientation and slope will best suit solar generation.
Your energy consumption
According to Shrink That Footprint, recent figures in 2023 show that the average annual electricity consumption for a US residential utility customer is 10,557 kWh, which is 880 kWh per month and 29 kWh per day.
A residential solar setup produces approximately 350 to 850 kWh per month. Therefore, you can shave as much as 96% off your utility bill.
Calculating a balance between consumption and solar production will help you provide the best return on your investment. Installers have tools to help you with planning and design.
We know that the front-end investment, including the equipment and installation fees, for a solar system can be large. According to EnergySage, solar panels in the US cost about $20,650 on average in 2023.
Based on the analysis of your energy consumption, you will gain a general understanding of whether going solar is cost-effective for you.
When calculating the return on investment (ROI) of a solar system, you should also consider available incentives, whether it is from the utility company or local, state, and federal government programs.
Financial Incentive Programs
To encourage more residents to use renewable energy and relieve overburdened grids, many utilities and governments have created incentive programs for solar users.
In California, there is a Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) available to local residents, which can save a total of 25% on solar equipment costs.
In Hawaii, homeowners could gain up to a $14500 bonus from Hawaii Battery Bonus Program.
Florida offers homeowners Property Tax Abatement for Renewable Energy Property. This incentive offers a 100% property tax exemption for residential renewable energy property and an 80% property tax abatement for nonresidential renewable energy property.
For federal incentives, the recently effective Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), signed in August 2022, will provide solar buyers with a 30% tax offset credit from 2023 to 2033.
The country is encouraging solar installations in households. Consider all the available incentives as they can help make going solar an economical choice.
Things to consider for energy management and battery storage
The first thing to note is that many governments require that solar systems shut down when there is a grid outage, for safety reasons in the interface to the grid. Home energy management systems that can separate solar from the main panel provide safety and allow for solar systems to keep producing even during a grid outage.
The most common reason for people to purchase battery storage is to prepare the household for grid issues such as brownouts and blackouts. A recent study shows that:
"From 2018 to 2020, an average of 520 million customer hours total without power annually across 2447 US counties (73.7% of the US population). 17,484 8+ hour outages (a medically relevant duration with potential health consequences) and 231,174 1+ hour outages took place, with the greatest prevalence in Northeastern, Southern, and Appalachian counties."
As extreme weather becomes more frequent, utility grids continue to age, and the importing of energy supply becomes unstable, power outages are more frequent. Having an energy management system with battery storage can offer you much relief.
In areas with harsh geographical conditions such as the Appalachian counties, the grid may be in even worse condition. Gaining battery storage for excess solar energy and living off-grid most of the time could be a practical choice for a more stable energy supply for homes.
Another big reason why people have home energy systems is to offset peak-rate electricity bills. Many states set off-peak, mid-peak, and peak rates for electricity prices that charge people more when the demand is more. This policy is also called Time of Use.
They also set different rates in different months. When the electricity demand is huge in summer due to air conditioning usage, the rate is often higher than in the winter. In some places, the rate difference within a year could be double or nearly triple.
A home energy management system can schedule power source use to minimize utility bills. The battery can be charged with your excess solar energy or from the grid at a lower rate period, and then draw power from the battery to supply the household during peak rate hours.
Many governments are also encouraging households to do so to ease the grid burden during those peak rate times.
As electricity price keeps rising, your utility bill savings will add up and increase over time.
The importance of home energy management systems has increased to the point that incentive programs now include battery storage alongside solar. You can often gain additional incentives for battery storage alone or with a solar system.
Solar efficiency improvement
Even though batteries can be used without solar, to be charged from the grid, combining solar production and battery storage significantly increases the efficiency of solar systems and shorten the time for ROI. Excess energy produced is not lost but saved either for use in the home or to sell back to the grid.
In the states where you can sell back excess solar to the grid, you can earn money or credits. However, some states are significantly lowering the amount that utilities have to provide, so homeowners are finding storage and self-use a much more important way to save money.
How much does a home energy management system cost?
According to EnergySage and IntegrateSun, in 2023, solar panels in the US cost about $20,650 on average, and a residential home energy management system with lithium-ion solar batteries costs between $7,000 and $14,000 on average, including installation.
There are many qualified financial companies offering loans with lower-than-bank interest rates to homeowners for both solar and home energy management systems, for instance, Mosaic, GoodLeap, GreenSky, and Sunlight Financial, which will help homeowners financially with their solar investment.
The bottom line
Going green, with alternative energy systems, is a big decision. It requires diligent research to consider whether it is necessary for you. While there’s also a discussion about increased home value, for now, you already have a lot of things to consider.
The cost of solar products has dropped tremendously over the last 10 years. The advance in technology makes it available to more households. Innovative energy management and battery technology make the option even more efficient and convenient.