Is Retrofitting Your Home for Solar Power a Viable Option?

This home has two types of solar panels. The panels on the very top of the house are photo-voltaic and those above the porch are solar pool heating collectors. Tim Barber Ltd Architecture. Karyn Millet Photography.

 

If you are planning on investing in a new home, a solar energy system is something you should seriously consider.  Solar electricity can very quickly pay for itself and, as a renewable energy source, you can be satisfied that you’re doing your bit for the environment by drastically decreasing your carbon footprint.   But what if you’ve already purchased a home recently and have no plans to move into a new one any time soon?  How can you take advantage of the power of the Sun without having to rewire, restructure and renovate your home from scratch?  Retrofitting a home for solar power can seem like a daunting and unpleasantly expensive endeavour.  In order to make a more informed decision as to whether or not a solar power system is feasible for your home and your pocket, make sure you consider the following important issues.

 

How much space is available?

Home with Home with Electric solar system, solar hot water heater, solar pool heater and geothermal A/C system. RD Architecture, LLC.

 Solar power systems need space.  The amount of power that you can generate depends directly upon the total surface area of the panels you install.  For most homes, a roof or a wall facing to the south or west is the ideal place for unobstructed access to the afternoon sun.  Remember that peak energy production takes place when the sun is highest in the sky.

 

How much power do you need?

This ocean blue metal roof features a 5 kw solar thin film system that laminates directly to the standing seam panels. By Global Home Improvement.

 Having determined that you have a suitable site, next you should calculate how much of that site space you will need.  The maximum area of your roof or wall will limit the number of panels that you can install, and this in turn will limit the amount of solar energy that can be produced. You will have to ascertain how much power your home requires.  If the area you have available is insufficient, you can explore the possibility of reducing your power needs by implementing some energy-conserving techniques such as purchasing newer energy-efficient appliances.  If your power needs continue to exceed your capacity, the only option is to find more space for the necessary solar panels or to use the number of panels the available space allows for to supplement rather than replace your electricity provider.

 

Regulating & Managing Power 

Energy Star Home. Energy Star Home #EnergyStarHome TruexCullins Architecture + Interior Design

Finally, it is important to determine how you will use this power.  It is possible to consume the power directly from the solar panels, however this will only provide power during the day.  For uninterrupted power, you will require additional equipment and accessories including a battery bank, an inverter, additional solar cable, and possibly a transfer switch.

 

Plan for the Future 

The 1,500 sq. ft. GO Home offers two story living with a combined kitchen/living/dining space on the main level and three bedrooms with full bath on the upper level. GO LOGIC

It’s a good idea to install as many solar panels as you need, but leave room for additional panels, cabling and related infrastructure in the future.  If your electricity needs increase, you’ll still have the option – although it may be costly – of retrofitting solar power into the remaining space.

 

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Sources: Images: 1: Tim Barber Ltd Architecture (Karyn Millet Photography). 2: RD Architecture, LLC. 3: Global Home Improvement. 4: TruexCullins Architecture + Interior Design. (Photographer: Jim Westphalen). 5: GO LOGIC.