Home solar power is more popular than ever in the United States. It's no wonder homeowners love being powered by the sun: when you install a solar system, you can save money on your electricity bills, increase your property value, and do your part to protect the environment. If you're considering going solar, knowing that your home and solar are a good match makes the shopping process more straightforward (and helps protect you from unexpected cost increases after a site visit).
However, there are instances when your house isn't a good fit for solar. We'll explain how you can decide if you're a good fit and why we think community solar is the best alternative if not.
To determine if your home is a good fit for solar, you'll want to consider your roof rights, the direction your roof faces, what your roof is made of, the age of your roof, shading, and the age/amperage of your electrical panel.
If your home isn't a good fit for solar, we think community solar presents the best alternative because you'll still save on your electricity bill, it's easy to sign up, and you'll support local jobs.
Want to install solar on your property? Visit the EnergySage Marketplace to start comparing quotes.
Are you looking to sign up for a community solar project? See what projects are available near you on our Community Solar Marketplace.
Knowing if your home and roof are suitable for solar comes down to a few diagnostics about your property. At a high level, you'll want to ensure you have roof rights and that your property is physically suitable. Read on for the six main questions to consider:
1. Do you own your home? Do you have roof rights?
In most cases, you'll need to own your home to go solar. Additionally, if you live in a condo, it's possible that you don't have roof rights or your homeowner's association (HOA) prohibits you from installing solar panels. It's worth explaining the benefits of solar to your landlord or HOA, but going solar will be more complicated than if you live in a single-family home that you own.
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 not 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 solar costs have dropped significantly in the past few years, significant solar savings are possible even if your roof doesn't face perfectly south. Check out this article to learn more about the optimal orientation and angle for solar.
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 solar 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 an installer with the experience and ability to work with them.
4. How old is your roof?
Solar panel systems can last for 25+ years – that's part of what makes them such a good investment! However, removing them temporarily can be costly. If you expect your roof to be replaced shortly, consider doing it before you have your solar system installed. The good news: solar panels can extend your roof's life by shielding it from inclement weather, so once 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 solar won't work for you. In an ideal world, your roof would be open to the sun for the entire day to maximize 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. If you own a lot of land with ample sun exposure, you may also be a good candidate for a ground-mounted solar system.
6. Will your electrical panel support a solar system?
One home aspect that's easy to overlook is your electrical panel. If you live in a newer home, likely, you won't have to upgrade your panel before solar installation. However, you'll need to upgrade your panel if you have an older electrical panel or its amperage is too low to distribute electricity from your solar system throughout your home's circuits. As a general rule of thumb, you'll want your electrical panel to be about 200 amps to support a solar system.
Don't think your home is a good fit for solar? Community solar allows you to access the benefits of solar without installing a single solar panel on your property (so it's especially great for renters or those with strict HOAs)! Here's why we think community solar is the best alternative to residential solar:
1. You'll still save on your electricity bill
If you're interested in solar, odds are you're looking to save money. When you sign up for a community solar project, you agree to purchase a share of energy from a solar farm. In most cases, you're purchasing this energy at a fixed discount between 10 and 20 percent – meaning you're paying less than your utility company is charging for it. Overall, you can expect to see savings anywhere from 5 to 15 percent annually on your electricity bills, making community solar a great alternative to residential solar in terms of savings.
2. It's easy to sign up (and easy to cancel)
If you install solar on your property, you might have to pay some money upfront (unless you choose a solar lease or a $0-down loan) – but with community solar, you won't owe anything upfront! If community solar projects are open near you, in many cases, all you need to sign up is an electric bill: it's that simple. You won't need to install equipment or change your electrical service to participate. And if you want to cancel your subscription, most community solar companies allow you to do so without any cancellation fees.
3. Community solar supports local jobs
While the energy you purchase through community solar isn't generated on your property, you'll know exactly where your project is located. Generally, you can only subscribe to community solar projects located in your electricity service territory – meaning the community solar project you purchase energy from will probably be close by! The development of and ongoing management of community solar projects require considerable labor, so you can feel good about supporting local jobs and driving local tax revenue if you sign up for a project.
The best way to truly understand whether your home is a good fit for solar is to review multiple offers from solar companies. Sign up on the EnergySage Marketplace to compare customized solar quotes from qualified, pre-vetted solar installers based on the exact characteristics of your home. Don't think you're a good fit for rooftop or ground-mounted solar? Check out our Community Solar Marketplace to find open projects near you!