Home solar power is more popular than ever in the United States. Last year, the U.S. installed enough solar to power 5.4 million homes across the country. It’s no wonder homeowners love being powered by the sun: when you install solar PV, you can save money on your electricity bills, increase your property value, and do your part to protect the environment. If you’re starting to think about going solar, knowing that your home and solar are a good match makes the shopping process even easier. Here are the top five questions and answers that will help you determine whether solar is right for your home (read on, it might surprise you):
1. How big is your electricity bill?
The factor that has the biggest impact on your long-term solar savings isn’t how sunny it is where you live – it’s how much you pay for your electricity. If you have high electricity rates, solar can save you major cash, even if you don’t live in the sunny Southwest. Don’t believe us? New Jersey, Massachusetts, and New York are proof: the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) ranked all three Northeastern states in its Top 10 Solar States for 2016.
2. What direction does your roof face?
You might have heard that your roof needs to face south for solar to be a worthwhile investment, but that’s no longer true. While it is true that your solar panels will produce more electricity if they are facing perfectly south, solar makes sense even for homes with east- and west-facing roofs. Since the cost of solar has dropped significantly in the past few years, significant solar savings are possible for you even if your roof doesn’t face perfectly south.
3. What material is your roof made of?
While solar panels can be installed on practically every roof material, some can be more complicated to work with than others. Not every solar company will install PV panels on a slate or cedar roof, so if your home’s roof is made of either of those materials, you will need to seek out an installer who has the experience and ability to work with them.
4. How old is your roof?
Solar panel systems can last for 20+ years – that’s part of what makes them such a good investment. However, removing them temporarily can be costly. If you expect that your roof will need to be replaced in the near future, consider doing it before you have your solar PV system installed. The good news: solar panels can actually extend the life of your roof by shielding it from inclement weather, so once they’re installed, you can be confident that your new roof is well-protected.
5. How much of your home is shaded during the day?
Contrary to popular belief, a small amount of roof shade doesn’t mean that solar won’t work for you. In an ideal world, your roof would be open to the sun for the entire day to maximize your electricity generation. However, if your solar installer designs a system with the right components, you can minimize the negative impacts of shading. Even if trimming back your trees isn’t an option, solar can still be a good fit for your home.
Alternatives to Rooftop Solar
Still not sure that installing solar on your home’s roof is right for you? There are plenty of alternatives that can still get you major solar savings. You can install solar panels on a garage or carport, or even put ground mounted solar panels in your backyard if you have the space. If you’re a renter, or your homeowners’ association prohibits solar panels, you may also be able to sign up for a share of a community solar garden on the EnergySage Community Solar Marketplace to access the benefits of solar without a rooftop installation.
Ready to Get Started? Compare Your Solar Options Today
The best way to truly understand whether solar is a good fit your home is to start reviewing multiple offers from solar companies. Sign up on the EnergySage Solar Marketplace to compare customized solar quotes from qualified, pre-vetted solar installers based on the exact characteristics of your home. Still unsure about solar? Try using a solar calculator to receive an instant estimate of how much solar can save you, based on imagery of your roof plus real-time offers in your area.
This post originally appeared on Mother Earth News.