Home Buyer’s Guide: Choosing the Right Home for Solar Panels

Are you looking for a new home? If you’re considering installing solar panels, it’s wise to consider a home’s exposure to sunlight before deciding to purchase. If it is not well suited to a solar power system, it can be difficult to improve its solar potential. Some obstacles are relatively easy to overcome, but not all of them.

Often you can largely determine the solar potential from real estate listings and free satellite images. So let’s explore what you need to consider when shopping for a solar-friendly home.

Shade reduces solar energy production

Shade and solar panels are not a good combination because solar energy depends on the sun to generate electricity. Therefore, one of the most critical factors of a successful solar system is little or no shading on the roof.

A little early morning or late afternoon shade won’t have a significant impact on your solar power output. However, if there is a lot of shade between around 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., it can hurt the ROI of your solar panel system. Buildings, trees, and architectural features on the south side of the house can cast shade at midday, the optimal time to generate power.

In some cases, you may be able to prune a tree branch or two to significantly reduce shading. Sometimes installing solar panels on an attached or detached garage may be possible instead.

Since the lifespan of a solar panel system is 25 to 30 years, it is also essential to take into account the trees you plant around your house as they can possibly cast shade on your system. solar. Vegetation on the north side of the house or trees that don’t grow tall enough to shade the roof won’t be a problem.

Optimal orientation of the roof

A south-facing, unshaded roof is ideal. You want your south-facing solar panels to have the biggest savings on utility bills and the best return on investment. If your roof faces east or west, your system will produce approximately 20% less electricity than a south-facing roof.

Solar panels facing east will produce more electricity in the morning, while panels facing west will have higher output in the afternoon. To compensate for this, you can install a few more solar panels if you have enough space, but this will increase the cost of the solar power system. If the roof faces east and is partially shaded, you may need to consider other options, such as a garage roof or ground mounting.

The best way to quickly determine roof orientation is to use satellite images, such as Google Earth.

Space available on the roof for solar panels

The best solar-friendly home will have enough roof space to produce 100% of your household’s electricity. However, it can be difficult to anticipate electricity bills when buying a new home. If the house has an electric water heater, stove and heating system, it will likely use more electricity than houses with gas appliances. If possible, get a year’s worth of electricity bills for the house before you buy it to familiarize yourself with its energy usage.

An average house needs around 19-23 solar panels to produce 100% of the house’s electricity. This equates to approximately 335 to 405 square feet of roof space. Of course, this figure can vary a bit depending on the efficiency of the solar panels and the shading.

If a home has skylights or a complicated roofline, it can be difficult to find 350 square feet of available space. Architectural features, such as skylights, can shade solar panels for part of the day, reducing your energy production.

One way to partially offset this is to use high-efficiency solar panels, such as SunPower.

Sufficient electrical panel capacity

The home electrical panel distributes electricity from the panel to loads around the house. Typically, new homes do not need an electrical panel upgrade before going solar. However, if there is an old electrical panel or if the amperage is not sufficient for solar electricity, you will need to upgrade the electrical panel.

Most homes need a 200 amp panel at a minimum, and upgrading the electrical panel can add $1,000 to $3,000 to the cost of the solar installation.

Home energy efficiency

Before installing solar panels, it is crucial to consider whether there are simple ways to reduce the energy consumption of the house. For example, installing a low-flow showerhead will save energy and water. Check light fixtures in a new home to make sure they aren’t incandescent bulbs and opt for energy-efficient LED bulbs. Use natural ventilation when possible to reduce the use of air conditioning and wash clothes in cold water.

Evaluate the solar potential of a house

If having a home solar power system is important to you, it’s a good idea to start assessing a property’s solar potential from the real estate listing before you stop in for a viewing. You will need to consider the amount of shade the roof receives, as the shade will affect the power output of the solar panels. You’ll also want to make sure there’s enough space on the roof to generate most of your electricity; skylights and other architectural features can reduce your power generation space. And if possible, get at least a year’s worth of electricity bills to get an idea of ​​the home’s energy use to help you determine if the roof is big enough to produce all your electricity.