What does it mean to have a solar home, or to “go solar”? Photovoltaic technology is rapidly spreading and becoming more accessible, and more and more homeowners are going solar daily. In this article, we will explore what it means to have a solar home in 2017.
Solar home basics
Most commonly, a solar home refers to a household that has a rooftop photovoltaic (PV) array or ground mount solar system installed in order to generate usable electricity from the sun. Often times, solar powered homes include solar batteries attached to PV arrays to store energy produced from solar panels. In certain cases, having a solar home could mean that your property produces enough electricity and stores it effectively enough to have a very minimal grid reliance, or enough energy independence to go completely off the grid. For this reason, many homeowners associate the term “solar home” with any household that is completely powered by solar energy though it can also reference grid connected and hybrid solar systems.
Misconceptions about solar homes
There are many confusing messages out there about solar and solar homes. Specifically, there are a few common solar-based technologies – building integrated photovoltaics and passive solar – that are separate from solar panels, and typically aren’t part of the “solar home” definition.
BIPV vs BAPV
Building integrated photovoltaics, or BIPV, refers to solar technologies that are incorporated into the original structure or materials of a building. Solar panels are considered building attached photovoltaics (BAPV), as they are retroactively fitted to buildings and homes and thus are not part of the original building envelope. Real products like the Tesla Solar Roof and Certainteed Solar Shingles, as well as products yet to come like solar windows, all fall under the BIPV umbrella. Some of these technologies are available orwill be soon, and others (like solar windows) are still a ways from becoming a realistic energy solution for most consumers.
Passive solar homes
Passive solar is a home energy concept that relies on heat from the sun. In a passive solar home, heat is collected as the sun shines through south-facing windows, and it is retained in “thermal mass”, or materials that best store heat (concrete, brick, stone, or tile, usually). Unlike solar panel systems, passive solar doesn’t provide any electrical power to your home – rather, it can reduce your reliance on a heating or cooling system to maintain the climate in your home, which enables you to use less energy.
Both BIPV and passive solar are unique technologies which rely on the sun’s energy, but at this point they cannot stand alone in running a solar powered home. The only true way to maintain a solar home that gets all of its energy from the sun is to install building attached photovoltaic technology, or solar panels.
Is a solar home worth it in 2017?
Ultimately, there will be varying connotations with the term “solar home” but the most common association is of a solar panel system that is added to a home after the building’s construction. Alternative energy solutions like that of passive solar homes or BIPV are still fairly new concepts that will require further development in order to make real economics sense. Eventually, there will very likely be a truly “solar home” option that will involve having the roof, windows and even side facing building materials of a house all incorporate solar cell technology to make the home itself a solar power system. For those wondering how much they could save with a traditional solar installation, check out these points of advice for new prospective solar buyers…
Three tips for solar shoppers
Homeowners who get multiple quotes save 10% or more
As with any big ticket purchase, shopping for a solar panel installation takes a lot of research and consideration, including a thorough review of the companies in your area. A recent report by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) recommended that consumers compare as many solar options as possible to avoid paying inflated prices offered by the large installers in the solar industry.
To find the smaller contractors that typically offer lower prices, you’ll need to use an installer network like EnergySage. You can receive free quotes from vetted installers local to you when you register your property on our Solar Marketplace – homeowners who get 3 or more quotes can save thousands on their solar panel installation.
The biggest installers typically don’t offer the best price
The bigger isn’t always better mantra is one of the main reasons we strongly encourage homeowners to consider all of their solar options, not just the brands large enough to pay for the most advertising. A recent report by the U.S. government found that large installers are $2,000 to $5,000 more expensive than small solar companies. If you have offers from some of the big installers in solar, make sure you compare those bids with quotes from local installers to ensure you don’t overpay for solar.
Comparing all your equipment options is just as important
National-scale installers don’t just offer higher prices – they also tend to have fewer solar equipment options, which can have a significant impact on your system’s electricity production. By collecting a diverse array of solar bids, you can compare costs and savings based on the different equipment packages available to you.
There are multiple variables to consider when seeking out the best solar panels on the market. While certain panels will have higher efficiency ratings than others, investing in top-of-the-line solar equipment doesn’t always result in higher savings. The only way to find the “sweet spot” for your property is to evaluate quotes with varying equipment and financing offers.
For any homeowner in the early stage of shopping for solar that would just like a ballpark estimate for an installation, try our Solar Calculator that offers up front cost and long term savings estimates based on your location and roof type. For those looking to get quotes from local contractors today, check out our quote comparison platform.