Facts About Residential Solar Energy
An ever-rising electric bill is powerful motivation to consider adding an alternative-energy system to your home. Solar is the most viable alternative for most homeowners; however, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, as of 2009, only 8 percent of the nation’s energy came from renewable sources, and only 1 percent of that 8 percent came from solar energy (see References 5, Fig.1.2). Many homeowners are put off by the initial cost of installation — and the fact that creating an efficient solar energy system is much more complex than slapping down a few solar panels. But with a greater understanding of the benefits and limitations of home solar, you can get the most out of your system, eventually zeroing out your electric bill or selling excess electricity back to your utility company.
The Site Must Be Right
Most residential solar energy systems are roof-mounted to save space and provide unobstructed exposure to the sun; however, to get the most efficiency from a roof-mounted system your house to be oriented a certain way. The U.S. Department of Energy says that solar panels mounted to face south receive the most light and consequently produce the most energy; panels may be oriented up to 45 degrees to the east or west without affecting performance if the tilt is also adjusted. If the shape and direction of your home makes traditional roof-mounting impossible, you can also install a solar array on the ground or a pole, and certain mounting systems can even move to track the path of the sun. The caveat here is that the system must be mounted in an area that is not shaded by vegetation or other obstructions during most of the day. (See References 1)