Is solar power right for me?

Workers install solar panels on the roof of a home in Granada Hills, Calif. Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times

While the hot summer sun may find you retreating to the shade and slathering on the SPF, you can put those intense rays to work to provide clean energy for your home.

The solar panels you see today are leaps ahead of those installed at solar power’s advent. It’s no longer futuristic or reserved for the highest-end homes. The U.S. Energy Information Administration says that 3% of power in the nation comes from solar, and they expect that to reach 14% by 2035. Solar energy is accessible, and you can install it right away. Here’s what you need to know.

Your energy needs will determine the size and cost of your solar panel installation. You can install a system that handles all your electrical needs and then some, or you can go for a smaller and less expensive array that partially covers your energy drain and relies on the grid for the rest.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average home uses about 893 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per month, or 30 kWh per day. Check your electric bill for your exact number, as you’ll need it when you talk to your professional installer.

A small system that generates about 5 kilowatts can ease the energy drain on your power system and your wallet by providing at least half the energy you need. It’ll cost between $12,500 and $17,500. A 10-kilowatt installation will generate enough power for the average home. It typically costs between $25,000 and $35,000 and takes up a significant amount of space on your roof.

While it may seem like a significant investment, solar power is likely to save you up to $20,000 over 20 years. In many cases, the systems pay for themselves over time.

What happens with excess energy

Here’s a big bonus of solar power: Your home is still connected to the overall power grid in most areas. If you generate more electricity than you use, it delivers energy back to the system. Often, this results in a credit on your electrical bill, which is known as “net metering.” Fun fact: You can watch your meter run backward when this happens.

Net metering not only lowers your bills but helps your neighbors by easing the strain on the power grid. When everyone has their ACs running at max, any house delivering energy back to the grid takes the area one more step back from a potential blackout.

What to ask contractors

Solar energy contractors must juggle many factors while installing your panels, including your local grid, specific energy needs, and the available sunlight around your home. This is a big job, so solicit multiple bids and compare them. Here are some questions to ask when hiring.

— How will you size my system, and what factors will you consider?

— What warranty do you offer? (Between five and 10 years is a typical industry standard.)

— Will you inspect my roof in person before making a bid?

— How many installations have you done?

Tax benefits

Solar panels can pay for themselves by more than just giving energy back. Plus, you can claim a federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) when installing residential solar. And it’s a generous credit — if you get the work done in time. Here’s a look at what you can claim.

— Systems installed in 2022: 26%

— Systems installed in 2023: 22%

— 2024 and later: credit expires

In many cases, you can also claim benefits or incentives from your state or municipal government, as well as utility companies. Your solar pro should be able to tell you all the options available to you.

Tweet your home care questions with AskAngi and we’ll try to answer them in a future column.

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Tribune Wire

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